Hoagy Carmichael wrote (or co-wrote) some great songs jazz musicians love to play, like "Star Dust," "Georgia on My Mind," "Skylark," "New Orleans," "Baltimore Oriole" and "Rockin' Chair" — vintage Americana, with wry charm and quiet musical sophistication. He'd sing them himself, in an effectively unaffected style. (He described his modest singing voice as "flatsy through the nose.") Carmichael sings all of the above except "Star Dust" on this 1956 recital, backed by a discreet big band packing a few outstanding players: pianist Jimmy Rowles, trumpeter Harry Sweets Edison and alto saxophonist Art Pepper, whose curvy melodic variations alone make the album worth hearing.
Pepper's especially touching on the slow ballad "Winter Moon," a tune he liked enough to re-record with strings decades later. Arranger Johnny Mandel knows better than to oversell a beautiful tune, and never threatens to overwhelm a star who sometimes gives the impression he can barely rouse himself to perform; his half-spoken part on late-night love song "Two Sleepy People" fits the tune like cotton pajamas. It's all quite cozily charming.