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Bessie Smith - St. Louis Blues, Vol. 2 (1924-1925)

Bessie Smith

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Album Review

What makes this little collection interesting is that it contains seven of the nine tracks Bessie Smith cut for Columbia Records with a young Louis Armstrong in two sessions early in 1925, including the seminal version of W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues." An exercise in simplicity, Smith's version of the song features only her voice, Armstrong's answering cornet, and Fred Longshaw on a wheezing reed organ. The end result is one of the greatest performances in pop history. Pianist Fletcher Henderson and tenor sax player Coleman Hawkins also appear on tracks here.


Born: 15 April 1894 in Chattanooga, TN

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s

The first major blues and jazz singer on record and one of the most powerful of all time, Bessie Smith rightly earned the title of "The Empress of the Blues." Even on her first records in 1923, her passionate voice overcame the primitive recording quality of the day and still communicates easily to today's listeners (which is not true of any other singer from that early period). At a time when the blues...
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