Various Artists

A Jazz Romance: A Night in With Verve

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In jazz, ballads have a way of separating the men from the boys and the women from the girls. They show what an improviser is made of emotionally. On ballads, technique for the sake of technique doesn't cut it -- you have to bring some genuine feeling and honest-to-God emotion to the table. And there is plenty of honest-to-God emotion on this four-CD, 57-track boxed set, which takes a long look at the ballad playing of artists who have recorded for Verve over the years. Spanning 1952-1996, A Jazz Romance: A Night in With Verve ranges from bop, swing, and cool jazz to post-bop, and the list of artists reads like a who's who of jazz. Verve turns the spotlight on trumpet greats (Clifford Brown, Chet Baker, Roy Eldridge) as well as tenor titans (Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz), alto masters (Cannonball Adderley, Johnny Hodges), and guitarists (Johnny Smith, Laurindo Almeida, Tal Farlow, Kenny Burrell). Much to its credit, Verve doesn't neglect vocalists; Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Mel Tormé, Billie Holiday, Blossom Dearie, Abbey Lincoln, and Shirley Horn are among the singers it includes. However, there are a few glaring omissions. Verve doesn't provide anything by the seminal Charlie Parker, who recorded his famous Bird With Strings sessions of 1949 and 1950 for that label. And Helen Merrill (a superb singer) would have been a better choice than Patti Page, who is heard on a 1957 arrangement of "Detour Ahead." While Page was a talented example of a jazz-influenced pop singer, Merrill is more relevant to jazz. But all things considered, A Jazz Romance is a real pleasure to listen to -- and it is easily recommended to jazz lovers who have a large budget and a healthy appetite for ballads.

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