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Review

Choice jazz versions of a great Broadway composer

Here's an album that collects some excellent tributes jazz musicians have paid to Cole Porter by using his work


You're the Tops
Universal
Rs 125

Four great composers dominated the American musical stage in the '20s to '50s, the formative years of a vigorous popular art form. Through its interaction with jazz as a supplier of raw material, the Broadway musical had a redoubled influence on American culture. Of the four composers, George Gershwin and Cole Porter (1891-1964) were perhaps the favourites of jazz musicians and also enjoyed the interaction, with the interpretative element inherent in jazz improvisation, most.

Here's an album that collects together some excellent tributes jazz musicians have paid to Porter by using his work. There have been better renditions of many numbers here, but the high uniform standard indicates great care in assembling the selection within the bounds of accessibility of material to a single record label.

A collection devoted to a Broadway composer would be absurd if it didn't boast a few good vocals, and this one comes through well on that score. Right from the first number, Too darn hot sung by Mel Tormé. Tormé was an exceptionally gifted singer capable of keeping up with the most agile instrumentalists, as his vocal gymnastics here set amidst solos by trombone, alto sax and tenor sax show. The vocals as a whole cover a good range, from the soft and sentimental You'd be so nice to come home to (Benny Carter's lyrical alto sax providing an able foil to Billy Eckstine's singing) and Billie Holiday's Love for sale (with a quiet piano accompaniment) to the catchy numbers -- Ella Fitzgerald scatting through Just one of those things, Sarah Vaughan's clear, powerful voice set against a brilliant trumpet soloist on All of you, and Dinah Washington's verve and irony on Let's do it.

Among the instrumentalist stars of the album, there are a couple of saxophone showcases. Benny Carter dominating I get a kick out of you and Roland Kirk likewise with Get out of town, both emotional on light-hearted pieces. Stan Getz goes to town on an extended version of Night and day, which also has a marvellous piano solo. The pianos of the virtuosi Art Tatum and Erroll Garner and the great Jim Hall on guitar (with his partner, the great pianist Bill Evans, willingly staying in the background) are other delights of the album.

Jazzebel


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