MUSIC: Aged to Perfection

Two CDs showcase the warm, sinuous voice of Billy Eckstine

Duke Ellington called him "the sonorous B" and said he "makes my songs smile." Billy Eckstine had a baritone that sounded as if it had been aged in wood. His voice, warm and sinuous, slid around a melody like prize malt over rocks -- not cubes of ice either, but precious stones. When Billy Eckstine sang a song, every lyric became a jewel.

Eckstine, who toured and sang until a stroke disabled him in 1992, died in March 1993 without benefit of either a major revival, like Nat King Cole, or a career resurrection, like Frank Sinatra. But as the newly...

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