Various Artists: Masters of Jazz: Jazz Hit Singles, Vol. 7

In the second wave of releases from Rhino’s Masters of Jazz series, the spotlight turns to vocalists, female and male, and to those rare jazz tracks that have achieved popularity beyond the bounds of the jazz world. With generous samplings culled from a number of labels (including Blue Note, Atlantic, Verve, Vee Jay, Fantasy, Prestige, Decca, RCA, Capital, Argo and A&M), the Rhino discs will likely have greatest value as “introductions.”

As such, their value to those just coming to jazz is markedly enhanced by the lively notes of Will Friedwald (for the singers) and Billy Vera (for the singles). Even aficionados will get a kick out of hearing (and comparing) back-to-back tracks by each disc’s all-star lineup. In “Female Vocals,” for example, we get to sample the best of 18 divas ranging from Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Mildred Bailey and Ella Fitzgerald to June Christy, Nancy Wilson, Nina Simone and Betty Carter.

Rhino’s “Masters of Jazz” should help both to educate and entertain, thereby winning new fans for jazz; at the same time, experienced hands should derive more refined and special pleasures by re-meeting “old friends” in new places. -Chuck Berg