cover image The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums

The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums

Will Friedwald. Pantheon, $40 (432p) ISBN 978-0-307-37907-8

With verve and an infectious love of music, jazz critic Friedwald (A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers) tells the stories of 57 jazz and pop albums that have become benchmarks by which subsequent recordings have been measured. Some of the 57 are first albums, such as Meet Marvelous Marilyn Mayes (1963), which showcases an artist whose relentless drive and swing appealed to both the pop and jazz crowd. Other albums discussed here illustrate the ways in which an established singer moves into a new phase of her career, as with Peggy Lee’s Black Coffee (1956), a jazzy concept album that got her away from the pop singles she’d been putting out. Jazz and pop aficionados will be surprised to find God Bless Tiny Tim (1968), by the singer and ukulele player Tiny Tim, among the albums presented, but Friedwald convincingly makes a case for it based on the album’s brilliant production and songwriting and its singer’s vocal range. Fans and critics are likely to argue about Friedwald’s choices, but his passionate description of each album in this indispensable guide will drive readers to listen to the albums once again, or for the first time. [em](Oct.) [/em]