Personnel: Connie Wainwright (guitar); Sonny Stitt, Budd Johnson (alto saxophone); Leo Parker (baritone saxophone); Fats Navarro, Gail Brockman, Shorty McConnell (trumpet); Taswell Baird, Jerry Valentine (trombone); John Malachi (piano); Tommy Potter (bass instrument); Art Blakey (drums).
This 15-track set puts together some amazing performances by Billy Eckstine's band from the early '40s when he was leading one of the more intense, smoking bands on the scene. Some of his players during these years included Fats Navarro, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, and Kenny Dorham, just to name a few. The Eckstine band was sophisticated, jumping, and they swung like mad no matter the tune. Here, of course, the emphasis is on Eckstine's vocals, his smooth as silk baritone that could sing a ballad like Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady," or a deep swinging blues by Doc Pomus ("She Got the Blues for Sale"). There's scat, solid jazz balladry, and jumping, tough-hitting blues here. Highly recommended. ~ Thom Jurek