Various: Jazz Ladies – The Singing Pianists, 1926-1961

The three-CD set features no less than 30 ladies on a total of 76 tracks, mainly with trio or quartet rhythm backing, and a few with small groups


In tune with current widespread re-evaluations of women’s commercial status and rights, the Frémeaux label has for some time drawn attention to historic undervaluations of female jazz musicians. The black instrumentalists, particularly, must have found their careers an uphill struggle in a milieu dominated by white males, often with deplorable racist attitudes.

An album on this theme entitled Jazz Ladies 1924-1962 featured recordings by a range of instrumentalists on trumpet, trombone, saxes, piano and organ, plus all girl bands.The follow-up release here focuses strictly on singing lady pianists.

The three-CD set features no less than 30-such ladies on a total of 76 tracks, mainly with trio or quartet rhythm backing, and a few with small groups. All except three tracks date from 1935 onwards, roughly in chronological order, and stopping short in 1961. Styles span popular recorded music of the era – swing, blues, gospel, ballads, popular songs, rhythm and blues. Over the years, stride and barrelhouse boogie mutate into more sophisticated and varied swing and 50s club-style accompaniment, firmly rooted in jazz throughout, and swinging positively.

Several of the musicians on this compilation did of course receive commercial success and critical acclaim, e.g. Nellie Lutcher, Rose Murphy, Una Mae-Carlisle,  Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone and Blossom Dearie. Lil Armstrong and Victoria Spivey were also highly respected as pioneers of famous early jazz recordings. Others were well known enough in their day, but a few, on some recordings, are now quite obscure. Yet the overall standard is consistently high, with spirited and expressive vocals, and some surprisingly impressive piano accompaniment, notably from Martha Davis, Nellie Lutcher (some ingenious arrangements), Jeri Southern, Shirley Horn and (outstandingly) Nina Simone, who blends fugue-like classical structure into her intriguing piano solos, and sings ballads sublimely.

Adding further interest still, the names  of  many legendary jazzmen pop up in some accomplished backing. Booklet notes are in both French and English. A very enjoyable, interesting and commendably themed release. Highly recommended.

CD1: (1) (Cookie, Lookie, Lookie), Here Comes Cookie; The Stuff Is Here And Mellow; Mama Don’t Want No Peas An’ Rice An’ Coconut Oil; When Hollywood Goes Black And Tan; (2) Harlem On Saturday Night; Clip Joint; (3) Love Walked Right In; Papa’s In Bed With His Britches On; I Met You Then, I Know You Now; I’m A Good Good Woman; (4) Dream Lucky Blues; Gotta Gimme Whatcha Got; A Porter’s Love Song; Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out; Pagan Love Song; (5) Pretty Papa Blues; Stick By Me Baby; (6) Thrill Me; You Don’t Love Me; Within This Heart Of Mine; I’m Blue; (7)  It’s All Right Now; (8) I Want To See Jesus; (9) Blessed Assurance; (10) While The Blood Runs Warm; Yield Not To Temptation (74.05)
CD2: (11) The Be-Bop Bounce; I’m Fer It; Cincinnati; Kitchen Blues; Experience; (12) Hurry On Down; Sleepy Lagoon; Do You Or Don’t You Love Me; Alexander’s Ragtime Band; That’s A Plenty; (13) That’s My Desire; Trust In Me; (14) I Can’t Give You Anything But Love; Busy Line; Honeysuckle Rose; I Wanna Be Loved By You; (15) After You Get What You Want, You Don’t Want It; (16) I Lost My Sugar In Salt Lake City; (17) Blues In The Night; One For The Road; Mobile; (18) On The Wall; (19) Double Trouble Blues; (20) If You Can’t Get Five, Take Two: When You’re Away; (21) That Man (73.51)
CD3: (22) Thou Swell; Plus Je T’Embrasse; Moonlight Swing Time; Time In Time; Someone To Watch Over Me; (23) Let’s Fall In Love; I Don’t Know Where To Turn; (24) Good Morning Heartache; Come In Out Of The Rain; (25) Like Someone In Love; I Thought About You; God Bless The Child; Day In, Day Out; Makin’ Whoopie; (26) Mood Indigo; Don’t Smoke In Bed; Love Me Or  Leave Me; Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair; I Love To Love; (27) Bootin’ The Boogie; (28) Boogie Woogie Time Down South; (29) Madonna’s Boogie; (30) Baby Come On; The Katie Lee (76.24)
(1) Cleo Brown. (2) Lil Armstrong. (3) Una Mae-Carlisle. (4) Julia Lee. (5) Paula Watson. (6) Camille Howard. (7) Arizona Dranes. (8) Madam Maira May Littlejohn. (9) Clara Ward. (10) Aretha Franklin. (11) Martha Davis. (12) Nelly Lutcher. (13) Hadda Brooks. (14) Rose Murphy. (15) The Dardanella. (16) “Frantic”Fay Thomas. (17) La Vegre Smith. (18) Louise Johnson. (19) Kansas City Kitty. (20) Georgia White. (21) Victoria Spivey. (22) Blossom Dearie. (23) Jen Southern. (24) Audrey Morris. (25) Shirley Horn. (26) Nina Simone. (27) Christine Chatman. (28) Lillette Thomas. (29) Madonna Martin. (30) Katie Webster. All tracks p, v. Various locations and dates, 1926-1961. Collective backing personnel includes Reunald Jones, John “Bugs” Hamilton, Ray Nance (t); J.C. Higginbotham, Preston Jackson (tb); Buster Bailey, Darnell Howard, Budd Johnson (reeds); Al Casey, Teddy Bunn, Nappy Lamare, Herb Ellis, Mundell Lowe (g); Wellman Braud, Pops Foster, Slam Stewart, Ray Brown (b); Gene Krupa, Zutty Singleton, Sid Catlett, Art Blakey, Jo Jones, Ed Thigpen (d).
Frémeaux & Associés FA5776