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Night Lights Classic Jazz

Billy Eckstine On Roulette

The early-1960s sounds of "The Sepia Sinatra," featured on Afterglow this week.

Billy Eckstine shows up in many jazz histories as the leader of a great, cutting-edge big band of the 1940s. The roster of that band included, at various times,

  • Charlie Parker
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Dexter Gordon
  • and Fats Navarro.

(Unfortunately, Parker’s stay was during the 1942-44 recording ban, so as yet no airshots have surfaced that feature him with Eckstine’s orchestra.)

Eckstine should be remembered for being an amazing jazz vocalist as well as a bandleader. His richly-nuanced baritone voice was perfect for the blues and ballads that he favored. It was that suave, sensually elegant quality of his tone that catapulted him to great popularity in the 1940s and 50s.

This week’s Afterglow program, Billy Eckstine: the Roulette Years covers the singer’s brief but compelling stay on the Roulette label circa 1960, with music from

  • his standards LP with arranger Billy May
  • his blues outing with Count Basie
  • and a great live performance in Las Vegas.

Related Night Lights Shows And Other Media

For more early-1960s Roulette jazz vocals, check out the previous Night Lights show about Dinah Washington‘s stint on the label: The Late Miss D

…Or listen to this show, about the 1942-44 recording ban.

Watch Billy Eckstine singing and playing valve trombone on “You Better Believe It,” from a performance at the Playboy Club:

David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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