Volume three in Mildred Bailey's Classics chronology revives 24 excellent recordings she made for the Vocalion label between January 19, 1937 and March 14, 1938. During this period, Bailey sang on quite a number of recordings issued (and subsequently reissued) under the name of her third husband, xylophonist Red Norvo. Everything on this compilation came out under the name of Mildred Bailey & Her Orchestra. A glance at the enclosed discography substantiates a claim made by producer Anatol Schenker in his liner notes: "The small band recordings made by Mildred Bailey in the late thirties certainly bear comparison with those made by Billie Holiday." Alternating throughout the discography with sessions featuring Red Norvo's big band, the septets heard backing Mildred Bailey are populated with accomplished improvisers like Roy Eldridge, Chu Berry, Buck Clayton, Scoops Carey, Herschel Evans, Hank D'Amico and Edmond Hall. The rhythm sections were driven by such master musicians as Teddy Wilson, Zutty Singleton, Freddie Green, Walter Page and Dave Tough. Anyone seeking particularly wonderful examples of Tough's marvelously controlled percussion artistry needs to listen to "I See Your Face Before Me," "Thanks for the Memory," "From the Land of Sky Blue Water" and "Lover Come Back to Me." Mildred Bailey was among the very first people in showbiz to recognize Billie Holiday's unique abilities as a jazz vocalist. This compilation demonstrates some of the songs, moods and instrumentalists that the two singers had in common. A more far-reaching assessment of their parallel careers is sobering; Billie Holiday struggled against racism, patriarchal oppression, entrenched conventions that made her feel like her own voice was "not legitimate," and a swarm of pernicious addictions that ultimately slew her. Mildred Bailey pioneered the feminine art of jazz singing and enjoyed enormous popularity for a while during the '30s; then, obese and diabetic, she found herself marginalized as an insufficiently svelte anomaly and was ultimately discarded by an entertainment industry that has always valued physical glamour over artistic ability.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf