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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Missing Link (what Leonard Feather missed, or simply missed out on), August 28, 2009
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This review is from: The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (Paperback)
The prolific Yanow has outdone even himself with this book, which in many respects lives up to its title. But I would distrust any quick review claiming that it's the kind of book that can't be put down. It's above all a reference book, encyclopedic in its scope, jam packed with concise verbal portraits (the towering Bing Crosby gets almost a single page, or about as much as the somewhat less famous Ben Sidran). Often Yanow's judgments strike the reader as on the mark, and when they don't, he compensates with information that is nonetheless fascinating and useful. The book is also an invaluable source of quotations, since the author has included numerous interviews of the artists themselves.

Opinions about singers are perhaps held more strongly by more people than opinions about other musicians. Who hasn't taken a shower with Frank Sinatra or Peggy Lee? Many of us who don't know better think of ourselves as singers. So an author of a book about jazz singers is bound to hit discordant notes with more than a few readers--why isn't a "pure" jazz mainstreamer like Etta Jones represented more fully (no, not Etta James)? Her recorded career extends from 1945 to October 2001, when she died on the day of the release of her Billie Holiday tribute. Why aren't Johnny Mandell and Shirley Horn, arguably the most memorable team since Sinatra and Riddle, afforded more space? Additionally, anyone who writes about singers is burdened with the task of sorting through not merely all of the candidates but, given the sometimes radical changes, over time, in vocal timbre and breath support, the numerous "personae" of any one of them (besides the controversy that a Billie Holiday can arouse, there's the other one about her Benny Goodman days vs. her Lady in Satin period). Then there's the question of the criteria that might disqualify an undeniably indelible voice such as Nancy LaMott's--for some of us there's enough jazz sensibility balancing the cabaret approach to justify if not require her inclusion.

Yanow ultimately invites readers to make their own calls, and hopefully his book will provoke them to do so. As often as I've challenged one of those CD anthologies--the Ultimate Art Tatum, etc.--it's led me to deeper and more concentrated explorations of an artist's work. And Yanow's book is practically guaranteed to confront the reader with the names of numerous heretofore unknown, unfamiliar performers while omitting a few along the way (I could easily list a dozen impressive female jazz vocalists whose CDs have arrived at my doorstep in the last several years--but apparently not at the author's). All the same, the author clearly has heard considerably more than most of us, and the book is guaranteed to motivate the reader to start listening more comprehensively and seriously.

Listeners looking for more of an "essay" on the subject may wish to check out Will Friedwald's "Jazz Singing," as noteworthy for the author's felicitous prose style as his occasionally acrimonious judgments (heaven help the singer who, above all, doesn't swing). Readers looking for a book similar to Yanow's but considerably less ultimate, or comprehensive, could get their feet wet (with no attendant damage) by picking up Max Morath's "NPR Listener's Guide to Pop Standards," in which the author includes emphasis on the messengers as well as the medium. One warning: if you're not a Sinatra fan, probably best to steer clear of all books on jazz singing, and the same holds true if, like some, you've become impatient with the ballad ever since Old Blue redefined it, leaving enough space between beats to allow the listener enough time to reflect upon the meaning of his entire existence.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Doorway to Discovery, August 29, 2012
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This review is from: The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (Paperback)
As a matter of personal principle, I try to avoid reviewing books and CDs that have already been reviewed several times - particularly when my opinion is more or less the same as everybody else's. But what the heck, as Emerson said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," so here goes....

How author Scott Yanow finds the time to listen to, let alone review, the thousands of jazz albums he has reviewed over the last 40 something years - to write a dozen books on jazz - to write articles for every major jazz publication - and to write the liner notes for more than 500 albums - well, I assume that like rust, he never sleeps....

