10 Classic Vocal Jazz Duets

When one plus one equals a sound that's unquantifiable

The release of Tony Bennett and Diana Krall’s first full-length album together, Love Is Here to Stay, got us thinking about the art of the vocal duet, which has a long and rich history in jazz. And so we asked Christopher Loudon, one of our favorite writers when it comes to the subject of jazz singing, to compile us a list of 10 outstanding duo numbers. As usual, a disclaimer of sorts: The recordings discussed in this JazzTimes 10 may or may not be the absolute best of their kind. But we can guarantee that they’re all tracks you don’t want to miss.—MAC RANDALL

Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald – “Summertime”
From Porgy & Bess (Verve, 1958)

The gold standard of vocal jazz duettists, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald co-led three Verve albums in the mid-to-late ’50s, nearly four dozen tracks that sublimely showcase the depth of their mutual respect and adoration. Though selecting just one is like trying to choose a favorite child, “Summertime” arguably represents their joint apex. Opening with a dawn-rising trumpet solo from Satchmo, the pace is slow, the mood vaguely melancholic. As always, they trade verses. Then comes the arresting closing minute, Louis underpinning Ella’s vocal with a cunning mix of lyrical responses and rumbling scat.

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