Various Artists

Uptown Lounge

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Uptown Lounge Review

by Alex Henderson

One of the most surprising trends of the 1990s was the return of cocktail lounge culture. Cigars and martinis made a comeback, and post-Baby Boomers were getting into classic Dean Martin recordings that were made before they were even born. Quite a few lounge-oriented compilations came out in the 1990s; the thing that sets Uptown Lounge apart from many of the others is the fact that it focuses entirely on African-American lounge culture. With its emphasis on jazz singing and jazz-influenced pop, Uptown Lounge gives the listener a good idea what he/she would have heard in a Black cocktail lounge in the 1940s, 1950s or early 1960s. This collection isn't the last word on the subject -- how could it be without King Pleasure doing "Moody's Mood for Love?" But quite a few big names are included, and the listener is treated to everything from the straight-ahead jazz singing of Sarah Vaughan ("You Stepped Out of a Dream") and Joe Williams ("Confessin' the Blues") to jazz-influenced pop vocals by Nat "King" Cole ("Walking My Baby Back Home"), Lena Horne ("Stormy Weather") and Esther Phillips ("The Girl from Ipanema"). Bobby Short's classic version of "Manhattan" finds the CD detouring into cabaret, and traces of doowop make their way to Dinah Washington's remake of "Unforgettable." The thing that's frustrating about this CD and brings its rating down is The Right Stuff's failure to provide recording dates--what was the label thinking? The Right Stuff should have known better.

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