The voice is pure, rich and carries the haunting, dusky legato that still echoes the New Orleans of 40 years ago. It growls through the classic wails of Special Delivery Blues, Mighty Rumbling Blues, St. Louis Blues. In the upper register it is nothing more than a hoarse squeak; but down in the subterranean passages it flows, moans, glides and sighs with a power that has been achieved before—by Bessie Smith, Lizzy Miles—but that is still as rare as a 20-carat diamond.

Even more of a rarity than its tone is the fact that the big, black voice belongs to...

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