Mildred Bailey: Rockin' Chair (1937)

Mildred Bailey was one of the first white female vocalists to incorporate the sound and feeling of black singers into her own style. She was instrumental in starting Bing Crosby’s career with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and began recording as a solo artist in the late 1920s. By the mid 1930s, she had perfected a light swing approach and was a favorite among musicians.

“Rockin’ Chair” was written by Hoagy Carmichael as a pseudo-minstrel song. Bailey’s version overcomes all of the lyric’s obstacles, so much so that we think of it as a beautifully sung ballad, and not an embarrassing reminder of past racial attitudes. Bailey uses rhythm for expressiveness and subtle slides throughout (Slides were an integral part of Bailey's early style, but she overused them and her older recordings have not aged well). While she takes chances with the melody through the entire performance, her second chorus builds on what she sang before and contributes to an exquisitely developed interpretation. Bailey was so associated with this song that recorded it for 4 different labels and was affectionately known as "The Rockin' Chair Lady."

October 08, 2009 · 0 comments


Mildred Bailey: Rockin' Chair (1932)

Hoagy Carmichael first heard Mildred Bailey with Paul Whiteman's orchestra in 1929 and later taught her this song, which he felt suited her voice and style. "Rockin' Chair" was a huge hit and soon became Bailey's signature song. It also earned her the epithet, "Rockin' Chair Lady." Bailey's voice and manner were well suited to Carmichael's laconic style. This is her first recording with future husband Red Norvo.

September 13, 2008 · 1 comment


Louis Armstrong: Rockin' Chair

The costliest part of Jazz on a Summer's Day (1960), Bert Stern's $115,000 documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, was Louis Armstrong's lofty $25,000 fee. Stern rationalized thus expending 20% of his budget because Louis was (a) the biggest star on hand and (b) the most important artist in jazz history. It's hard to quarrel with Stern's rationale. But as with Ken Burns's epic documentary Jazz (2001), devoting so much of one's resources to an overarching colossus necessarily meant skimping in other areas. (There is another, equally telling parallel between Bert Stern and Ken Burns. Each was a non-jazz fan who relied on musical advice from a single source—for Stern, it was Columbia Records executive George Avakian, and for Burns, Wynton Marsalis. At the mercy of one sage apiece, the filmmakers virtually guaranteed errors of omission.)

Still, it would take a heart of granite to deny the timeless and universal appeal of "Rockin' Chair" as rocked and chaired (no doubt for the umpteenth time) by Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden. At $25,000, this was a bargain.

April 12, 2008 · 0 comments


Gene Krupa & Roy Eldridge: Rockin' Chair

In the 1950s, Eldridge rerecorded this song under his own name with a small combo, but this is the original masterpiece by the trumpeter. His solo, which dominates the side from beginning to end, has been studied by generations of brass players. However, Eldridge had been taken unawares when Krupa originally called the tune at the recording session, and thinking that his playing was not up to snuff, he begged the drummer not to release the side. But on hearing the issued disc, he warmed up to the performance, and later would often refer to it as representing his best work on records.

November 23, 2007 · 0 comments


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