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Lee Wiley in the 1950's
on 11 May 2014
Lee Wiley was one of the greatest of jazz singers and this compilation of four of her albums is an excellent one. 'Night in Manhattan' and 'Sings Yeomans and Berlin' were originally issued as three 10" albums in the early days of LP. The twenty-four numbers were subsequently reissued by American Columbia on two 12" discs. The tracks with Bobby Hackett and Joe Bushkin are among the finest she ever recorded and those where Lee Wiley is accompanied by two pianists nearly as good. The first disc of this compilation is completed by two tracks she contributed to a Victor anthology. These are enjoyable performances but not essential ones.
The second disc includes the two albums recorded for Victor in the mid-fifties. 'West of the Moon' contains some superb arrangements by Ralph Burns and Lee is in fine voice throughout. Three backing bands are used. There is a group with strings,, reeds and rhythm. For the second, the strings are omitted and a fine brass section - including Nick Travis and Ubie Green - added. The final group is a small jazz combo with Billy Butterfield, Lou McGarity, and Peanuts Hucko contributing some fine playing. A thoroughly enjoyable album.
'A Touch of the Blues' completes this fine set. Arrangements here are by Bill Finegan and Al Cohn and the band is led by Billy Butterfield. Lee is again in top form and the twelve tracks make a delightful programme. I especially enjoyed 'Land of Sky Blue Water', 'Ace in the Hole' and 'Blues in my Heart' but the rest are excellent as well.
The whole anthology makes a valuable addition to the catalogue. Highly recommended to all lovers of fine singing.