Various Artists

I Heard It on NPR: Ladies Jazz It Up

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Compilations from radio stations are often dodgy affairs, and jazz compilations from radio stations usually fare even worse. Therein lies the surprise that should greet most discriminating listeners when they cue up I Heard It on NPR: Ladies Jazz It Up, which is very difficult to beat as the best single-disc summation of female vocal jazz in the history of the recording medium. Every one of the landmark figures appears early on (basically in chronological order), and each of them -- Sarah Vaughan, Anita O'Day, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington -- is represented with material at or near her peak (that means the '50s for all but Holiday, who appears in a 1933 recording of "Some Other Spring"). Vaughan transforms a standard as she did so well, O'Day injects yet more energy into a song that should have been sapped long before, Fitzgerald treats a Duke Ellington standard as though she thinks she's an instrumental soloist, and Holiday transmits languorous despair perfectly. The second half of the compilation moves into the modern era with more of its best figures, includingCarmen McRae, Shirley Horn, and on the last performance, a live trio recording of "Almost Like Being in Love" by Dee Dee Bridgewater, Marian McPartland, and Nancy Wilson.

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