Both Jimmy Scott and Tony Bennett certainly believe that audiences are still able to hear with their hearts, and that singers should keep crooning to them. "I'm more passionate about it and more disciplined about it than ever," Bennett points out. "They're beginning to understand what I'm trying to say in a song," Scott chimes in, "and that inspires me and makes me want to do more."
Special thanks to Mickey McGowan of the Unknown Museum for music and graphic archival research.
Photos: John Abbott, Maurice Seymour; and courtesy Jimmy and Jeanie Scott, Abbey Anna and Concord Music Group, Capitol Records, Inc., Sony Music Entertainment, Inc.
1 Mel Tormé: Intimate Moments (Riff City - 1947, 1958). With impressive early and rare transcriptions, this set features a youthful Tormé sounding his horn-like tone on appealingly foggy lyrics like 'I Cover the Waterfront.' He's eminently sophisticated and graceful, as well as playful, on 'Three Little Words.'
2 Jimmy Scott: Lost and Found (Rhino - 1969-'72). Though neither pretty nor tone-perfect, Scott's voice is dramatically melancholic, and his high register and excruciatingly slow tempos make for a unique, emotional experience. A collection of what may be his greatest recordings.
3 Frank Sinatra: Songs For Only the Lonely (Capitol - 1958). One of Ol' Blue Eyes' classics, in the crooning corner of his repertoire. The tasteful song list lets him showcase his uniquely artful admixture of allure, control, and vulnerability.
4 Ella Fitzgerald: Pure Ella (Decca - 1950-'54). On numbers like 'But Not For Me,' Fitzgerald just never sounded credibly sad enough to be a crooner, but her purity of tone and technique are models for every singer. Intimately accompanied by Ellis Larkins on piano.
5 Dean Martin: Dream With Dean (Collectors Choice - 1964). One of the very few after Bing who could be defined as a true crooner, Dino here swings his brawny baritone-tenor voice through mid-century love songs and charming older chestnuts. Mellow and lovely small combo setting.
6 Julie London: Julie Is Her Name/Lonely Girl (Hallmark Import - 1958). With little in the way of vocal decoration or innovative phrasing, London's clean and clear approach still appeals to many, and actually sounds haunting on 'I Should Care.' Her highly regarded first two LPs are combined on this single disc.
7 Johnny Hartmann: with John Coltrane (Impulse - 1963). The songbook is enhanced by this classic and pretty pairing of Hartmann's dusky and seductive affect with one of jazz's most poignantly personal saxophonists. A must for jazz lovers.
8 Sarah Vaughan: After Hours (Roulette - 1961). Late night, small combo. The singer nicknamed 'Sassy' gives an unusually sweet and accessible reading of 'Sophisticated Lady' and other laid-back numbers in a creamy but slightly grainy tone, almost trumpet-like in its phrasing.