Billy Eckstine


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There are those (Sarah Vaughan was one of them) who consider Eckstine the supreme male jazz vocalist, though (like her) he sometimes was obliged to sing awful songs. He came up in an era and with a ballad-based style that is pretty much forgotten now -- a hazard quite common in jazz. He also hired various of the up-and-coming beboppers for his own big band, though he wasn't a bop singer himself. These fine sessions from the mid-'40s include only a couple of inherent turkeys, along with fine minor ballads like "Gloomy Sunday" and a few standards. A major plus is tenor-saxist Wardell Gray as soloist on some cuts.