1. Rockin' Chair
2. What Kind O' Man Is You?
3. Blues in My Heart
4. When It's Sleepy Time Down South
5. Georgia On My Mind
7. Harlem Lullaby
8. Lazy Bones
9. Heat Wave
10. Junk Man
11. Ol' Pappy
12. Someday, Sweetheart
13. Willow Tree
14. Honeysuckle Rose
15. Squeeze Me
16. Downhearted Blues
17. A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid
18. More Than You Know
19. Smoke Dreams
20. I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
21. Trust in Me
22. Where Are You?
23. Never in a Million Years
24. There's a Lull in My Life
25. The Moon Got in My Eyes
1. It's the Natural Thing to Do
2. Bob White, Watcha Gonna Swing Tonight?
3. Thanks for the Memory
4. Lover, Come Back to Me
5. Weekend of a Private Secretary
6. Please Be Kind
7. Don't Be That Way
8. Says My Heart
9. I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart
10. My Melancholy Baby
11. The Lonesome Road
12. So Help Me If I Don't Love You
13. Small Fry
14. My Reverie
15. Old Folks
16. Have You Forgotten So Soon?
17. St. Louis Blues
18. Begin the Beguine
19. 'Tain't What You Do (It's the Way That Cha Do It)
20. Gulf Coast Blues
21. Prisoner of Love
22. Darn That Dream
23. Peace, Brother!
24. Don't Take Your Love from Me
25. Me and the Blues
26. At Sundown
27. All of Me
I think it’s fair to say that of all the singers covered thus far in this
series – Bea Wain, Kay Starr, Helen Forrest, Annette Hanshaw, Kitty Kallen
and Julie London – none makes a more direct appeal to the jazz sensibility
than Mildred Bailey. But as Digby Fairweather makes clear in his booklet
notes, there is something of a sense of anti-climax about her career.
There’s a sense too that she should have seared herself more into the jazz
memory than she has done. Try a test; which songs do you most associate
with her? And then run through songs you associate with Billie Holiday,
Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan.
In a sense this does Bailey less than her due. She was an influential,
important and profoundly gifted interpreter and surrounded herself with
some of the best players and bands in the business. The one tune rightly
associated with her – though since supplanted by the Armstrong-Teagarden
double act - was Rockin’ Chair though her early style is perhaps
best exemplified by her brief moaning vocalise, portamenti and
instrumentally-based vocalism on Blues in my Heart, made with Glen
Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra in 1931. It’s good to hear full verses
being sung, as on Georgia on my Mind, for example, rather than
hasty ‘vocal choruses’ interpolated between the band’s outing.
In these and other numbers the nucleus of the Paul Whiteman band, Matty
Malneck, the Dorseys, her then-husband Red Norvo and Benny Goodman provide
laudable backing but it’s still arresting to hear Coleman Hawkins’ powerful
obbligato on Junk Man or his extended solo on Ol’ Pappy
or Teddy Wilson’s articulate pianism on Someday, Sweetheart. Some
of the best tracks in the twofer come with her Alley Cats - Bunny Berigan,
Johnny Hodges, Wilson and Grachan Moncur – which include a set of Fats
Waller and Lovie Austin tunes recorded in December 1935. Wilson’s boogie,
Hodges’ blues and Berigan’s coiled lead all hit the spot. Listen out as
well to Cozy Cole’s unobtrusively magnificent drumming on More Than You Know, assuredly one of Bailey’s most persuasive
recordings. She was one of the most assured and convincing of all singers
of popular song and even when the material was nondescript, as it is in Trust in Me and - strangely, as it’s from the pen of Jimmy McHugh
- Where are You? Bailey never gives less than her best and sideman
Roy Eldridge electrifies things sufficiently.
Throughout there are so many things to enjoy. There’s Johnny Mercer
whistling away on Bob White, Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight? and
Eddie Sauter’s sophisticated arrangement of Debussy in My Reverie
– even Have You Forgotten So Soon, the Silver-Heyman-Coslow crib
of Thanks for the Memory. Her Oxford Greys, drolly named,
comprised Mary Lou Williams, electric guitarist Floyd Smith, John Williams
and Eddie Dougherty and they serve up a Back to the Past version of
Clarence Williams’ 1926 Gulf Coast Blues. Bailey was no Blues
Chanteuse but it’s by no means an exercise in retro chic in March 1939.
Accompanist extraordinaire Ellis Larkins lends his skill in 1946 and an
anonymous big band under Julian Work gives support on the last track, All of Me – a languorous envoi. The last track was cut in May
1947. Four years later she was dead, at the very early age of 48.
This fine twofer is a worthy salute to Mildred Bailey’s brief but
invaluable legacy on disc.