Jazz

The ten best male jazz vocalists of all time

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7. Cab Calloway While a lot were hipped to Cab Calloway from his appearance in The Blues Brothers and his trademark tune, "Minnie the Moocher," the singer's professional career started decades before, and he appeared in quite a few other films before that 1980 film was released. A mainstay at Harlem's Cotton Club starting in the '30s, Calloway was a master of scat singing and an amazingly animated bandleader.

6. Johnny Hartman If there's only Johnny Hartman album in your collection, it should be the extraordinary 1963 album he did for Impulse! with John Coltrane. There are only six tunes on the disc, and it clocks in at about thirty minutes. But it's seriously a half hour of ballad bliss between Hartman's velvety baritone and Coltrane's lush sax work, especially on "My One and Only Love" and "Lush Life." While he's known for that classic recording, Hartman also released some first-rate albums throughout the '60s, including I Just Dropped By to Say Hello.

5. Kurt Elling With numerous Grammys under his belt and quite a few other awards like being named "Male Singer of the Year" by the Jazz Journalists Association, Kurt Elling is one of the world's top jazz vocalists. The guy's got skills: In addition to stretching his warm baritone over four octaves, he's a mad scatter who's also deft in vocalese; Elling honed his chops listening to Mark Murphy, Jon Hendricks and other jazz singers before him. He's released some stellar discs over the last two decades, including 2007's Nightmoves and 2011's The Gate.

4. Billy Eckstine While there have been a number of outstanding male jazz baritone singers, the fluid Billy Eckstine had a damn near magical vibrato, especially on ballads like "Stella By Starlight" or "You Don't Know What Love Is," which are both on the 1958 Mercury release Billy's Best! Earlier in his career, Eckstine worked with Earl Hines in the late '30s and during the next decade he brought some heavies in his own orchestra, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Art Blakey.

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon