An early jazz singer with a sweet voice, Mildred Bailey balanced a good deal of popular success with a hot jazz-slanted career that saw her billed as Mrs. Swing (her husband, Red Norvo, was Mr. Swing). Born Mildred Rinker in Washington state in 1907, Bailey began performing at an early age, playing piano and singing in movie theaters during the early '20s. By 1925, she was the headlining act at a club in Hollywood, doing a mixture of pop, early jazz tunes, and vaudeville standards. Influenced by Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith, and Connie Boswell, she developed a soft, swinging delivery that pleased all kinds of nightclub audiences in the area. After sending a demonstration disc in to Paul Whiteman in 1929, she gained a spot with one of the most popular dance orchestras of the day…
Bailey's first recorded solo performance in seven years is a splendid example of the guitarist at his finest. Two of the ten pieces are from a live concert, including an eerily attractive poetry recital by Bailey of Peter Riley's morbid "Dead She Dances." The other eight selections are short studio cuts. In all, this recording is what we have come to expect from Bailey: atonal swatches of sound, unique styling, changes in tempo, and astonishing creative splashes of acoustic guitar. Patterns emerge, dissolve, fade, and reappear, with the unexpected always the norm. Bailey's unique excursions might be compared to musical approximations of abstract expressionist art, with each number unfolding in unanticipated ways. While the highlight of this CD is Bailey's recital, in which he accompanies himself on guitar, there are plenty of wonderful moments on every track.
Big Brass marks one of trumpeter Benny Bailey's earliest efforts as a leader, but it is also one of the best releases of his career. Joined by an all-star septet including Phil Woods, Julius Watkins, and Les Spann in the front line, plus a rhythm section consisting of Tommy Flanagan, Buddy Catlett, and Art Taylor, Bailey and his musicians shine in their interpretations of charts by Quincy Jones, Hale Smith, Oliver Nelson, and Tom McIntosh.
A totally wonderful little compilation – one that starts with a great array of 70s and 80s spacey soul, then throws in a few sweet AOR cuts, and even a few contemporary numbers too – all in this laidback, mellow-grooving style that's totally great! The whole thing's way different than the usual funk or soul compilation – and different than some of the recent AOR retrospectives, too – in that compiler Tony Monson really goes for a special vibe here, and hangs together tracks you wouldn't expect to fit so well – thanks to lots of jazzy currents and a deep blend of electric and acoustic elements.