Putumayo’s Jazz features a veritable who’s who of jazz legends performing beloved standards. The 1950s was a golden age for jazz and three-quarters of this collection was recorded during this era. Many of these recordings have been remixed and remastered, providing a level of sound quality not available until recent years. A wonderful introduction to the genre and a worthy addition to any aficionado’s collection, Jazz demonstrates the enduring, universal appeal of this homegrown American musical style. The liner notes of the CD were written by noted jazz scholar and WWOZ New Orleans radio host Joel Dinerstein, whose in-depth commentary is accompanied by rare archival photos.
Putumayo’s founder, Dan Storper, comments on his increased exposure to jazz since moving to New Orleans: “Over the past few years, I’ve heard jazz virtually seeping from the pores of this city, the birthplace of jazz. Listening to Joel Dinerstein on WWOZ reminded me of how much I still loved the songs of my parents’ generation and that selecting exceptional, relatively obscure songs by many of their favorites would help introduce many of these great artists to a new generation.”
The inimitable Nina Simone opens the collection with “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” one of her most recognizable songs. Nat King Cole’s velvet vocals and accomplished jazz piano skills are showcased on the swinging “’Deed I Do,” recorded during his early days helming The King Cole Trio. One of the most recognizable voices of the swing era, Maxine Sullivan contributes “’Taint No Use," on which she ruminates over a romance that has run its course.
Jazz piano virtuoso Oscar Peterson accompanies Louis Armstrong, inventor of the modern popular jazz vocal, who delivers a spare but upbeat solo on “I Was Doing All Right.” “Swing tenor” saxophonist Zoot Sims, who recorded more than 50 albums during his career, honors George and Ira Gershwin on an album that features many beloved standards, including “Someone to Watch Over Me." Jazz trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker, who rose to stardom on equal parts talent and charismatic edginess , sings a soft, ethereal tenor on "There Will Never Be Another You."
Pioneering jazz vocalist Anita O'Day contributes a husky-voiced rendition of “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and self-taught swing pianist Hampton Hawes follows with the gospel-infused “Sermon.” Coquettish jazz singer Blossom Dearie injects her signature wry humor and poetic phrasing into “They Say It’s Spring.” Composer, pianist and vocalist Mose Alison, whose music has been covered by Pete Townsend, Bonnie Raitt and others, contributes the classic swing valentine "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." Closing out Jazz is alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and pianist Bill Evans’s spellbinding performance of the ballad "Waltz for Debby," followed by Lady Day herself, Billie Holiday, who delivers a sultry performance of “Lover, Come Back to Me.”