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Various Artists: New Latin Quarter Presents Jazz & Blues Collection Vol.1

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In 1960, the New Latin Quarter — Japan’s largest night club — began booking leading American recording stars for its then newly re-built Tokyo venue. Long after the club closed, the discovery of 47 reel-to-reel tapes, comprising some 300 recorded live performances at the NLQ, renewed interest in the glory years of the New Latin Quarter. Jay Warner, CEO of National League Music, an international publishing company, learned of the find and is releasing a number of volumes from that treasure trove. By the time you read this review, Volume 3 will have been issued. Vol. 1 is a name-dropper’s dream, but an audiophile’s nightmare. The headliners at the mike come through fairly clearly, but the orchestral backings of glitzy, well-played arrangements are barely heard. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of all 14 music tracks covering years 1960 through 1970.

Nat King Cole, supported by an energetic house band and an unnecessary harmonica, gives a surprisingly husky version of “The Way You Look Tonight.” Nancy Wilson, at the fastest possible tempo, chases “The Man That Got Away” and handles the wordy tune remarkably well. Don’t know how the unidentified bassist managed to hang in there. Keely Smith, who wasted her vocal talents for so many years as Louis Prima’s deadpan shadow, shows her firm intonation on “I Wish You Love.” Remember Caterina Valente? She sings “How Deep Is the Ocean?” Again, maximum speed; again that poor, unheralded bassist comes through. But it’s Valente’s moment in the spotlight and she shines with a hint of scat and her impressive range when she ends by leaping an octave to a high B-flat.

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