FEATURED ARTIST / S
Josephine Baker 1926 - 1927
Josephine Baker (Mademmoiselle Joséphine Baker) vocal, accompanied by various Jazz Bands.
Genres; Jazz, Blues, Pre-war Parisian cabaret.
Informative booklet notes by Howard Rye.
Includes detailed discography.
Josephine Baker was and still is controversial in more profound ways than her mere inclusion in a discography. Many observers still find her stage persona, with its exploitation of stereotypes of the primitive, including impossible to take, and remain impervious to the sheer quality of her dancing, as it is preserved in her few films. Her singing career took her from the material heard here eventually to overblown and bombastic star vehicles far removed from her roots. The complexities of her life and character have been the subject of several biographies and much obfuscation, but when all is said and done the music remains to be assessed on its own merits.
The band recruited to accompany her on her initial recordings is thought by French discographers to have comprised members of Olivier's Jazz Boys. She had sung “Dinah” as Ethel Waters's understudy back at the ‘Plantation’; this introduces her distinctive scatting. Like it or loathe it, it is her very own. Throughout though, it is entirely clear where she was coming from. Though the repertoire draws more heavily on Tin Pan Alley, which is hardly surprising given the intended audience, she uses many of the devices of the vaudeville singers who spanned blues and jazz in this era and there are echoes of many contemporaries to be heard.
For her second session, she accompanied herself on the ukulele. The discography; Blues & Gospel Records, 1890-1943, lists the second title from this session as issued only on English Parlophone and the third as unissued. Even Brard and Nevers's Le Jazz en France is unaware that this coupling was also issued and this CD is the first documentation as well as the first reissue. These solo efforts are utterly charming. The third session features a wild hot fiddler, whose identity is undetermined, and three standard songs of the vaudeville blues idiom. It was “Skeedle Um” that clinched her inclusion in B&G. Always, on the other hand, is an unwelcome foretaste of the chansonniére who was evidently already in the making.
In autumn 1926, Josephine began to double in Parisian cabarets and in January 1927 the first Chez Josephine opened in the rue Fontaine. She now needed her own band and the choice fell on a mainly Belgian group, Le Jacob's Jazz, formed by trumpeter Leon Jacobs, born in Liege in 1903, who had been working in the band at the Moulin Rouge. They are heard on both the remaining recording sessions, except for two titles accompanied by two pianos. They also account for the missing matrices (1244/5) on which they recorded Deep Henderson and Tampeekoe Stomp. Thisse and Raskin went on to respectable careers on the Belgian jazz scene. They provide at least an approximation of jazz rhythms and their arrangements are far superior to Olivier's.