Billy Eckstine: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes


Smoke Gets In Your Eyes


Billy Eckstine (vocals)


Everything I Have Is Yours (Verve 819 442)

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Billy Eckstine (vocals), Bobby Tucker (piano), Barney Kessel (guitar), Red Callender (bass), Lee Young (drums).

Composed by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach


Recorded: Los Angeles, July 23, 1952


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Following the breakup of his big band, Billy Eckstine became a major soloist with fans on both sides of the color line. He was billed as “the sepia Sinatra” and was best known for romantic ballads. “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” comes from an extraordinary small group date, and it shows that Eckstine never lost his bebop roots. The performance is one of Eckstine’s most harmonically daring. In the first 8 bars, he sings the song straight, but then he veers away from the melody with a bop harmonic flair at the end of the word “find.” He returns to the melody through a dramatic stepwise progression, peaking on the word "blind". The bridge starts in tempo, but halfway through, Eckstine takes more chances with the melody over a rubato rhythm section. In the final eight, Eckstine starts with a harmonic variation, moves briefly to the melody, uses another bop substitution on the word “dies”, and then concludes with another rising pattern. He holds on a note that could easily have been resolved by the rhythm section, but then he climbs another half-step to end the performance unresolved.

Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe

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