Editors’ Notes To sing or play jazz is to reach into a communal repertoire of songs that singers and players are encouraged to put their own stamp on. That open invitation has been in place since the genre’s distinctly American start, when African and European songforms collided in the melting pot of late-19th-century New Orleans. Individual standards emerge just as organically when a composition takes hold for whatever reason, whether penned on paper by a professional songwriter, developed via stage or studio by a jazz musician, or somewhere in between those poles. Factor in the bold improvisational talents of figureheads like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and the possibilities become wider still. Vocal or instrumental, the performers heard here pass along the songbooks of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter like self-sustaining torches. And to hear singers as different as Billie Holiday and Bette Midler interpret the same source material will thrill casual listeners as much as aficionados.

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