Personnel includes: Joe Williams (vocals); Shirley Horn (vocals, piano); Ella Fitzgerald, Marlena Shaw (vocals); Marshall Royal (alto saxophone, clarinet); Bill Graham, Joe Evans (alto saxophone); Frank Wess (tenor saxophone, flute); Frank Foster, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Jimmy Forrest (tenor saxophone); Charlie Fowlkes (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet); Wendell Culley, Reunald Jones, Thad Jones, Joe Newman, John Lynch, Fip Ricard (trumpet); Henry Coker, Bill Hughes, Benny Powell, Bob Murray, Waymon Richardson, Milton Robinson, Henry Wells (trombone); Count Basie, Norman Simmons, Hank Jones (piano); Kenny Burrell (acoustic guitar); Freddie Green, Henry Johnson, Floyd Smith (guitar); Eddie Jones, Bob Badgley (bass); Sonny Payne, Ben Thigpen (drums).
Recorded between 1946 & 1990. Includes liner notes by Brian Priestley.
Personnel: Count Basie (piano); Joe Williams (vocals); Ella Fitzgerald, Marlena Shaw (vocals); Floyd Smith , Freddie Green (guitar); Kenny Burrell (acoustic guitar); Ted Dunbar (electric guitar); Frank Wess (flute, tenor saxophone); Marshall Royal (clarinet, alto saxophone); Charlie Fowlkes (bass clarinet, baritone saxophone); Reuben Phillips (alto saxophone); Frank Foster (tenor saxophone); John Porter, Seldon Powell (baritone saxophone); Clark Terry, Reunald Jones, Flip Ricard, Joe Newman , Joe Wilder, Thad Jones, John Lynch , Wendell Culley (trumpet); Henry Coker, Bob Murray, Milt Robinson, Al Grey, Benny Powell, Bill Hughes (trombone); Hank Jones , Norman Simmons (piano); Dennis Mackrel, Gerryck King, Sonny Payne, Ben Thigpen (drums); Efrain Toro (percussion).
Recording information: A&R Studios, New York, NY (12/02/1946-??/??/1990); Fine Sound, New York, NY (12/02/1946-??/??/1990); Giant Studios, New York, NY (12/02/1946-??/??/1990); New York, NY (12/02/1946-??/??/1990); Ocean Way Recording, Hollywood, CA (12/02/1946-??/??/1990); Vine St. Bar And Grill, Hollywood, CA (12/02/1946-??/??/1990).
Arrangers: Ernie Wilkins; Frank Foster; Johnny Pate; Norman Simmons.
This is basically the budget version of the more comprehensive Every Day: The Best of the Verve Years anthology. While Verve could have easily compiled a better 60 minutes by sticking to Williams' '50s recordings with Count Basie, Joe Williams' Finest Hour shoots for the broader picture, from Williams' pre-Basie big-band work from the late '40s to his swingin'-senior-citizen days of the '80s and '90s. (Still, this is not exactly a retrospective, as there's a 30-year gap between Williams' last Verve session with Basie and the next record he cut for the label, 1987's Every Night). Overall, Finest Hour is a decent sampling of Williams' many stylistic hats -- swinging, scatting, balladeering, and blues-shouting. On half of the tracks, he fronts a big band (either Basie's or Andy Kirk's); on the other half, he sings slow blues or pop ballads (ranging from sublime to syrupy) with a small combo. Not a bad "finest hour," but if you're looking for a finer one, try Blue Note's The Best of Joe Williams. ~ Ken Chang