Whether or not jazz singing is a dying art, a little piece of that world was lost last fall when Etta Jones passed away at age 73. The definition of what purists call a true jazz singer, she swung hard without going over the top, was warm without drifting into easy listening, and always took care to breathe life into lyrics.
Jonesís big hit was 1960ís "Donít Go to Strangers," which kicks off this collection harvested from her early í60s recordings. Several cuts, like the sublime "Old Folks," with guitarist Kenny Burrell, and the snappy "Canadian Sunset," with vibes player Lem Winchester, are fine. A few reveal the error of bending to the times ó the usually great arranger Oliver Nelsonís work with strings on "Unchained Melody" is grating. Thatís something that could not be said of Jones, the consummate pro throughout her 60 years in the business. The jazz stalwarts on the disc include pianist Richard Wyands, drummer Charlie Persip, and reed man Frank Wess. Jonesís fine recorded collaborations with tenor player Houston Person came after she left Prestige, so none of that excellent body of work ó including "Sings Lady Day" ó appears here.