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Ma Rainey Vol. 2 (1924-1925)

Ma Rainey

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Album Review

Volume two in Document's five-part complete Ma Rainey edition opens with six recordings dating from October 1924 with instrumental backing by her Georgia Jazz Band, a sextet drawn from the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. "See See Rider Blues," "Jelly Bean Blues," and "Countin' the Blues" are among the best known and most commonly reissued titles in Rainey's entire discography, largely due to the presence of a 24-year-old cornetist from New Orleans named Louis Armstrong. Other Hendersonians on these sides were clarinetists Don Redman and trombonist Big Charlie Green. The sound of Charlie Dixon tracing a simple ascending/descending pattern on his banjo while Rainey sings the chorus of the "Jelly Bean Blues" is one of the great magical moments in all of early 20th century music. Decades later, Louis Armstrong would compare this little record to an aria by Giuseppe Verdi. After a one-shot reunion with Lovie Austin, Tommy Ladnier, and Jimmy O'Bryant for the "Cell Bound Blues," Rainey recorded four titles (and two alternate takes) accompanied by a smaller group, billed as her Georgia Band, with an unidentified and rather shrill kazoo player who doubled on slide whistle; saxophonist George "Hooks" Tilford, either Lil Henderson or Georgia Tom Dorsey at the piano, and a percussionist who was either Cedric Odom or Happy Bolton. The band that backed her on tracks 16-23 (recorded in July 1925) had similar personnel, with the addition of a cornetist whose name was either Robert Taylor or Kid Henderson. At this stage in her career, Rainey's voice was deepening in pitch. Her slow and purposeful delivery makes each performance seem as serious as ritual, even when slide whistle and kazoo add an element of the ridiculous.

Biography

Born: 26 April 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. 2 (1924-1925), Ma Rainey
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