Eight songs for seven dollars, that’s the idea behind Verve’s Standards series of compact discs (CDs), and it’s an enormous value. I am enjoying listening to jazz artist Stan Getz (“Pennies from Heaven”, “The Way You Look Tonight”) performing works by composers Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, and Lorenz Hart. With digital remastering by Kevin Reeves, the music almost sounds as if it’s being played live. Priced under $7, Standards (“Great Songs, Great Performances”), which introduces a new batch in mid-July, is a better value than iTunes or other outlets. I hope Verve maintains the quality and keeps the collections coming. Liner lists song titles, composers, and performance and production notes. The plain disc is encased in plastic, not paper.
Recent releases include Ella Fitzgerald singing Irving Berlin tunes “Blue Skies” and “Always” and George Gershwin’s “I’ve Got a Crush on You”, “How Long Has This Been Going On?” and Somebody Loves Me”. The mini-collection offers Ella’s less maudlin, more enchanting version of “Over the Rainbow”, an infectious “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and her explosive take on Johnny Mercer’s “Something’s Gotta Give”. This CD makes a perfect introductory gift or for adding finely remastered works to your own stash.
Billie Holiday is among those featured in the series. Though I am not a huge fan, her talent is undeniable on these familiar songs, which range from Sammy Cahn’s and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “All the Way” to “Blue Moon” and songs from Porgy and Bess. But I really notice the quality of the remastered songs on the Fred Astaire collection. These recordings are superior to Sony’s Essential Fred Astaire CD and others. The magnificent dancer could carry and craft a tune with his own distinctive style. Here, he sings the usual, “Night and Day” (Cole Porter), “Nice Work If You Can Get It” (George & Ira Gershwin) and “Puttin’ on the Ritz” (Irving Berlin), among others. With fewer scratches, his vocal skills come through.