Friday, June 12, 2009

Mildred Bailey: The Lady With an Aching Heart

This Mildred Rinker is a real bitch! She is the best “white” singer jazz ever has had. Although her parents were native Americans, she had “white” skin and she swung it indeed differently. Her style, though old fashioned, even for those swinging days, had something especial in itself.

First, I think it was her sweet smile. The looks of her, the way she stood in front of the band; imitating jimmy rushing. These sorts of trivialities gave her a singular tenderness. Her voice itself had a charming quality that was appealing to many black musicians; a voice that had so much in common with some very famous female singers of her time: Ethel waters, Helen Humes, Billie holiday. No wonder so many great musicians of those days, gents like buster bailey, hawk, little jazz, teddy Wilson, “specs"”, Charlie shavers, frog, Marie Lou and the so called “first vibraphonist of jazz” Red Norvo, who later became her husband, worked so intensive with this lady.
Her education as singer started back in early days in Spokane. She had many appearances in radio shows and revues around west coat of those days. Her brother, Al Rinker, himself a singer of the celebrated Paul Whiteman’s orchestra, helped her to join the band for a while. She became a member of the vocal group of the mentioned orchestra, “rhythm boys”, to which Bing Crosby also belonged. 1929 was the year in that she started to become a celebrity on her own. The appreciation she got from such prominent black female blues singers like Bessie smith and Ethel waters helped her to move fast enough in music circles of the time. During her collaboration with Whiteman, she came to know Red Norvo. They married in 1933. It lasted almost 11 years. After her marriage she left Whiteman and dedicated her career entirely to work with her husband’s band. In the mean time, she recorded some of her best-accomplished jazz works. The studio bands that accompanied her during this time had some of the most prominent musicians of those days in their ranks. Her popularity reached its zenith when she recorded the famous Hoagy Carmichael opus “rocking chair”. She was known from then on as “rocking chair lady”, “Mrs. Swing”, etc. She was already a known personage in jazz, when she joined the band of Benny Goodman in 1939.

Bailey’s most important accomplishment as a “white” singer was her mastery of the art of phrasing very pertinent in the jazz idiom. The high degree of taste and art of articulation she shows in the recordings with Mary Lou Williams and rhythm section consisting of Floyd Smith, John Williams and Eddie Dougherty are best examples of her mastery. Barrelhouse style and Kansas City style of stride are prominently shown in her treatment of the tunes “Arkansas blues” (1939) and “barrelhouse music” (1939). The jazz flavor is also at its best when she is swinging in “black-swing modus operandi”, as procreated by recordings she did early 1944 with that famous four trumpet band that also featured Coleman Hawkins as the sole reedman.

Miss bailey definitely enjoyed natural sensibility for the beat that is mainly the basic element for improvisatory enthusiasm, enunciation fervor, rendition and embellishment that we find in her style in abundance. Bravo! Mildred baby. I love you as much i do love that other bailey girl. I still can see you singing in that very famous date with this brilliant drummer “specs”; the song of your songs “don’t talk about me…” “Though are friendship ceases from now on…” “Makes no difference how i carry on”. By the way, she reminds me in her “I get by” of another singer lady of the Basie stock, Miss Helen Humes. Oh yea! Babe! You are certainly a bitch! Just dig her astounding St. Louis! That is what one calls armstronging. Very fine lady. Very lovable! The sky was blue and high above, the night was new, and so was love, this aching heart of mine is singing etc… bravissimo! Darling Mildred.
Speaking of aching hearts! My sweetheart had one of them. It killed her in the year 1951. Thanks for the memory. --By ARP

Listen to Mildred's Rockin' Chair:

1 comment:

  1. I'm listening to Mildred right now. After not liking her voice initially, she has grown on me and I've come to appreciate her vocalizings very much. It sounds like 'good' music because of the stellar jazz musicians she always surrounded herself with. Listen to her on online radios like Spotify, etc. - Kent