Thursday, 22 March 2012

Born to swing: the greatness of Mildred

Because I am here posting six Mildred Bailey records in a row, you might conclude that I think she was one of the best singers ever. You'd be right. I know of no other jazz-pop singer who can delight and move me in such a wide variety of ways. She was a swinging big-band vocalist, epitomized by Born to Swing, the first song playable below, recorded with husband Red Norvo's band in 1938. I love the pungent way she invokes a certain well-known floogie near the end. (Red and Mildred were known as "Mr. and Mrs. Swing," a sobriquet well deserved. Norvo always maintained she was the keenest judge of musical talent he knew.) She could sing straight melody - no tricks or mannerisms - and communicate heartfelt emotion, as in the haunting I Can't Face the Music by Rube Bloom and Ted Koehler, recorded with Norvo in '38 in a superb arrangement by Eddie Sauter. She sang the blues as well as anyone: You Don't Know My Mind is from '39 with a trio led by pianist Mary Lou Williams. She could make you smile while tossing off Johnny Mercer's clever, densely packed lyrics in Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing In a Hurry, recorded with Norvo in '42. And she could just flat-out melt you with the heartbreaking vulnerability of You Started Something recorded in '47 with the Ellis Larkins trio. Our finale, a live concert performance from '42 of Vincent Youmans' More Than You Know with Billy Kyle on piano. Feel free to join in the applause.

Mildred Bailey was inducted into my own personal hall of fame a long time ago. The fact that the commissars of jazz in Lincoln Center haven't yet certified her as Great after all these years says more about them than about her.

This is an eighteen-minute set, so take a break from the internet, sit back and enjoy some Mildred Bailey.  

For more Moldred, go here.

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