Various Artists

Smoky Jazz

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It seems almost redundant to title a collection Smoky Jazz -- the music has always seemed shrouded in the hazy atmosphere of an after-hours nightclub. This 16-track anthology of material culled from the Verve vaults further beats a dead horse by focusing on songs with titles emphasizing smoke, cigarettes, and fire -- it's the kind of thematic novelty that's easily strained, of course, but the overall quality and consistency of the performances win out. Spanning from Bing Crosby's "Two Cigarettes in the Dark" to Billie Holiday's "My Old Flame," the music touches on a surprisingly wide variety of styles and moods from swing to bebop, emphasizing iconic artists but avoiding their familiar hits -- like all the titles in the budget-priced Jazz Club series, it's a thoughtful and knowledgeable cross section of the genre, and highly recommended to listeners still in the early stages of assembling a jazz library.

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