Ethel Waters: Stormy Weather


Stormy Weather


Ethel Waters (vocals)


The Incomparable Ethel Waters (Columbia/Legacy 65852)

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Ethel Waters (vocals), Bunny Berigan (trumpet), Tommy Dorsey (trombone), Jimmy Dorsey (clarinet),

Sterling Bose (trumpet), Larry Binyon (clarinet, tenor sax), Fulton McGrath (piano), Joe Venuti, Harry Hoffman, Walter Edelstein, Lou Kosloff (violin): Dick McDonough (guitar), Artie Bernstein (bass), Stan King or Chauncey Morehouse (drums)


Composed by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler


Recorded: New York, May 3, 1933


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

No other Jazz Age singer rivaled her versatility. Combining the tony diction of London's posh Mayfair salons (although she actually grew up in Philadelphia poverty) with gospel sincerity and an ever-lurking earthy inflection, Ethel Waters exercised an unmatched artistic range. With the savvy dramaturgy of a seasoned stage actress, Miss Waters didn't simply sing a song, she enacted a minidrama replete with theatrical flourishes. Here, as she concludes, we want to rush the stage crying "Brava!" and strew bouquets at her feet. In 2003, when the Grammy folks enshrined this track in their Hall of Fame, they got it right.

Reviewer: Alan Kurtz

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  • 1 Rico Detroit // May 21, 2009 at 02:43 AM
    Compare “Stormy Weather” to Waters’ 1929 hit “Am I Blue?” and the difference is striking. Both display a talented vocalist with an instinct for showmanship, but the newer recording shows a maturity that the earlier one couldn’t begin to hint at. Where “Am I Blue?” showed Waters’ breadth, “Stormy Weather” shows her depth. Waters’ singing is subtle throughout, yet amazingly rich and enticing. Like Louis Armstrong, she was in the process of transforming herself from jazz star to mainstream pop star, and she succeeds wonderfully here, using her musical instincts and talent to create something transcendent. She is helped by an understated but nimble orchestra that included future stars Bunny Berigan on trumpet, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet, and his brother Tommy Dorsey on trombone. To be sure, Waters still understands how to put on a show, as witnessed by the dramatic bridge section that begins “I walk around heavy hearted and sad,” and ends “this misery is just too much for me!” However, she never sinks into melodramatic novelty or vaudeville, managing to entertain and even dazzle while still conveying emotional depth. The overall effect is mesmerizing: this is a song you can listen to over and over and not grow tired of it. - Three Perfect Minutes (