The Legendary Big Band 1943-1947 features 42 of Billy Eckstine's most memorable songs as played by one of the most powerful bebop big bands in jazz history. A powerful singer with a resonant baritone voice, trumpeter and valve trombonist William Clarence Eckstine, a former member of the Earl Hines Orchestra, formed his own band in 1943 after the economic hardships associated with World War II prevented Earl Hines from keeping him and other jazz artists, such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, in his orchestra. As the leader and creator of the first bebop big band, Billy Eckstine established what was a forerunner to the bop big bands of Gillespie, Woody Herman, and others. This two-disc set presents some of Billy Eckstine's finest work, including the blues hit "Jelly, Jelly," which he first recorded with the Earl Hines band in 1940. The collection involves a heavy emphasis on romantic ballads, blues, and specialty vocals, but also features several great instrumentals, including "Second Balcony Jump" and "Cool Breeze." Trombone solos by Eckstine on such songs as "All of Me" and "In My Solitude," as well as an informative booklet with photos of this legendary big band, add more interest to this valuable box set. This is the ultimate Billy Eckstine collection and is a must-have for jazz educators, historians, and enthusiasts of jazz vocalists.
AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2