This album is revealing. Of the 10 women jazz artists who have recorded for Concord Jazz, 8 ½ are vocalists. The full non-vocalist is Marian McPartland who plays piano, the other area of major employment for women in jazz. The ½ is Sheila E. who plays drums while she sings. The label has previously recorded women who played other instruments. One that comes readily to mind is Emily Remler, a fine guitarist. But she passed away a few years ago and perhaps that made her ineligible for this compilation. Too bad, we need to be refreshed by her special guitar renderings from time to time.
Notwithstanding the narrow presentation, the album is chock full of top flight performances by well-known artists. Most compilations are outstanding because the label is likely to include only the best of the best from its vaults. Most of the vocalists are from straight ahead jazz. The two "improvisors" are Nnenna Freelon and Sheila E. Freelon's entry "Better Than Anything" features superb tenor sax work by Kirk Whalum. The singer's scatting begins with a quote from"Old Man River". There's more great sax on Diane Schuur's "Easy Living" with those captivating lyrical sounds uniquely conceived by Stan Getz. Another highlight among highlights is Monica Mancini's version of "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" recalling Johnny Mercer's 1944 rendition with the Pied Pipers. But above all, it's Rosie Clooney gets the gold star for "Brazil". A master of phrasing and timing, she is a living textbook on the art of singing passages from entries in the Great American Popular Songbook.
The CD is a fine compilation of good works by talented people and is recommended. The liner notes list the albums from which these cuts were taken. Hopefully by the next edition, Concord will have distaff trombone, trumpet, sax, etc. players on their artist roster. Wishful thinking?