Joe Williams

The Heart and Soul of Joe Williams and George Shearing

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By the time this record first appeared in 1971 on George Shearing's short-lived Sheba label, jazz was in the doldrums due to the preponderance of rock on radio and in record stores. Shearing formed his own label in an attempt to control his own destiny, and singer Joe Williams was one of the first people he asked to appear on with him. The two veterans are joined by bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Stix Hooper for a collection of ballads (both familiar and obscure) that feature either "heart" and/or "soul" in their titles. They work very well together due to their love of great melodies and their ability to build upon them. The surprise opener is "Heart and Soul," a fairly simple Hoagy Carmichael-Frank Loesser ditty that is often the first piece would-be pianists learn on their own; Shearing's easygoing yet swinging arrangement removes its typically monotonous character. Even though Rodgers & Hart's lovely "My Heart Stood Still" is barely over two minutes, the enchanting duo rendition by Williams and Shearing not only restores the often omitted verse but proves that less can be more. The out of tempo interpretation of "Young at Heart" and rather playful take of "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" are very refreshing. The lesser-known tunes are hardly lesser quality. Jimmy van Heusen and Johnny Burke penned the gorgeous yet unjustly forgotten "Humpty Dumpty Heart," while Alec Wilder's "Sleep My Heart" is another long lost treasure. Out of print since the label's demise in 1973, this 2001 reissue will be readily welcomed by fans of Joe Williams and George Shearing.

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