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Etta Jones: The Best of Etta Jones: The Prestige Singles

Late last year, JazzTimes asked its writers to contribute their highs and lows for 2001. The two extremes have melded into a single, bittersweet memory for me-that of 72-year-old vocalist Etta Jones in her last performances at the Village Vanguard. I knew that she had been gravely ill-it was her second battle with cancer-yet the bandstand proved to be the best medicine. Once she started singing, all the weariness in her body appeared to evaporate. The music was sublime.

Her admirers were incredibly diverse, from Claudia Acu¤a to Cecil Taylor, the latter often a conspicuous presence during her Vanguard runs with bandleader Houston Person. The reason for Jones’ appeal? An elderly woman I encountered at a Flushing Town Hall concert summed it up best: At the conclusion of “What a Wonderful World,” she smiled at her companions and exclaimed, “Child, when she sings it, you believe [it]; every word!”

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