This trio set from three of New York’s most imaginative left-field musicians – Tim Berne drummer/vibraphonist Ches Smith, pianist Craig Taborn and tone-bending viola player Mat Maneri – displays such an unusual balance of compositional tautness (Smith wrote all the pieces) and spontaneity that assigning it to any jazz, improv or contemporary classical box is impossible. The nine-minute title track is typical, in the explicitness of the opening bell chime, Taborn’s show-and-hide chordal pulse, Maneri’s graceful ascents and a heated finale sprayed with brusque percussion rumbles. Cryptic viola melodies shadowed by rolling piano figures accelerate to frisky dances, stern tom-tom grooves stalk alongside intimate piano-viola dialogues, the fiddle equivalent of Jan Garbarek’s long sax outbreaths curl across dark landscapes before storms break.
Bessie Smith cut 160 sides for the Columbia and OKeh labels between 1923 and 1933, and the four previous two-CD/cassette box sets of her complete recordings released in the 1990s covered 154 of them, which introduces the question, what can a fifth two-CD/cassette box set contain in addition to the remaining six cuts? First, there are five previously unreleased alternate takes; second, there is the 15-minute low-fi soundtrack to the two-reel short St. Louis Blues, which constitutes the only film of Smith; and third, taking up all of the second CD/cassette, there are 72 minutes of interview tapes of Ruby Smith, Bessie Smith's niece, who traveled as part of her show. The box contains a "Parental Advisory – Explicit Lyrics" warning because of the nature of Ruby Smith's reminiscences. You won't learn much about Bessie Smith's music from her niece's remarks, but you will learn a lot about her sexual preferences.
The fourth of five volumes (the first four are two-CD sets) that reissue all of Bessie Smith's recordings traces her career from a period when her popularity was at its height down to just six songs away from the halt of her recording career. But although her commercial fortunes might have slipped, Bessie Smith never declined and these later recordings are consistently powerful. The two-part "Empty Bed Blues" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" (hers is the original version) are true classics and none of the other 40 songs (including the double-entendre "Kitchen Man") are throwaways. With strong accompaniment during some performances by trombonist Charlie Green, guitarist Eddie Lang, Clarence Williams's band and on ten songs (eight of which are duets) the masterful pianist James P. Johnson, this volume (as with the others) is quite essential.
On the third of five volumes (the first four are double-CD box sets) that reissue all of her recordings, the great Bessie Smith is greatly assisted on some of the 38 selections by a few of her favorite sidemen: cornetist Joe Smith, trombonist Charlie Green, and clarinetist Buster Bailey. But the most important of her occasional musicians was pianist James P. Johnson, who makes his first appearance in 1927 and can be heard on four duets with Bessie, including the monumental "Backwater Blues." Other highlights of this highly recommended set (all five volumes are essential) include "After You've Gone," "Muddy Water," "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," "Trombone Cholly," "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair," and "Mean Old Bed Bug Blues." The power and intensity of Bessie Smith's recordings should be considered required listening; even 80 years later they still communicate.
Bessie Smith, even on the evidence of her earliest recordings, well deserved the title "Empress of the Blues" for in the 1920s there was no one in her league for emotional intensity, honest blues feeling, and power. The second of five volumes (the first four are two-CD sets) finds her accompaniment improving rapidly with such sympathetic sidemen as trombonist Charlie Green, cornetist Joe Smith, and clarinetist Buster Bailey often helping her out. However, they are overshadowed by Louis Armstrong, whose two sessions with Smith (nine songs in all) fall into the time period of this second set; particularly classic are their versions of "St. Louis Blues," "Careless Love Blues," and "I Ain't Goin' to Play Second Fiddle." Other gems on this essential set include "Cake Walkin' Babies From Home," "The Yellow Dog Blues," and "At the Christmas Ball."
In the 1970s, Bessie Smith's recordings were reissued on five double LPs. Her CD reissue series also has five volumes (the first four are double-CD sets) with the main difference being that the final volume includes all of her rare alternate takes (which were bypassed on LP). The first set (which, as with all of the CD volumes, is housed in an oversize box that includes an informative booklet) contains her first 38 recordings. During this early era, Bessie Smith had no competitors on record and she was one of the few vocalists who could overcome the primitive recording techniques; her power really comes through.
1-CD-Album Digipak (4-plated) with 44-page booklet, 29 tracks, playing time approx. 75 mns. The forgotten recordings of Edna McGriff a Fifties R&B star! Few ever reissued on CD, most unheard since the 1950s! Includes fabulous R&B versions of pop songs like The Fool, Born To Be With You, Freight Train, and I Enjoy Being A Girl with the cream of New York's R&B session men! First full-length biography by R&B scholar Bill Dahl.
Reissue with SHM-CD format and new 24bit remastering. In 1957, Johnny Smith was at the height of his artistic power when he cut this album for the Roost label. Smith had a patented method for shifting from single-string statements of the melody line to complex chordal structures with amazing ease. This ability is put to use for each of the cuts on this album, but is especially useful on such cuts as "Angel Eyes" and "You Go to My Head." Smith's guitar also seemed to have a one of a kind resonance to it, which energized every melody he played, whether on the melody itself or when improvising, making his playing immediately recognizable.