Lee Wiley

Legendary Song Stylist

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Though this 20-track British compilation lacks documentation, it draws four cuts from each of Lee Wiley's late-1930s songbook albums -- which were devoted to the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and Harold Arlen -- and ends with some earlier tunes from her 1930s stints with the orchestras of Johnny Green and Victor Young. Hence, it is a best-of derived from what are acknowledged to be Wiley's most accomplished performances. Her especially astringent readings of the Porter and Hart lyrics bring out the authors' biting wit better than the interpretations of practically any other interpreter, and the accompaniment of orchestras led by Joe Bushkin, Paul Weston, Max Kaminsky, and Eddie Condon is appropriately jazzy. At a time when most jazz was swing, Wiley looked forward to the postwar music scene, competing with Billie Holiday as an introspective singer of standards.

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