By People Staff
January 29, 1996 12:00 PM

Various Artists

This four-CD package, which could have been just a sprawl, is divided reasonably into four sections (with some overlap): Gershwin and the Popular Song deals with the composer’s early years on Tin Pan Alley and Broadway with recordings by vocalists like Sarah Vaughan and Tony Bennett. Gershwin on Stage and Screen features original theater and soundtrack versions. Gershwin in the Concert Hall has rare recordings of the composer at the piano. Gershwin and Jazz (the primo disc) turns the mike over to artists like Billie Holiday and Erroll Garner for their idiosyncratic interpretations of the master. There are some sublime moments: Ethel Waters in a sunny, partially scatted “I Got Rhythm”; Lee Wiley’s meditative “Someone to Watch Over Me”; and Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald having a fine time with “They All Laughed.” But why British star Marti Webb’s execrable take on “Do It Again” when there’s an existing masterly cover by Judy Garland? And why oh why is Broadway ingenue Jodi Benson charged with “I Got Rhythm?” What about the woman who put it on the map? Merman was the name. (The Smithsonian Collection of Recordings)