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Joe Williams: Music for Lovers

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Joe Williams' Music for Lovers comes closer to the cocktail sophistication of Nat King Cole or Billy Eckstine than to any blues jump or shout to which Williams gave joyous voice as vocalist with the Count Basie Band.

Perhaps the best part of this material, drawn from Williams' 1959-63 ballad albums for Roulette Records, is hearing his profound, inexhaustible voice keeping quiet company with fellow Basie alumni Harry "Sweets Edison (trumpet), Ben Webster (tenor saxophone), and rhythmist Freddie Green (guitar), plus other first-rate jazz musicians such as Hank Jones (piano), Milt Hinton (bass) and drummer Don Lamond (a veteran of Woody Herman's Thundering Herd).

Pristine arrangements by Jimmy Jones and Ernie Wilkins cast Williams in a courtly voice. From his album Together with Edison, "Always swaps in the rhythm section of Sir Charles Thompson (piano), Tommy Potter (bass) and Clarence Johnson (drums); Thompson's solitary piano sparkles against Williams' opening verse like sophisticated diamond jewelry, then swings out some single-note boogie while the horns add their smooth blues touch. "Sweets sings out like his namesake to complete Williams' verses in "I Only Have Eyes for You, though the arrangement, like a chocolate candy, saves the middle break for Webster's smooth, creamy saxophone. Likewise, Webster's tenor huskily whispers to counterpoint Williams' opening verse of "If I Should Lose You, tinged with a sadness that allows him to dig into the blues a little.

In "Stella by Starlight, his stately intonation of "the murmur of a brook at eventide conjures up images as classically rustic as Walt Whitman. Like Williams' voice, its closing instrumental passage flows past as powerful and enduring as "Old Man River. It just keeps rolling along.

Track Listing: I Only Have Eyes for You; The Very Thought of You; If I Should Lose You; Always; You Are Too Beautiful; Candy; Say It Isn

Personnel: Joe Williams: vocals; Orchestra arranged and conducted by Jimmy Jones; Orchestra arranged and conducted by Jimmy Mundy; Harry

Title: Music for Lovers | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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