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When Joe Williams passed away in March of 1999 while walking home in Las Vegas, he of course was acknowledged as one of the greatest vocalists in jazz. Legions of jazz musicians enjoyed performing with him and admired the way he crafted a song, not to mention the way he knew how to add character to a big band with the sound of his voice. Nancy Wilson's respect overflowed when she interviewed him on Nancy Wilson's Jazz Profiles. A concert at the Hollywood Bowl after Williams' death attracted musicians from New York, as well as from the West Coast, so that they could honor his legacy. No male jazz singers seem to be on the horizon to even hint at recalling Williams' way of affecting an audience.
But when Roulette recorded A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry , Williams' reputation was sealed for big band and blues singing, primarily because of his hit, "Every Day I Have The Blues." What A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry revealed, and what is now taken for granted, was that Williams was a supreme balladeer as well.
With lush string arrangements by Jimmy Mundy, known for his Earl Hines and Benny Goodman arrangements, Williams delivers songs like "Say It Isn't So" with an ease that proves his versatility and remarkable sense of connecting with his audienceeven an audience that was imagined in the recording studio during that October in 1957.
Not that the arrangement detracts from Williams' talent, but he could be just as effective with a trioor in solo. His consistency throughout the CD positions him in the tradition of male romantic singers, like Sinatra, as his articulation and sense of phrasing conveys the meaning of each tune in an unmistakable clear baritone voice. For instance, he delivers a slight pause with the "gee" of "What's New" to communicate a sense of wistfulness. Or he lengthens the tones at the end of a phrase to extend its final thought.
Williams' conversational style throughout this long-out-of-circulation, breakthrough CD gives evidence of his concentration upon the meaning of the tunes and how they affect the listener.
Reportedly, Nat Cole said that A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry was the best record he ever heard. With over 40 years of recorded singing accumulating since Williams' album was produced, that claim may be harder to make now because of all of the singers who have come and gone since then. But A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry certainly is one of the most important records by one of the greatest male jazz singers. It's essential to the collection of any Joe Williams enthusiast.
Track Listing: What's New?, It's The Talk Of The Town, I'll Never Smile Again, I'm Through With Love, Where Are You?, I've Only Myself To Blame, Say It Isn't So, What Will I Tell My Heart?, You've Got Me Crying Again, Can't We Talk It Over?, I Laugh To Keep From Cryin', A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry
Personnel: Joe Williams, vocal; Jimmy Mundy Orchestra
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.