Thursday, 22 March 2012
Born to swing: the greatness of Mildred
Because I've already posted Mildred Bailey records here and here, and am now posting five more, you might conclude that I think she's one of the great jazz-pop singers of all time. You'd be right.
I don't know any other singer who could match Mildred's mastery in such a wide range of material. She was the swingingest of big-band vocalists, as in the ebullient Born to Swing recorded with Red Norvo in 1938. (The way she invokes a certain pes planus-afflicted floogie near the end of the record is a masterstroke.) She could communicate real emotion by singing straight melody without mannerisms, as in I Can't Face the Music recorded with Norvo in 1938, presented in a superb arrangement (by Eddie Sauter?). She could sing the blues as well as anyone, as in You Don't Know My Mind from 1939, with a trio led by pianist Mary Lou Williams. Unfazed by word-heavy novelty songs, she could make you laugh, as in the clever Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing In a Hurry recorded with Norvo in 1942. And she could melt you with the heartbreaking vulnerability of You Started Something recorded in 1947 with the Ellis Larkins trio.
Mildred Bailey was inducted into my own personal hall of fame many years ago. It requires no special expertise to appreciate her; all you need is a pair of ears, some records, and an open mind. The fact that the commissars of jazz within the cultural kremlin known as Lincoln Center still haven't officially certified her as Great after all these years says more about them than about her.
This is a fifteen-minute set. I suggest you open another window and do your Web-browsing during the five-song serenade. Or better yet, take a break from browsing, sit back and enjoy the multi-hued splendors of Mildred Bailey.