Billy Eckstine

Basie and Eckstine, Inc.

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After coming up with the Earl Hines band and fronting his own trailblazing outfit in the late '40s, singer and trumpeter Billy Eckstine rose to the top of the star vocalist heap in the '50s. His powerful and vibrato-filled tenor helped bridge the gap between the disparate likes of Bing Crosby and blues shouter Jimmy Rushing, and, later, deep-throated crooners such as Johnny Hartman and Arthur Prysock. He also rubbed shoulders with some of the greats along the way, namely Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, and Quincy Jones. And, as was the case with his contemporary Joe Williams, Eckstine's work with Count Basie proved to be some of his best: with his soaring, urbanely bluesy voice, Eckstine could rise above Basie's brass bombast while also complimenting his sly, easy strolling tempos. This 1959 date (the only one with the bandleader) finds Eckstine mixing old classics ("Jelly Jelly") with the more obscure fare ("Don't Cry Baby"). From blues swingers to after-hours ballads, the highlights include other Eckstine originals like "Blue, the Mother of Sin" and "Little Mama." Sure to please both Eckstine and Basie fans.