- Rise 'N' Shine
- Time On My Hands
- Got The South In My Soul
- Easy Come, Easy Go
- Sweet And Lowdown
- How Long Has This Been Going On?
- Someone To Watch Over Me
- You Took Advantage Of Me
- A Ship Without A Sail
- Let's Fly Away
- Looking At You
- Down To Steamboat Tennessee
- Down With Love
- Stormy Weather
- Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
- It's Only A Paper Moon
- Body And Soul
- A Woman's Intuition
- Any Time, Any Day, Anywhere
- A Ghost Of A Chance
- Oh, Look At Me Now
- I've Got A Crush On You
- Glad To Be Unhappy
Lee Wiley (vocal) with accompaniments
Time was when Lee Wiley compilations were thin on the ground. But times change, and sometimes for the better, and that's especially the case here when Wiley discs are now relatively easy to come by. The late albums tend to be overlooked - by which time she'd returned from her long retirement and the voice was frayed - but the period from the 1930s and 1940s and to a somewhat lesser extent the early 1950s were golden. It's these that people crave and they're right to do so. Wiley's was one of the most distinctive, and unignorable voices in jazz.
This compilation opens unchronologically with two sides from 1951 with the
two piano team of Stan Freeman and Cy Walter. Of the two Time On
My Hands gives her more time to stretch out, and that sexy, worldly,
husky tone still casts its spell. But it's when we go back to
1939 that her greatness as a singer becomes more apparent. Take How
Long Has This Been Going On? which she recorded with hard driving
Max Kaminsky's band. This is a pertinent example of the tension
that exists in her singing between the erotic glissandi of her voice,
with its knowing phrasal qualities, and its essentially girlish timbre.
The two in conjunction are, to be frank, and even if you've heard
this track a hundred times before, as I have, explosive. Not only
that, but her approach to lyrics is so precise and perceptive, so
alive to the play and casual drift of them, that it becomes almost
conversational. On this track, too, you can savour Bud Freeman's
solo and George Wettling's witty stick work.
There are plenty of instrumental pleasures elsewhere; high quality
ones. Fats Waller is the organist on Someone To Watch Over Me
and there's a real chamber intimacy to the Kaminsky-Freeman-Bushkin-Bernstein-Wettling
backing on A Ship Without A Sail. Talking of Joe Bushkin, he
and Bunny Berigan forge a formidable partnership on Let's Fly Away
- as with Billie Holiday, Wiley had classy accompanists and her
choice of material was sophisticated and apposite; this one, for example,
name checks Walter Winchell. Down To Steamboat Tennessee comes
from the famous session made in July 1940 with cornet player Muggsy
Spanier and Wiley's then husband Jess Stacy. LP collectors will
remember a catastrophically transferred Commodore LP - the wrong speed
had her singing like Minnie Mouse; no such alarums here of course.
When, elsewhere, we hear her all-too-knowing couplet 'You don't
need to be no fortune-teller / To tell what's on any man's
mind' we can luxuriate in the succeeding erotic croon. She was
a tempestuous woman, as her biography adequately attests - husbands
and cat fights galore - and any man who can resist her is, frankly,
off his head or not that way inclined.
So, a terrifically engaging selection. I don't have time to mention that
the fine English violinist Eric Siday, who went Stateside in 1939,
does the honours in Body and Soul nor that his rich toned obbligati
and narratives may be unfamiliar to listeners in this 1946 track.
No time either to add that she'd recorded Sugar with Spanier
and Stacy -and it was better than this later version, even with Bobby
Hackett on board (he's featured on four sides). Nor can I laud
the moneyed ennui of her languorous Oh, Look At Me Now. But
in all conscience I have to tell you that Ruby Braff, though advertised
on sleeve note and jewel case, doesn't appear on Glad To Be
You'll enjoy this but you'll want more. You'll want her Porter and Gershwin albums, her Youmans and Rodgers and Hart, her Arlen, the 1950s Complete Masters, the live discs and West of the Moon. As a stepping stone I can recommend the Jasmine double [JASCD411] which gives you more material than this Retrospective at roughly double the price, and sounds more open than this slightly-too-murky restoration.
An additional review from Tony Augarde...