One of the least known albums recorded by singer Billy Eckstine is one of his best—Mr. B in Paris. Recorded for Britain's Felsted label while Eckstine was on tour in Europe between releases for Roulette, the album features the baritone singing 12 songs in French backed by the Bobby Tucker Orchestra. Mr. B in Paris was produced by Quincy Jones and arranged by Jones, Billy Byers and Bobby Tucker. The orchestra was recorded in Paris in 1957 while Eckstine's vocal was overdubbed in London in 1958. Little is known about the musicians on the date, other than the inclusion of Don Byas (ts), Bobby Tucker (p), Pierre Michelot (b) and Kenny Clarke (d). The album was released in France on the Barclay label and in England on Felsted, a Decca subsidiary. It's unclear if the album was ever released in the States on a U.S. label.
The French pop songs recorded include Avec Ces Yeux La, Nuages, Pardonnez-moi, Les Feuilles Mortes, Quand j'y Pense, La Valse des Lilas, Chez-moi, Aime-moi, Place Blanche, Je Sais que Vous Etes Jolie, Tout Doucement and C'est Lui L'Amour.
Tucker began his musical career as a teenager in the Barons of Rhythm, a Newark, N.J., group. After several years in the Army during World War II, Tucker in 1946 accompanied Mildred Bailey until he was approached by a frantic Tony Scott in front of a club in Manhattan. Billie Holiday was set to perform but her pianist didn't show up. Scott, a clarinetist who knew Tucker, begged him to come inside and accompany Holiday. Tucker reportedly took the stage without a warmup and, after the gig, Holiday offered him the job. Tucker was Billie Holiday's accompanist from 1946 to 1949, at which point he left to work with Eckstine when the vocalist began to have enormous success at MGM. Tucker's relationship with Eckstine lasted 44 years, up until the singer's death in 1993. Tucker recorded only one album as a leader—Too Tough, in 1973.
Bobby Tucker died in 2008.
JazzWax tracks: The bad news is that Billy Eckstine's Mr. B in Paris never made the leap to the digital era. As for vinyl, it's selling on eBay for $80.
JazzWax clip: The good news is that I've assembled the entire album for you via YouTube:
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