Vocal Jazz - Released October 22, 2001 | Columbia - Legacy


Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2005 | Verve

One of the first box sets for completists only, 1993's ten-disc The Complete Billie Holiday on Verve 1945-1959 was considered nearly a necessity by anyone interested in jazz vocals. Verve returned to the catalog 12 years later with a much tighter, much smarter collection: The Complete Verve Studio Master Takes. Encompassing six discs, the set skips the many live performances and the few alternate takes included on the previous box. Overall, the work compares well to her earlier material for Columbia. Although the old familiar cracks rarely appeared in her voice during her Columbia, Decca, and Commodore years, the song selections weren't all gold, and the needs of that era (the 1930s and '40s) dictated that each side end around the three-minute mark. With Verve during the '50s, Holiday recorded nothing but standards in the studio, and indulged in many longer performances that often resulted in relaxed, methodical songs. Aside from Holiday's mastery of vocal jazz as a form, the practice also allowed for some lengthy, perfectly loving solos by musicians including Ben Webster ("Ill Wind") Harry "Sweets" Edison ("I Didn't Know What Time It Was," "Day in, Day Out"), Benny Carter ("I Get a Kick Out of You," "Prelude to a Kiss"), and Charlie Shavers ("I Wished on the Moon"). If the previous "Complete on Verve" set was an expensive bauble that listeners rarely returned to, this "Complete Verve" is a much brighter proposition. (The accordion-like packaging, however, leaves much to be desired.) ~ John Bush

Vocal Jazz - Released July 30, 2013 | RCA - Legacy

Nina Simone was a singular artist, and she went where she pleased, leaving behind a recorded legacy that is passionate, political, defiant, and delicate by turns, no matter what strain of folk, blues, jazz, or gospel she was dipping into, and she did it all with dignity, grace, and intelligence. This set collects all nine of her albums for RCA Records (released between 1967 and 1974), and thus includes some of her greatest recordings. Signature songs like "I Loves You, Porgy," "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl" (in a couple of versions), and "Mississippi Goddam" (a Simone original -- one wishes she had written more than she did) are all here, along with powerful versions of songs by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Willie Dixon, the Beatles, and Randy Newman, among others. Simone didn't just sing a song. She made it hers. ~ Steve Leggett


Vocal Jazz in the magazine