Jazz 100
Vocal Jazz 1
The Best Jazz Ever Released Digitally


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The Collection
Bessie Smith
1923-33 [Columbia/Legacy]


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A solid package covering vocalist Bessie Smith's time at Columbia, although a 2CD remastered set is now available. Dubbed "The Empress Of the Blues" owing to her powerful voice, Smith scored a major hit with her first recording - 'Downhearted Blues'. She remained popular up to the onset of the Great Depression in the late-20s.





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Columbia Recordings
Billie Holiday
1933-44 [Columbia & subsidiaries]


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Plagued by loneliness and heroin addiction 'Lady Day' never really had much of a chance in her all-too-brief life. Her musical romance with legendary tenor Lester Young is probably the closest she ever came to being happy. Many cite her Columbia recordings from the 30s and 40s as her finest work. Beware of the many inferior budget compilations.





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The Commodore Master Takes
Billie Holiday
1939-44 [Commodore/GRP]


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Holiday found an artistic release from her contractual obligations at Columbia in the one session in 1939 and three in 1944 she recorded for the Commodore label. As a result, the 16 tracks here are amongst her best - at times riveting and absolutely dripping with pure emotion. 'Strange Fruit' is a dramatic political statement not to be missed.





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Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown
Sarah Vaughan w/ Clifford Brown
1954 [EmArcy]


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Brown's name was added to the CD release of this set in order to take advantage of the trumpeter's legendary status. Sassy's voice is in resplendent form as she makes her way through nine topnotch standards. 'Lullaby of Birdland' is the standout, but the follow-up 'April in Paris' is also riveting. One of the best pure jazz vocal sets around.





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Dinah Jams
Dinah Washington
1954 [EmArcy]


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Washington is typical of the school of fine all-round vocalists who had to constantly tolerate accusations of selling out her "art" because she often chose to work outside the jazz field. No questions here though - the presence of trumpeter Clifford Brown and drummer Max Roach for this studio jam session make this far-and-away her finest jazz set.





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Clef/Verve Recordings
Billie Holiday
1952-57 [Clef/Verve]


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By the time Billie Holiday moved over to Clef/Verve in the early-50s she was suffering from years of alcohol and drug abuse, with her voice showing its age. Despite this, these tracks benefit from improved recording technology and rate amongst her most popular. As such, no jazz collection would be complete without at least a sampling of them.





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The Best of Chet Baker Sings
Chet Baker
1953-56 [Pacific Jazz]


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Baker really had two very disparate careers - one as the coolest trumpet on the West Coast and the other as a popular jazz vocalist. Here he is at his most delicately romantic as his voice quavers its way through 20 tracks cut for Pacific Jazz between 1953 and 1956. It Could Happen to You (1958) tosses some scat and humour into the mix.





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Ella and Louis
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
1956 [Verve]


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In later years Armstrong's distinctive gravel-tones brought him acclaim as a great jazz vocalist. Here he plays the perfect foil to Fitzgerald and the affection between the two is obvious. Satchmo even manages to blow his horn every now and then. The superb 'Best of…' collection features tracks from all three Verve albums, plus a bonus live track.


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