Helen Humes

Complete 1927-1950 Studio Recordings

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A superb vocalist even at the age of 13, Helen Humes rarely left that peak of performance, appearing in front of some of the most swinging jump tunes as well as the most affecting jazz ballads during her long career. Like Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington, Humes was an early resonator with the blues, which allowed her the intensity of feeling to carry across any type of material with conviction and passion. Jazz Factory, the superb Spanish reissue label, obliged fans of Humes and vocal music alike with a three-disc collection of recordings from the first quarter-century of her career. While still a teenager, she sounded very mature (artistically and otherwise) for a series of ten 1927 risqué blues titles like "If Papa Has Outside Lovin'" and "Do What You Did Last Night." Off record for ten years but apparently still growing as a singer, Humes reappeared in 1937 on two Harry James sessions with a sublime gloss on up-tempo swinging blues reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald. She recorded three dozen excellent sides during the mid-'40s in front of bands led by Bill Doggett and Buck Clayton, and recorded the hit "Be-Baba-Leba" (which came from her own pen) with Doggett in 1945. Another title from the same year, "Voo-It," illustrates that Humes was an excellent scatter and also one of those musician vocalists who loved nothing more than hearing a great solo from one of her sidemen -- in this case, it's the crying trumpet of Snooky Young. She revisited the double entendre several times during 1947, and foreshadowed the direction of her '50s recordings with solid torch songs like "Time Out for Tears" and "Sad Feeling." An authoritative collection of Humes' early recordings, Complete 1927-1950 Recordings includes a wealth of enjoyable sides, though less-invested listeners will find much of what they want courtesy of the Best of Jazz compilation Her Best Recordings: 1927-1947 or Classics volumes like 1927-1945 and 1945-1947.

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