The art of jazz singing really came of age during the 1930s, even while the recording industry continued to develop a consumptive obsession with pop vocalists. In 1998 the Timeless label put together The 30s Girls, a 25-track album of jazz and blues records cut during the years 1932-1940, and featuring six different women accompanied by musicians of the finest caliber. Texas native Monette Moore, for example, is paired with pianist Fats Waller and backed by a group billed as her Swing Shop Boys; the only member of that band who has been identified is pianist Sammy Price. While Ivie Anderson and Jerry Kruger both had ties to the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Kruger's Knights of Rhythm included trumpeter Frankie Newton and alto saxophonist Pete Brown, as well as clarinetist Buster Bailey, bassist John Kirby, and drummer O'Neill Spencer, soon to form 50-percent of Kirby's highly acclaimed Sextet. Rosetta Crawford is backed by a group that has been listed both as her -- or James P. Johnson's -- Hep Cats; this solid little band contained trumpeter Tommy Ladnier and clarinetist Mezz Mezzrow; guitarist Teddy Bunn, string bassist Elmer James, and drummer Zutty Singleton. Kruger's other group on this collection features two stars of the Count Basie Orchestra, trumpeter Buck Clayton and saxophonist Lester Young; whereas Alberta Hunter's pianists were Eddie Heywood, Jr. and Alex Hill. For many listeners the least familiar name included here will be that of Amanda Randolph (1896-1967), a native of Louisville, KY who is generally remembered as an actress. In addition to years of stage experience and a series of player piano rolls she cut in 1919-1920, she was one of the very first African-American performers to appear on television, and was seen on the Amos 'n' Andy, Beulah, and Danny Thomas shows. The best thing about her backup band is the presence of trumpeter Louis "King" Garcia, whose creative manipulation of the plunger mute is extraordinary. Even as she belts out "He May Be Your Man (But He Comes to See Me Sometimes)" like a real barrelhouse entertainer and gets in the swing of things with "Doin' the Suzie-Q," Randolph's delivery during "For Sentimental Reasons" reveals her strong theatrical background and practical experience in the motion picture industry. Her presence here adds another dimension to an album already brimming with impressive talent. Compared with many similarly titled compilations, The 30s Girls is an unusually satisfying resource that covers a healthy range of styles and moods as it epitomizes the jazzy, bluesy, swinging sounds of the challenging decade that preceded the Second World War.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf