Etta Jones

The Best of Etta Jones: The Prestige Singles

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While Etta Jones could not be placed into the very top tier of jazz singers, she was a good one. And as this compilation draws 18 tracks from the most commercially and artistically successful phase of her career, it might be the best place to start for hearing her work. Recorded between 1960 and 1963, these did all happen to be released on singles, as the title indicates, though it's sometimes forgotten that there were still jazz tracks being issued as singles in the 1960s. Of course, the most popular of those was "Don't Go to Strangers," which actually made the pop Top 40 in 1960. Jones was a warm and versatile singer with a bit more appeal to pop listeners than most, usually backed by good small combos on this mixture of ballads and up-tempo material, though Oliver Nelson arranged and conducted the strings on a most adventurous, eccentric "Unchained Melody." More satisfying than the ballads, though, are the sassier, faster, and slightly bluesier outings, like "You Came a Long Way From St. Louis," "In the Dark," the sultry "The Gal From Joe's," and (again with Nelson's strings) "Just Friends." The cha cha pass at "Nature Boy" is good, too, with Kenny Burrell handling one of the guitars.

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