Black Coffee was Peggy Lee's album smash for Decca (she left Capitol in 1952 over creative, artistic differences) and it offered her an intimate stage with a small jazz combo, exchanging her usual jazz-pop style with a big band or orchestra. This smaller combination worked to perfection.
"Encouraged by longtime Decca A&R Milt Gabler, she hired a small group including trumpeter Pete Candoli and pianist Jimmy Rowles (two of her favorite sidemen) to record an after-hours jazz project similar in intent and execution to Lee Wiley's "Manhattan project" of 1950, Night in Manhattan. While the title-track opener of Black Coffee soon separated itself from the LP — to be taught forever after during the first period of any Torch Song 101 class — the album doesn't keep to its concept very long; Lee is soon enough in a bouncy mood for 'I've Got You Under My Skin' and very affectionate on 'Easy Living.' (If there's a concept at work here, it's the vagaries of love.) Listeners should look instead to 'It Ain't Necessarily So' or 'Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You?' for more examples of Lee's quintessentially slow-burn sultriness. Aside from occasionally straying off-concept, however, Black Coffee is an excellent record, spotlighting Lee's ability to shine with every type of group and in any context." — AllMusic