GREAT BLUES SINGERS
BESSIE SMITH – MA RAINEY – CHIPPIE HILL – IDA COX – TRIXIE SMITH and others
Accompanied by Tommy Ladnier, Johnny Dodds, Joe Smith, King Oliver and many others
Jazz Archives #100(12”)
1. Oh My Babe Blues (3:11)
2. Down in the Basement (3:01)
3. Trust No Man (3:06)
4. Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues (2:22)
5. Southern Woman’s Blues (3:05)
6. Death Sting Me Blues (2:50)
1. St. Louis Blues (3:36)
2. He Likes It Slow (2:50)
3. Key to the Mountain (2:57)
4. Go Down Sunshine (2:48)
5. Charleston Blues (2:34)
6. Around the Clock Blues (3:04)
If one were to single out one fact of jazz as the key to the whole, as the most important foundation stone, there is little question as to the most logical choice. It would be the blues. Since it first developed, probably late in the nineteenth century, out of the primitive music of rural Southern Negroes, the blues has passed through many phases, but there is also little question as to the time and place of its “Golden Age.” The high point was in the 1920s, primarily (though not exclusively) in Chicago, when the blues had arrived at its classic form, and when a great many rich-voice women were singing the blues with amazing emotional impact: on vaudeville-circuit stages, in a wide variety of bars and backrooms, and in the studios of those recording companies that were aware of the potentialities (particularly among Negro audiences) of this music.
The singers to be heard on this album were among the most formidable blues performers of that ear. There is a rather wide range of talent represented here (perhaps only Ida Cox deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith), but all are strikingly well above mediocre. There is also a wide range of fame (from the guaranteed immortality of Bessie to the obscurity of a Mary Johnson), but none of these artists should be forgotten- not by anyone at all interested in knowing, preserving and enjoying one of the most valuable chapters in jazz history.
BESSIE SMITH was billed as “Empress of the Blues”; the title was no exaggeration. She was a striking figure of a woman, with a sound and a personality that commanded attention. She became famous and for a while prosperous, but her music remained true to what the blues are concerned with: the joys and bitterness, the earthiness and the irony of a deprived people. St. Louis Blues, from the sound track of a movie short that was “lost” for many years, is – as far as sound quality is concerned – not really able to represent her work at its best (even after careful editing and reprocessing) but it warrants inclusion if only as the sole available Bessie Smith recording other than those owned by Columbia.
MA RAINEY, who “discovered” Bessie, was the first of the great blues singers, and in the opinion of many, the foremost. She never reached a white audience, as Bessie did, and so remained much less widely known, but she was tremendously popular among the Negroes of the South and Midwest, and her deep and resonant voice, as well as her amazingly pure, direct, relaxed style, exerted vast influence on every blues singer of her day. Like Bessie, she recorded with the very best instrumentalists; which often meant stars of the Fletcher Henderson band.
IDA COX lacked some of the sheer power of Bessie and Ma, but her greatness lies in an unexcelled ability as an interpreter of the blues. On Ida’s records the content of the lyrics (many of them written by her) takes on the importance it deserves: her delivery, her twists of phrase, convey pathos or cynicism or what must be called the pure folk-poetry of the blues with rare effectiveness.
The blues in the ‘20s was perched between its early primitive force and the sophistication of show business: the work of TRIXIE SMITH and SARA MARTIN suggest varying degrees of this balancing act. Trixie put across her numbers with great flair and spirit, and usually seemed to inspire her accompanists to the same zest. Sara, a highly dramatic theater performer, must be highly rated if only on the basis of one of the most moving of all blues records: Death Sting Me. MARY JOHNSON, on the other hand, is extremely close to the bedrock origins of the blues, with a tough-voiced approach that suggests buffet flats and is perfectly complemented by the gutbucket playing of St. Louis trombonist Ike Rodgers.
CHIPPIE HILL and HOCIEL THOMAS are represented by latter-day recordings, part of Circle Records’ 1940s recreation of the past. Chippie, a big star in the Chicago era, went on to carve out a second career as a forceful and rhythmic blues shouter in New York clubs; Hociel did not regain any of her earlier success, but her record here is additionally notable as one of the rare examples of the blues prowess of New Orleans trumpet pioneer “Papa Mutt” Carey.
MA RAINE, accompanied by Her Georgia Band (Side 1, #1): Joe Smith (cnt); Charlie Green (tb); Buster Bailey (cl); Fletcher Henderson (p); Charlie Dixon (bj); Chicago; August, 1926. (Originally on Paramount 12332; master number 2374). On Side 1, #2, the band is Fuller (tp); Al Wynn (tb); unknown (sax); Thomas Dorsey (p); Cedric Odom (drs). Chicago; 1926. (Originally on Paramount 12359; master number 2627.) On Side 1, #3, piano accompaniment by Lilian Henderson (p); Chicago; 1926. (Para 12395; mx. No 1842)
IDA COX, accompanied by Lovie Austin’s Blues Serenaders (Side 1, #4): Tommy Ladnier (cnt); Jimmy O’Bryant (cl); Austin (p). Chicago; July, 1924. (Para 12228; mx. no 1842) On Side 1, #5, Johnny Dodds replaces O’Bryant, others tehsame. August, 1925. (Para 2298; mx. no 2242)
ARA MARTIN (Side 1, #6), accompanied by Clarence Williams’ Orch.: probably Joe “King” Oliver (cnt); Charlie Irvis (tb); Benny Waters (cl); Williams (p); Buddy Christian (bj); Cyrus St. Clair (tu), New York; 1929. (QRS 7042; mx. no 306)
BESSIE SMITH (Side 2, #1), accompanied by James P. Johnson (p); the Hall Johnson Choir; and members of the Fletcher Henderson Orch. (personnel similar to Side 1, #1). Probably New York; 1929. (From a movie sound track.)
TRRIXIE SMITH (Side 2, #2), acopanied by Fletcher Henderso’s Orch. Same personnel as on Side 1, #1. July 1926. (Para 12336; mx. no 2363)
MARY JOHNSON (Side 2, #3), accompanied b Ike Rodgers (tb); unknown (p) Chicago; 1929. (Para 12996; mx. no L 178.)
HOCIEL THOMAS (SIDE 2, #4), vocal and piano;Mutt Carey (tp); San Francisco; August 30, 1946. (Circle; mx. no SF-3.)
CHIPPIE HILL (Side 2, #5 and 6), accompanied by Lee Collins (tp) J. H. Shayne (p); John Lindsay (b); Baby Dodds (drs). Chicago; February, 1946. (Circle; mx. no. C-4A and C-7.)
Riverside’s 12-inch LP “Jazz Archives” Series includes reprocessed reissues of the work of such greats as –
LOUIS ARMSTRONG (RLPs 12-101 and 12-122)
FATS WALLER (RLPs 12-103 and 12-109)
MA RAINEY (RLP 12-108)
JELLY ROLL MORTON (RLP 12-111)
JOHNNY DODDS (RLP 12-104)
BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON (RLP-125
JAMES P. JOHNSON (RLP 12-105)
All these and many other are represented in –
HISTORY OF CLASSIC JAZZ: 60 complete selections; five 12-inch LPs in deluxe album package. Plus 20,000-word essay by historian Charles Edward Smith. (SDP-11)
The slight surface noise audible on several selections 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.)
LP produced by Bill Grauer and Orrin Keepnews
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover designed by Paul Bacon
Paramount selections reissued by special arrangement with Paramount Records and John Steiner
Remastered, 1957, by Reeves Sound Studios
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.