Search - Billy Eckstine :: Airmail Special

Airmail Special
Billy Eckstine
Airmail Special
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Broadway & Vocalists
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #1


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CD Details

All Artists: Billy Eckstine
Title: Airmail Special
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Drive Archive
Original Release Date: 2/6/1996
Release Date: 2/6/1996
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Broadway & Vocalists
Styles: Traditional Jazz & Ragtime, Vocal Jazz, Bebop, Oldies, Vocal Pop, Classic Vocalists, Traditional Vocal Pop
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 780674241526

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CD Reviews

An absolute gem - rare music you will dream about
Kevin W. Celebi | Greencastle, IN | 12/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Billy Eckstine, most famous for being the "incubator of beboppers," is heard here in a radio broadcast from 1945. The band, as you can expect from an incubator, is chock full of talent, highlighted by Gene "Jug" Ammons on tenor sax, the legendary trumpeter Fats Navarro, and the unflagging drummer Art Blakey. This album, after its broadcast, was originally released as "Together."

"Airmail Special" is the perfect blend of accessibility and intellectual art. Casual listeners will fall in love with Eckstine's wide, far-ranging voice, always searching for that perfect quality. The rest is up to his band, which clearly and precisely executes its charts with passion. Art Blakey commented in the book "Cookin'" that they got paid very little, but it didn't matter to them. They were a musical family and blew their tails off whenever they collaborated.

Ammons takes many full-bodied solos, his tone sharp and precise as a cutting sword, executing logical ideas one after another. Sarah Vaughan makes a cameo, casting her voice to the wind and letting its beauty radiate and shimmer out of the speakers. Navarro, at the tender age of 22, plays with both power and an emotional quality that will break your heart (especially considering his tragically short, 8-year career). The band is heard in peak form.

The album's only flaw is its length - a very short broadcast at about 33 minutes. The charts generally blend cutthroat tempo burners and crystal ballads that descend layer upon layer of sound. The charts are anything but filler, many horn figures written out intricately and carefully. Top notch arranging and a load of talent to back it up make the music easily recommendable.

Remember, the Eckstine band of the mid 40's didn't record that much for two reasons. For one, the war caused a huge shortage of shellac and personnel to record the sessions. For two, the recording ban was still recovering from its aftermath. That makes this broadcast all the more valuable, for its opportunity to capture Billy and his many disciples.

The album's best track is the opener, "Blowin' the Blues Away." The band wastes no time in setting up a bright groove, busy horn backgrounds, and the very excited and full-bodied baritone of Eckstine. Ammons is absolutely driving in his solo, playing with enough intensity to blow the walls down.

Remember, this music is rare and exceptionally precious. Value "Airmail Special" for its memorable singing, band excellence, and talented solos.