"I was the Fabian of the '40s."
Mary Whipple | New England | 05/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In this CD, an excerpt from a rare live concert in 1961, Billy Eckstine introduces himself to his audience as "the Fabian of the '40s," a poignant comment on this giant's fading singing career. Immensely popular with audiences both black and white, Eckstine in the 1940s was a crooner of romantic ballads, many of them huge hits, in addition to being one of the great be-bop leaders. His band in 1943 featured Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Sarah Vaughan, as a pianist and occasional singer, with Miles Davis and Art Blakey joining shortly afterward. Then tastes changed.
In this short CD (about 30 minutes, which costs it a star), Eckstine is at his best, his rich, deep voice and controlled vibrato giving passion to a medley of his hits--"I'm Falling for You," "Fool That I Am," and "Everything I Have is Yours." His phrasing and control of tempo allow him to exploit the lyrics to wring every possible nuance from them. "All Right Okay, You Win," a lively, uptempo song features Quincy Jones on trumpet playing a subtle accompaniment that does not compete with Eckstine's voice.
A Duke Ellington medley, done with Ellington in the audience, features "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So," "Caravan," and "Sophisticated Lady," with Patti Bowen's piano accompaniment kept softly in the background. The showpiece of the CD, however, is "The Work Song," an impassioned story of a man sentenced to a chain gang with the Quincy Jones Orchestra supplying dramatic highlights.
Recording only rarely after the early 1960s, Eckstine became more an influence on the music of others (notably Tony Bennett) than a performer himself. He never crossed over into TV as Nat King Cole did, and he did not take off his jacket and tie and adapt to the loose jazz and blues styles of the intimate clubs (though it is easy to imagine him becoming a blues singer). Nowadays, if one does a search for Billy Eckstine on this site, many recordings appear, but of the ten on the first page, only five have any reviews at all, a rarity among CDs for established performers. With one of the best voices in the business, Billy Eckstine, once a rival of Sinatra in the hit record department, is now remembered primarily by those of us with long memories--and by the dozens of performers whose work he influenced. n Mary Whipple
Too bad the rest is lost!
J.Claude Paris | 02/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To my ears this is Eckstine's best: no strings, no schmaltz, Q's early sixties jazz band makes a wonderful background for Mr.B's voice .It is just too bad that in spite of reasearch the rest of this live recording is lost. Did no one involved in the sessions ever keep a tape? A misery.
Whatever the lenghth this should be re-released.jc"