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Night Lights Classic Jazz

Detour Ahead: Mary Ann McCall

We’ll hear a number of McCall's recordings with the Woody Herman big band, as well as small-group work, and more.

Mary McCallMary Ann McCall, whom Johnny Mandel once called “the greatest of all the big band singers,” is a secret heroine of American jazz vocal music. Little-known today, and not widely recorded during even the most active periods of her career, she has sometimes been compared to Billie Holiday and Anita O’Day for the soulful maturity of her late 1940s and 1950s work. (Musician and writer Loren Shoenberg describes her sound as “throaty and purposefully rough.”) Problems with addiction and a predilection for singing only jazz held McCall back as a marketplace force . We’ll hear a number of her recordings with the Woody Herman big band, including “Romance in the Dark” and “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,” as well as small-group work with Phil Moore, Ralph Burns, and Charlie Ventura, and cuts from her late-1950s albums, including Detour to the Moon and Melancholy Baby.

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