Billy Eckstine

Early Mr. B: 1940-1953

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EARLY MR. B: 1940-1953 is an excellent compilation that showcases one of the finest (and too often overlooked) vocalists of the era. Though historically overshadowed by female jazz vocalists like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and white crooners like Bing Crosby, Billy Eckstine's work stands the test of time alongside those contemporaries.

Eckstine's rich baritone was combined with a delivery well suited to , blues, bop, ballads, and swing numbers, and the sheen on his talent has dimmed not a whit in the intervening years. This Jazz Legends set reinforces the fact, with its remastered sound, photo gallery, and informative liner notes. Most of all, though, it is the excellent selection of tracks here--each of which gives Eckstine's voice plenty of room to shine--that makes this a keeper.

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