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Blues Essentials

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Album Review

Mamie Smith was a classy cabaret singer whose delivery was as different as could be from that of Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, or any of the full-throated blues women who made it onto phonograph records during the early to mid-'20s. Her approach was closer to that of her contemporaries Ethel Waters, Lucille Hegamin, Mary Stafford, young Alberta Hunter, and Clarence Williams' wife Eva Taylor. When Document reissued most of Smith's known recordings in 1995, the 95 titles filled four CDs and included 13 instrumentals played by Mamie Smith's Jazz Hounds, which was among the first great African American jazz bands to make it into the recording studios. By 2002, a wide selection from the Document catalog was reappearing on the Classic Blues Essential series, and Smith's volume bore 36 titles on its two CDs. In addition to "Do It Mr. So and So" and "Got to Cool My Doggies Now," which were both interpreted by young Fats Waller through the medium of player piano rolls, this marvelous old-time entertainer is heard to sing one of Waller's many fine compositions, "Keep a Song in Your Soul." Lovers of traditional jazz will also recognize several melodies that were destined to become warhorses of the jazz repertoire: "Arkansas Blues," "Down Home Blues," "Kansas City Man Blues," and the monumentally feisty "I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of This Jelly Roll."

Biography

Born: 26 May 1883 in Cincinnati, OH

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s

Though technically not a blues performer, Mamie Smith notched her place in American music as the first black female singer to record a vocal blues. That record was "Crazy Blues" (recorded August 10, 1920), which sold a million copies in its first six months and made record labels aware of the huge potential market for "race records"; thus paving the way for Bessie Smith (no relation) and other blues and jazz performers. An entertainer who sported a powerful, penetrating, feminine voice with belting...
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Blues Essentials, Mamie Smith
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