189

Bessie Smith: Down Hearted Blues

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Bessie Smith: Down Hearted Blues Bessie Smith perished in an automobile accident outside of Clarksdale Mississippi in 1937. Almost seventy years later, the "Empress of the Blues" continues to loom large in the American psyche. She, along with Louis Armstrong, defined—no, originated—the craft of jazz vocals. Naxos Jazz Legends begins its documentation of the Smith legend with a release of some of her earliest extant recordings for Columbia between February 1923 and April 1924. Ms. Smith had sparse accompaniment, usually only a piano or a piano plus a second instrument, such as a guitar or violin. The pianists include Clarence Williams, who also penned five of the eighteen selections, and Fletcher Henderson.

Listening to these recordings 80 years down the road offers us a brief glimpse of American vocal arts at ground zero. Smith’s phrasing derived from that of the Delta blues singers crossed with Vaudeville. Listening to these sides is like hearing Robert Johnson after Led Zeppelin. It is the epiphany of realizing that there is nothing new under the sun and that sometimes the original is best left alone. The sonics of these old recordings have been improved by technology, but not enough to remove the sepia tone from the music. This is music so strong and vibrant that it emerges from the murk of decades.

Visit Naxos Jazz Legends on the web.


Track Listing: Downhearted Blues; Gulf Coast Blues;

Personnel: Bessie Smith

Year Released: 2003 | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark CD/LP/Track Review The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Les Deux Versants Se Regardent CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Molto Bene CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Miniatures" CD/LP/Track Review Miniatures
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 20, 2016
Read "More Stories from the Village" CD/LP/Track Review More Stories from the Village
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: May 13, 2016
Read "Transparent Water" CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "Araminta" CD/LP/Track Review Araminta
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 17, 2017
Read "Persuasion" CD/LP/Track Review Persuasion
by Jeff Winbush
Published: December 24, 2016
Read "Saga Thirteen" CD/LP/Track Review Saga Thirteen
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 29, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!