For the best introduction to the music of Una Mae Carlisle, consult her 1938-1941 recordings (Classics 1209). Thrust into the limelight by her friend Fats Waller, Carlisle established herself as an able pianist, vocalist and leader of small swing bands, relinquishing her place at the piano in 1941 and '42 in order to concentrate on presenting herself as a singer. Backed by pianist Billy Kyle and the John Kirby Sextet, she delivered quite a number of sentimental songs and a handful of upbeat novelties. It's important to bear in mind the fact that during this time she was grappling with the debilitating effects of mastoiditis, a painful malady brought on by an infection of the inner ear. This may account for the fact that on many of these sides the singer sounds somewhat tentative, less focused and lacking the full power of her earlier recordings. "Don't Tetch It!" turned out spunky because it was a spunky number to begin with. "It Ain't Like That" is an upbeat bounce, loosely garnished with "hep-talk" lyrics. "So Long, Shorty" is addressed to a soldier who is headed for Tokyo. After the end of the notoriously inconvenient and historically frustrating recording ban that began in 1942, Una Mae Carlisle found herself eliminated from the roster of Bluebird recording artists. Securing work with the tiny Joe Davis label, she went back to singing from the piano. The material seems stronger than what she'd been trying to pull off with Bluebird. "'Tain't Yours" is based in a solid groove, and swings accordingly. Ray Nance shines and Budd Johnson blows his tenor sax lustily. Both men spruce up "I'm A Good, Good Woman" with notably expressive solos. Even the slow numbers from 1944 are substantial, more soulful and less flimsy than before. Una sounds healthier and more mature. Operating the piano obviously kept her in touch with the band's collective thought processes. "Take Your Time" works well, "Best Little Yankee" fulfills a wartime thematic obligation, and "I Speak So Much" holds its own largely because of the amazing trumpet and sax solos. This volume of the chronological Carlisle closes with a session from the end of August 1944. The band is said to be comprised of Bob Crosby bandmembers, which is another way of saying that Una fell in with the Eddie Condon Mob. From here her career led to radio and television appearances, in addition to further phonograph recordings. These may be heard on the final volume of Carlisle 's recordings (Classics 1265), covering the years 1944 through 1950.
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