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Joe Williams


One of the few great male jazz singers in history, Williams got his start in the late 1930s in Chicago. But it wasn't until the '40s, and his sessions with renowned vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, that he rose to national stardom. In the '50s, Williams sang for Count Basie's big band, where he recorded his first hit, "Every Day I Have the Blues," in 1951. Unlike his flute-voiced predecessor in Basie's band, Jimmy Rushing, Williams sang in a buttery-smooth, dark baritone. His naturalistic phrasing -- inspired by Frank Sinatra -- combined with his subtle slides in pitch make his voice sound warm and comfortable. And his vibrato states its presence without dominating. Williams' greatness stems in part from his versatility as a singer. Tunes such as "Boogie Woogie (I May Be Wrong)" showcase his considerable talent as a blues singer. His scatting on "How High the Moon" reveals a keen, bebop-influenced sense of melody, while "Getting Some Fun Out of Life" demonstrates his understated yet sensitive treatment of ballads.
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