I have an embarrassingly large CD and record collection – spread across two flats (not both mine, in case you were wondering) and occupying everything from shelves to suitcases. Courtesy of YouTube, I thought I’d share some of the choice items – particularly some of the less well known ones.  Think of it as a slowly evolving, digital mixtape...

There’ll be a new song most days (at least that’s the plan) so keep checking back and please post your comments and suggestions as well.

Etta Jones had one big hit with the million-seller Don't Go To Strangers. The album of the same name paved the way for a run of success on Prestige in the late 50s and early 60s and then, like many of her contemporaries, she found herself unable to record for the best part of a decade.

However, Jones formed a lasting musical partnership with tenor saxophonist Houston Person who became her producer and manger and there followed a string of terrific albums on Muse and Highnote until her swansong, Etta Jones Sings Lady Day, in 2001. From the middle of that period comes this beautiful recording of a song sung decades before by Nat King Cole. It's a mystery to me why it isn't better known.

For more on Etta Jones see All About Jazz.

 

Joe Williams is best remembered for his association with the Count Basie Orchestra. Leonard Feather's Evil Gal Blues was a hit for Dinah Washington during her tenure with the Hampton band and Joe (who also toured with Hampton in the 40s) revisited it on one of best recordings made with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra in 1966.

 

Here's a favourite version of a favourite song. In common with most jazz singers, I love the Ellington/Strayhorn songbook. Perhaps not quite so well known as Lush Life, Take the 'A' Train, Day Dream or Satin Doll, Something To Live For was their first collaboration.

Like many of Strayhorn's ballads, it is extraordinarily satisfying to sing. Most singers seem to stick pretty close to the original melody as if to tinker with it would throw the whole piece of balance – and, indeed, it has so many 'jazz' elements already built in (the chromaticism in many of the phrases of the refrain for example) that the tune does most of the work for you. It also has one of the most beautiful verses – both musically and lyrically – ever written. All the more extraordinary given that Strayhorn was only in his teens when he penned it.

Carol Sloane, in common with many jazz singers of her generation, enjoyed early success and then struggled to maintain a career in the late 60s and 70s. Thankfully she experienced a renaissance in the 80s and went on to record a number of classic albums for Concord and others. Sloane, incidentally, has recorded no less than three whole albums of Ellington material. This recording is from relatively early in her 'comeback' and shows the full breadth of her understated artistry. Mike Renzi on piano.

 

OK so you wanna talk about crossover...?  Kay Starr's singing really is equal parts jazz, country, pop and blues. And she's steeped in all of them.

She began recording in the late 30s and is still performing at 92. The 50s and 60s saw her produce a slew of brilliant albums for RCA and Capitol, none finer than I Cry By Night where she's joined by a small combo featuring Ben Webster.

It's hard to choose just one track (and you can find them all on YouTube) but the pick of the lot may just be her take on T-Bone Walker's I'm Still In Love With You. I'm Alone Because I Love You, My Kinda Love and What Do You See In Her run it pretty damn close...