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One gorgeous set of pipes

I Want to Talk About You
By Billy Eckstine

Xanadu Records: 1986

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This review first appeared in the November-December 1987 issue of A Critique of America .

Billy Eckstine may be best remembered by jazz fans for fronting a powerhouse big band in the alte 1940s that included such future be bop giants as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Fats Navarro, Dizzy Gillespie and Dexter Gordon, but it's as a singer he made his money. (And besides, that big band was never recorded – at least not in studio.)

Eckstine was what big band historian George T. Simon would call a "sweet" singer. He sang ballads mostly, and "I Want to Talk About You" is a collection of some of his earliest recordings, from 1940-45. Eckstine had first found fame as vocalist with Earl "Fatha" Hines' band, and most of this record is taken from sessions with Hines' outfit.

The liner notes, as with all albums from Xanadu, are both comprehensive and readable. There is a real gem of a quote from Eckstine here about his groundbreaking role in the kinds of songs seen as acceptable for black men to sing: "They weren't ready for black singers singing ballands and love songs. It sounds ridiculous, but it's true. We weren't supposed to sing about love, we were supposed to sing about work or the blues or some dumb shit."

Eckstine ignored this stereotype, and has been one of the most enduring of the crooners. His beauitful baritone may not be as warmly remembered by the boppers, but this album is some of the most lush music to come out of the big band era.