Al Hibbler

While Ellington's Columbia recordings do miss out on one of the band's most important vocalists, the wonderfully smooth Herb Jeffries, the band's return to the label fortunately coincided with the rise to pre-emince of Jeffries's replacement, the rougher and bluesier Al Hibbler. "Indulging himself," as Ellington would say, in a highly-mannered, ultimately irrestible series of distortions of diction and pitch, Hibbler perfected a uniquely-stylized brand of song interpretation - never more evident than on "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" - which the Maestro labeled "Tonal Pantomine."

Hibbler completes the trio of Ellington's three monolithic style-setting vocal artists, following Anderson and Jeffries. And yet the list of great singers who worked with the band goes on and on. Ever the master of typecasting, Ellington continued to employ "voices" (whether using brass, reeds or throats) that fit into established patterns - he always had a growling, plunger-mute specialist among his trumpeters, for instance, and when Johnny Hodges temporarily left the band in the early '50s, Willie Smith, another jumping blues-master of the alto pinch-hitted for him.

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