RLP 12-137
Broken-Hearted Blues: MAR RAINEY

VOLUME 2 of Classic Blues Performances

Jazz Archives #100(12”) 

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Accompanied by –

Lovie Austin’s Blues Serenaders (Side 1, #1, 2, 3, Side 2, #1, 2, 3): Tommy Ladnier (cnt) Jimmy O’Bryant (cl) Harris (ts) (on Side 1, #1;Side 2. #1, 3 only)  Lovie Austin (p);   Chicago; 1923-24

The Georgia Band (Side 1, #4, 5, 6): Fuller (tp) al Wynn (tb) unknown (sax) Tomas Dorsey (p) Cedric Odom (drs);

1926

Jimmy Blythe (p) (side 2, #4, 6).      Chicago; 1928

The Georgia Boys (Side 2, #5) : Cow-Cow Daven port (p); B. T. wingfield (cnt) unknown (cl); Chicago’ 1928


SIDE 1

  Honey, Where You Been So Long (2:52)

  Ma Rainey’s “Mystery Record” (3:22)

  Lawd, Send Me a Man (2:49)

  Broken Hearted Blues (2:50)

  Seeking Blues (2:51)51)

  Seeking Blues (2:51)

SIDE 2

  Lucky Rock Blues (3:04)

  Southern Blues (2:52)

  Those Dogs of Mine (3:06)

  Mountain Jack Blues (2:37)

  So Soon This Morning (2:50)

  Don’t Fish in My Sea (2:54)


   GERTRUDE RAUNEY, who was generally known as Madam Rainey and most often billed as “Ma,” was unquestionably either the greatest or the second greatest of all the many women who have sung in the magnificent blues tradition of the American Negro.

   Bessie Smith, who was discovered by Ma and who learned much from her, is known to a far larger audience. But only Bessie, of the very many who followed or imitated Ma, can possibly be rated as her peer. For Ma Rainey was a very great singer – as this album ably testifies; and her throbbing, low contralto was a wondrous instrument.

   She was the dominant influence in the entire school of blues-singing that reached its peak in the jazz heyday of the 1920s. Possessing a voice of the great, mellow richness and amazing power, a style that was direct and firmly undecorative, she could run the full range of emotions that belong the blues – from rough humor to overwhelming sadness – with unvarying effectiveness.

   One trait that marks the true artist is evident immediately in almost any record she ever made: the feeling of complete, quiet mastery, implying total confidence in her ability to make a song “behave” as she wanted it to. This is the sort of control and relaxation that usually is called effortless, but that actually comes only with long effort – a combination of talent, love of the task at hand and strong identification with it, plus a good deal of sheer experienced professionalism. It is the deceptive appearance of simplicity that masks great art.

   Despite all this, Madame Rainey’s name is comparatively unknown today. She was born in Georgia in 1886, which was not too long after the blues themselves came full into being. Beginning her career at an early age (probably before 1902), she spent some thirty-odd years as an entertainer, retired in 1935, and died four years later. She was immensely popular with Negro audiences in the South and Midwest, mostly in minstrel and tent shows and on the stages of the T/O.B.A vaudeville circuit, and she made a substantial number of recordings for the Chicago-based Paramount label. But she was too early to have the benefit of first-rate recording techniques, and by the mid-‘30s Paramount had gone out of existence. Thus, over the years, only a few scares original recordings, jealously hoarded by jazz record collectors, remained to keep her story alive. And so a false myth sprang up. Along with the personal legends about Ma (about the necklace and headband she customarily wore, the gleaming gold teeth, and such), there was the story that her fabulous voice had never been adequately recorded, that it was forever lost to us.

   That this myth is – fortunately – far from the truth, is of course demonstrated by reissues such as this one. Clearly reproduced with the aid of the best of modern re-recording techniques, the powerful voice shines through again, lastingly, with all of its original strength, depth and remarkable beauty, making it fully apparent that her singing of the blues must be counted as an important part of this country’s musical heritage.

   When Madame Rainey went into the recording studio, obviously nothing but the finest available accompaniment would do, and many of her sides include the work of some of the best jazz talent of her day. On six of the selections included here, the strong and sensitive horn of Tommy Ladnier stands out, in a group led by pianist Lovie Austin, the outstanding female blues accompanist of the era. (The second number on Side 1, incidentally, got its odd name as part of a you-provide-the-best-title contest.) On Mountain Jack Blues and Don’t Fish in My Sea – the latter being a tune jointly credited to Ma and Bessie Smith – the sole backing is by another of the Chicago greats, Jimmy Blythe. And sandwiches in between these two is a number (So Soon This Morning) on which the support includes Cow-Cow Davenport.

   Ma Rainey was, in addition to all else, a great entertainer. The spirit of the blues is present at all times, but on occasion it can be noted here, the standard 12-bar blues form is not. Several of her numbers were songs of a good deal of complexity or sophistication, such as Jealousy Blues, with its haunting and thoroughly Spanish-tinged chord pattern. On that item, as well as on Seeking Blues and Broken Hearted Blues, Ma is performing with the quintet with which she generally worked during the mid ‘20s – the same group that is shown, along with Ma in her customary full on-stage regalia, in the rare old photo on the front cover of this album.


   A Discographical Note:

All of these selections were originally issued on Paramount, with label numbers and in parentheses) known master numbers as follows: Honey, Where You Been So Long (1701) and the “Mystery Record” (1759) were coupled on Paramount 12200; Lawd, Send Me a Man (1758) was on Paramount 12227; Southern Blues (1612), undoubtedly the earliest recoding represented here, was on Paramount 12083. Those Dogs of Mine (1703) / Lucky Rock (1704) made up Paramount 12215. Broken Hearted (2448 / jealousy (2451) were Paramount 12364; Seeking (2452) was on Paramount 12352, coupled with Mountain Jack (2466). Don’t Fish in My Sea (452) / So Soon This Morning (408) were Paramount 12438. 

None of these selections have been previously reissued on 12-inch LP.


   Ma Rainey can also be heard on –

MA RAINEY: Classic Blues (RLP 12-108)

   and in some selections on –

Young LOUIS ARMSTRONG (RLP 12-101)

BREAT BLUE SINGERS: Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ida Cox, Chippie Hill, etc. (RLP 12-121)

   Other notable Riverside jazz reissue LPs include –

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: 1923 – with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (RLP 12-122)

JOHNNY DODDS (Vol. 1) (RLP 12-104)

In the Alley: JOHNNY DODDS, Vol. 2 (RLP 12-135)

BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON, Vol. 1 (RLP 12-125) and Vol. 2 (RLP 12-136)

Yancey’s Getaway: JIMMY YANCE (RLP 12-124)

JAMES P. JOHNSON (RLP 12-105)

JELLY ROLL MORTON: Classic Piano Solos (RLP 12-111)

JELLY ROLL MORTON Plays and Sings – from the Library of Congress recordings (RLP 12-133)

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Notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS

Cover designed by PAUL BACON; photograph by PAUL WELLER

Remastered, 1960, by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.)


This material reissued by arrangement with John Steiner and Paramount Records.

(The slight surface noise audible on this LP is due to the limitations of early recording processes, it has not been entirely removed in order to preserve highest fidelity possible and to give more faithful reproduction of original tone qualities.)


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235 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.