100. Various Artists / Jazz Ballads for Late Nights (2000)
In spite of similar thematic content, ballad comps are not often interchangeable. Each one has a different character depending on who's on it and what tunes they do. You could almost divide them into subcategories of microthemes. Take Sinatra's No One Cares or Chet Baker's Chet, and it's easy to see. Would you play the Sinatra record for a date? Never. Yet Chet could be perfect for a romantic occasion, and in another way, its stormy introspection also suits a party of one. Jazz Ballads for Late Nights has a mood that's suitable for two and seems made that way. It begins with the profound and majestic occasion of Sarah Vaughan singing her blues in "Round Midnight," but the rest of the disc has a warm atmosphere that leans the way of love shared, rather than love lost or unrequited. There is a sly, almost playful "Willow Weep for Me" by the Three Sounds, and also a swank "Lover Man" by Jimmy Smith, with beautiful and rhythmically provocative alto work by Lou Donaldson. Several vocals even the pace, reminding you and that special someone why you're listening (Baker's quaint and pining "My Ideal," or Dinah Shore's "My Melancholy Baby"). I think the mood on the Baker tune should have closed it out, preceded by Ike Quebec, and not the other way around. Baker veritably whispers the closing statements and makes it the perfect song to end on, and it doesn't leave you keyed up the way Ike's impassioned soloing does. But these are mere quibbles. What more do you need? Short answer: a babysitter.