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Clara Smith Vol. 5 (1927-1929)

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Album Review

Volume five of Clara Smith's complete works as reissued by Document during the 1990s covers a segment of her career from July 30, 1927 to December 31 1929, beginning with her recording of Tiny Parham's "Black Cat Moan." The title of that song apparently engendered an executive decision at Columbia Records causing her backing band (which included cornetist Gus Aiken, reedman Bob Fuller, and pianist Stanley Miller) to be listed as Her Five Black Kittens. This seasoned blues vocalist closed out the decade by making records with some of New York's finest jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington's trumpeter Freddy Jenkins (tracks six and seven) as well as pianist and composer James P. Johnson (tracks 17 and 18). Other noteworthy instrumentalists include pianist Lemuel Fowler, cornetists Ed Allen and Joe Smith, trombonist Big Charlie Green (who sounds especially pungent during Thomas A. Dorsey's "It's Tight Like That"); cellist Marion Cumbo (listen for him during "Got My Mind on That Thing" and "Wanna Go Home"), and an unidentified kazooist (who was probably pianist Porter Grainger) on "Ain't Got Nobody to Grind My Coffee."

Biography

Born: 1894 in Spartanburg, SC

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s

One of the legendary unrelated Smith singers of the 1920s, Clara Smith was never on Bessie's level or as significant as Mamie but she had something of her own to offer. She began working on the theatre circuit and in vaudeville around 1910, learning her craft during the next 13 years while traveling throughout the South. In 1923 Clara Smith came to New York and she recorded steadily for Columbia through 1932, cutting 122 songs often with the backing of top musicians (especially after 1925) including...
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Clara Smith Vol. 5 (1927-1929), Clara Smith
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Contemporaries