Valaida Snow


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When Valaida Snow sat in with Earl Hines & His Orchestra on February 3, 1933, she sounded at first like an auditioning youngster. That is, until the tempo picked up halfway into the song, and Snow began to chortle and swing. If "Maybe I'm to Blame" was a bit of an experiment, the three recordings Snow made in London in January of 1935 are solid evidence of an artist who has found her own style and grown into it. Suddenly, it seems, this woman has established herself in England as a singer and trumpeter with considerable potential. Throughout the spring of 1935 and autumn of 1936, Snow lived up to everyone's expectations. Sounding at times like Ethel Waters, Josephine Baker, or Blanche Calloway, she spruces up each Tin Pan Alley tune with her own personality. In most cases that means cutting up, teasing the band, and inserting remarks in the manner of Louis Armstrong or Fats Waller. The Waller connection is apparent to anyone familiar with his discography; "You're Not the Kind," "Until the Real Thing Comes Along," and especially "I Wish I Were Twins" are funnier when Waller sings them, but Snow's approach is immediately likable. Her own sense of humor is more evident on "I Can't Dance (I Got Ants in My Pants)," which ends with her exclaiming "oooh!" as if the ants are somehow turning her on. For sheer joie de vivre, "Singin' in the Rain" is possibly the happiest record Snow ever made. In some instances she milks the more sentimental songs for emotional high drama, even sounding a bit like Ruth Etting or Adelaide Hall from time to time. As for Snow's trumpeting, she almost always appeared with a band that contained a second trumpeter who could back her up while she sang, and with whom she would sometimes joust, as in the thrilling twin-trumpet exchange on "I Wish I Were Twins." The trumpeters involved in 1935 and 1936 were Duncan Whyte and Harry Owen. Everyone who loves old-fashioned jazz ought to discover Snow and get to know her music. The plot thickens in the next two volumes of the complete chronological recordings of Valaida Snow, carefully reissued by Classics.

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