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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"St. Louis Blues"

Bessie Smith - St. Louis Blues (1925)

This 1925 recording was so popular, that four years later Bessie Smith did a promotional video for it. The 16 minute long "two reel" is the only video recording of Bessie Smith. It's a brief story, and was made to feature Bessie singing the song backed by a jazz orchestra, strings, and what sounds like a full choir. The 1925 recording is just Bessie Smith on vocals, Fred Longshaw on harmonium (like a stand-up accordion) and Louis Armstrong on cornet. This is not the last time we will see Bessie Smith or Louis Armstrong. This is not my favorite Bessie Smith song, that honor would have to be Gimmie a Pigfoot. I heard it first years ago and it's a hard thing to get out of your head. That being said, this song is really solid. I haven't looked too far ahead in the list, but honestly, I doubt there are too many songs with such a simple arraignment. Longshaw's harmonium provides the chords, Armstrong's cornet plays counterpoint to Smith's melody, and that is it. No drums, no bass, no harmony.

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