The Empress of the Blues is heard here in all her prime from 1925-1927. While also touring the country in the Harlem Frolics tent show during this time, Smith laid down hundreds of tracks in New York studios. These 24 performances feature such jazz luminaries of the day as pianist Fletcher Henderson, trumpeter Joe Smith, trombonist Charlie Green, and clarinetist Buster Bailey (the latter three men all played in Henderson's groundbreaking band of the day). Also on hand are Gotham legend and pianist James P. Johnson and songwriter extraordinaire Clarence Williams (along with such '20s classics as "Royal Garden Blues," "'Taint Nobobdy's Business if I Do," and "Everybody Loves My Baby," Williams penned a handful of the tracks covered here, including his collaboration with Fats Waller, "Just Squeeze Me"). Smith is powerful and in total command throughout, churning out her jazz-tinged blues on such standouts as "Backwater Blues," "The Gin House Blues," and "Hard Driving Papa." A must for all Smith devotees.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook
feat: Clara Smith