Accompanying a vocalist by definition attracts minimal attention, and yet it requires many of the most challenging skills in jazz. One must listen constantly, select notes with great care and work hard to support the mood a singer is creating.
It's an enjoyable endeavour, however. The cooperative aspects of music are often the most rewarding, for musicians and audiences alike, and this is certainly the case with vocal accompaniment.
Here are four examples of superb accompanying, beginning with Cyrus St. Clair (tuba) and Ed Allen (cornet) as they perfectly match Bessie Smith's passionate despair on Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out:
Next up is the lovely Lee Wiley, who is blessed with the remarkable cornettist Bobby Hackett as her helper:
Eddie Lang's guitar accompaniment graces hundreds of records from the 1920s and 30s, and here he is on film with Bing Crosby:
And of course Lester Young on tenor sax, accompanying Billie Holiday. Holiday's mother claimed she couldn't tell the difference between her daughter's voice and Young's sax from the next room, and their collaborations are justifiably famous: