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  Listen Up! 8/5/03 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Aug. 5

Billy Eckstine, “Once More With Feeling,” Roulette Jazz. Eckstine was one of the few great male jazz vocalists back in his day. Not that there weren’t other great male vocalists, like Sinatra and Bennett, and not that they didn’t have anything to do with jazz, but Eckstine was more in the tradition more of the time. Of course, this is a pop record by a jazz vocalist tackling the standards, many of which you’ve heard a million times. Even by 1960, there must have been people getting tired of hearing yet another version of “Stormy Weather” or “Blues In the Night.” Except that Eckstine turns in one of the finest “Stormy Weather” versions I’ve ever heard right here. And “Blues In the Night” swings pretty hard. Eckstine had a rich baritone, and a smooth phrasing approach that fit neatly in jazz and pop styles. As such, he was one of the last singers I was ever able to appreciate, but now I just hear warm-voiced beauty whenever he opens his mouth.

Jack Casady, “Dream Factor,” Eagle Records. Who knew this guy was still around? Who cared that he can assemble a nightmarish assortment of overplaying guitarists and drummers to add to his overplaying bass chops? Whatever happened to his really tasteful playing in the Jefferson Airplane or early Hot Tuna, or that punk band he was in in the late 70s? It’s loud and worthless stuff.

--Steve Pick


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