Mood to be Wooed - Classic Crooners - Page 5

Beyond candlelight and cocktails—classic crooners of the mid-century who enhance romance for a song

album cover9 Chet Baker: Jazz 'Round Midnight (Verve - 1955-'67). Nice mellow compilation finds Baker trading off vocal and trumpet duties, sounding equally dreamy on both. As a singer, he's boyishly dulcet on 'No Greater Love' in a range approaching Jimmy Scott's.


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10 Helen Merrill: Complete Recordings (with Clifford Brown) (Lonehill Jazz - 1954-'55). More into expression than innovation, Merrill muses tearfully on 'Yesterdays' and is credibly sodden on 'Lilac Wine.' Her sound is clear and pretty, with a whispery bottom.


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11 Billie Holiday: Jazz Moods - 'Round Midnight (Sony Import - 1937-'45). One of the most recognizable of instruments, Lady Day's voice, based in the blues, is intimate and dry and its delivery completely credible, with an affecting slide both sexy and sad. Nice set of ballads.


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12 Peggy Lee: Trav'lin Light (Capitol - 1946-'49). At this stage of her career (late '40s transcriptions, with husband Dave Barbour's combo), Lee sounds a bit like 'Billie Lite,' but the similar slithery approach to a lyric isn't a bad thing, and her interaction with piano or Barbour's guitar is pleasantly girlish.


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13 Dick Haymes: Complete Capitol Collection (EMI Import - 1955-'57). Both the appeal and the limitations of crooning are personified by influential baritone-tenor Haymes, who's both strong and sweet while sticking to a narrow repertoire. Two enjoyable discs.


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14 Lee Wiley: Night In Manhattan (Sony - 1950-'51). This sounds like what might have happened if Billie Holiday's husky diction had been refined at Hunter College, without losing its roots in the blues. The old-time arrangements work well.


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15 Nina Simone: After Hours (Verve - 1964-'66). Definitely not your standards album, but Simone's caramel-like voice, with its haunting vibrato and graininess, gets under your skin on crooning numbers like 'If I Should Lose You.'


Swingin' & Jazzin'

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16 Bobby Darin: Love Swings (Collectors Choice - 1961). A musical chameleon, Darin displays why fellow crooners and their fans admired him outside his rock 'n' roll hits for his fine voice. Though sometimes overly sassy, he treats gentler material nicely here.


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17 Bobby Troup: Tell Me You're Home (Audiophile - 1958). Some of the material is unfamiliar, some of it penned by Troup (including 'Route 66'), and all delivered in a light, breathy, conversational voice, with the engaging singer often dropping behind the beat.


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18 Tony Bennett: Jazz (Columbia - 1954-'67). Eminently likeable, Bennett brings a shine even to the crooner material here, which he delivers with an insouciant mid-Atlantic accent, jazz-wise phrasing, and dramatic dynamics. Well-crafted compilation.