Billy Eckstine

Now Singing in 12 Great Movies

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This reissue of an early-'60s collection of movie themes sung by Billy Eckstine is labeled as a jazz CD, which is a bit of a stretch. Although no one should question the jazz credentials in the resumes of the rich-voiced Eckstine, pianist and conductor Bobby Tucker, arranger Billy Byers, or producer Quincy Jones, this is very much an easy listening album. Of the 13 songs, which include a bonus track not on the original release, only a few have become jazz standards, and just one, "On Green Dolphin Street," deserves to be called a jazz arrangement. This is not to knock the music, as it is very listenable, with a solid performance throughout by Eckstine. It is just that the arrangements are very predictable, lacking any significant improvising or solos, awash in strings with a rhythm section that seems on autopilot. While several songs in addition to "On Green Dolphin Street" have become part of a typical jazz singer's repertoire, ("Manhã de Carnival," "Moon River," and "A Felicidade"), the very sappy "Never on Sunday" (with lyrics totally unfit for a male singer, or for anyone for that matter!) and the forgettable "Three Coins in the Fountain" (the theme from the easily bypassed movie of the same name) haven't stood the test of time very well. Billy Eckstine's vocal abilities are never in question, but jazz fans need to know what to expect prior to purchasing this reissue.

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