"The Jazz Singers" includes articles and album recommendations for 521 singers - with brief comments on 198 more. It's organized alphabetically, starting with Susanne Abbuelh and ending with Monica Zetterlund. In between, Mr Yanow covers just about everybody who's anybody in the world of jazz singing, from Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong to Diana Krall and Kurt Elling. As reviewer Sam Chell points out, it's easy for any reader who's listened to a lot of vocal jazz, (my own jazz CD collection includes albums by more than 400 singers), to argue with some of Mr Yanow's picks, (Karrin Allyson and Diana Krall are ranked in the 30 best of all time?); and exclusions, (where's Kelley Gray and Claudette Stone and how come Frankye Kelly only made it to the second tier of 198?) - but putting aside these personal quibbles, "The Jazz Singers" will enlighten, educate and entertain you a lot more than it will irritate you. You can read it straight through or at random - either way you'll make discoveries on almost every page. The first time I opened it, I discovered Deborah Brown and three pages later, Katie Bull.... For me, the wonderful thing about jazz is that no matter how much you've heard, there's always somebody new who will blow you away, or somebody old who some how you've missed - Mr Yanow's book is a doorway to discovery....

Mr Yanow has a clear, almost coversational, writing style - and many of the articles include "personal details" about the singer, much of it from a questionnaire that Mr Yanow actually submitted to the "subject," (there's no better testimony to Mr Yanow's standing in the jazz community than that so many of the singers responded to his questions). To the extent that I'm familiar with the albums he recommends - and that's certainly not all of them by any means - I think his recommendations are spot on. Over the years I've purchased more than a couple of albums without hearing them first - based solely on Mr Yanow's recommendation - and I've had very few complaints. Whether you're a new listener or you've heard just about everybody since Helen Humes, I think you can trust Mr Yanow's advice when it comes to buying records.

I do have one small complaint - the font. The Backbeat Books paperback edition is printed in text that can only be described as small. Although I'm on the north side of 60, my eyes are still pretty good, (the State of California says that I can drive without glasses) - but I'll be darned if I can read "The Jazz Singers" without magnification.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Resource on old time Jazz Singers, July 8, 2014
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This review is from: The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (Paperback)
I bought this as a gift for my Dad who doesn't have internet service, and he loved the book. He is a huge fan of all the old jazz and nightclub singers; and this book has biography information on a lot of them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Work, December 26, 2013
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This review is from: The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (Paperback)
Scott Yanow has really researched so many great vocalists thoroughly, and the capsulizations are terrific and accurate. Highly recommended for any jazz fan.
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4.0 out of 5 stars good info on many singers, November 3, 2013
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I often use this book when listening to Jazz singers to understand background or see other records worth buying - it has a lot of info not easy to find on Internet. I also think author writes well and presents his opinions in a way so that you can understand where he is coming from.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A necessity for anyone interested in jazz singing, August 7, 2012
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Vocal jazz enthusiasts from music scholars to casual fans will find this to be one of the handful of books they constantly and gratefully consult. In this exhaustive catalog of singers from the very beginnings of jazz to the near-present, Scott Yanow offers bios and discographies of everyone who is or was anyone, plus hundreds who aren't or weren't. Few critics know their subjects as well, and if you are like me in wanting to know all about jazz singers, buy this book now. I also recommend "Jazz Singing" by Will Friedwald.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable opinion on the well known, priceless guidance on the little known, March 16, 2012
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This review is from: The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (Paperback)
Where else can one learn about regional talents with few recordings that may be hard to find? Plus, who does not respect Scott Y's commentary?
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jazz Singers-The Ultimate Guide, November 23, 2008
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MRC (Valley Village, CA. United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (Paperback)
Jazz Singers is an outstanding history of vocal jazz. The author has done a tremendous job in researching some incredible, yet little known singers. The information is informative and fun to read. Being a huge jazz fan, I couldn't put the book down. Thank you Scott Yanow for doing this for fans of vocal jazz.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jazz singers, May 26, 2011
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This review is from: The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (Paperback)
This was an exceptionally thorough review of past & present practioners of the art of jazz vocalizing.
Even very experienced followers will have much useful info here.

Tom Pierce.
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7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Collection, October 26, 2008
This review is from: The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (Paperback)
Don't Move
Well, I'm included in this book. But that doesn't mean I don't really appreciate it. I'd read it even if there were no entries about me. Scott is a very considerate and thorough writer. He takes time to get to know the artists, having a true interest in the art form.

I'm honored to have been included. I look forward to learning about everyone in the book!
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The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide
The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide by Scott Yanow (Paperback - September 1, 2008)
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