Verve Records took some flack in early 2001 for releasing a jazz entry in its series of Pure compilations at the same time that the label had entered into a joint venture with Columbia Records to exploit Ken Burns' jazz television documentary by issuing a series of compilations tied in to the program; Verve seemed to many to be undercutting what appeared to be the biggest opportunity to popularize jazz in a long time. But Pure Jazz celebrated a solid year in the Billboard jazz charts in January 2002, and that kind of success made this follow-up inevitable. Like its predecessor, Pure Jazz Encore! is anything but pure. Its definition of jazz includes pop singer Bobby Darin performing "Beyond the Sea" and jump blues star Louis Jordan doing "Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens," not the kind of material most jazz fans would call jazz. But this is a collection for people who have only a nodding acquaintance with the real thing, people who will recognize big names like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald as well as familiar tunes such as Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts theme, "Linus & Lucy," and Ramsey Lewis' 1965 hit "The 'in' Crowd." An album containing both Ellington's "Take the 'A' Train" and Louis Armstrong's 1964 hit "Hello, Dolly!" may not make much sense to a jazz fan, but it will to a more general audience. Of course, there is plenty of real jazz here, but things never get too inaccessible. The instrumentalists don't stray far from the melodies of these familiar songs, and the selection includes many vocal numbers. Verve has looked mostly to the vast Universal catalog, but a few tracks have been licensed from other companies. Anyone who liked Pure Jazz is likely to enjoy Pure Jazz Encore! just as much.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann