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Ma Rainey Vol. 3 (1925-1926)

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Album Review

The third volume in the complete adventures of Gertrude Ma Rainey as presented by Document records during the 1990s covers a time period from December 1925 to June 1926. The first half of this disc (tracks 1-10) has her backed by her Georgia Band, in this case a septet led by Fletcher Henderson. In addition to cornetist Joe Smith and trombonist Big Charlie Green (both actively recording with Bessie Smith during this time period), the group included clarinetist Buster Bailey, and young Coleman Hawkins operating a bass saxophone. Hawkins also used the monster horn during recording sessions with the Henderson Orchestra until his bandmates begged him to put it away for keeps. The booming bass clef instrument greatly enhances the theatricality of Rainey's act, and young Hawk seems to have enjoyed himself on the fascinating "Bessemer Bound Blues." The purling of Hawkins in the basement of the horn is a heartwarming premonition of Anthony Braxton's use of extreme lower registers some 50 years later. Those who relish the growling of the bass sax are sure to appreciate the inclusion of alternate takes. Anyone who seeks to understand what Rainey was all about needs to experience her "Oh My Babe Blues," "Wringing and Twisting Blues," and the "Stack O'Lee Blues," which sounds a lot like "Frankie and Johnny." These are some of Rainey's most passionate and endearing records, greatly enhanced by the participation of young and aspiring jazz musicians. Tracks 11-14 feature an entirely different lineup consisting of cornetist Bernie Young, trombonist Albert Wynn, future Ellington clarinetist Barney Bigard playing alto and soprano saxophones; a banjoist by the onomatopoeic name of Rip Bassett, and pianist Lil Henderson. After two takes of the "Mountain Jack Blues" with the great Jimmy Blythe at the piano, three titles are ground out by an ensemble that included a musical saw and drumming by Ben Thigpen, destined for great moments with Andy Kirk's Clouds of Joy during the 1930s. This excellent disc concludes with "Trust No Man (No Further Than Your Eye Can See)," a poignant example of blues from a woman's perspective penned by Lil Henderson.


Born: April 26, 1886 in Columbus, GA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '10s, '20s, '30s

Ma Rainey wasn't the first blues singer to make records, but by all rights she probably should have been. In an era when women were the marquee names in blues, Rainey was once the most celebrated of all; the "Mother of the Blues" had been singing the music for more than 20 years before she made her recording debut (Paramount, 1923). With the advent of blues records, she became even more influential, immortalizing such songs as "See See Rider," "Bo-Weavil Blues," and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Like...
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Ma Rainey Vol. 3 (1925-1926), Ma Rainey
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