At five feet two inches in height, Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon was one of the tiniest performers in all of early to mid-20th century African-American entertainment. His often disarmingly funny vocal outbursts were delivered in tones that led and still lead many listeners to mistake him for a woman. Not surprisingly, Half Pint was an accomplished female impersonator as well as a comedian, dancer, pianist, saxophonist, songwriter, bandleader, and stage manager. Born in 1895 in Montgomery, AL, he came up in Kansas City and spent years touring the black vaudeville circuit (sometimes assisting Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith) while operating mainly out of Chicago. On this first of three volumes, which covers his entire output dating from May 1926 through July 1929, Half Pint is heard with pianists Blanche Smith Walton, Cow Cow Davenport, and Georgia Tom Dorsey; guitarist Tampa Red, cornetist Freddie Keppard, Banjo Ikey Robinson & His Bull Fiddle Band, New Orleans bassist Bill Johnson's Louisiana Jug Band, and the Cotton Top Mountain Sanctified Singers, who back him on "She's Coming Round the Mountain," otherwise known as "Charmin' Betsy" and recorded around the same time by traveling Texas folk/blues troubadour Henry Thomas. Tune for tune, this first volume is by far the best Half Pint collection ever put together on CD. It contains some of his most dazzling performances ("I'm Gonna Steal You," "Corrine," "My Four Reasons," "Get the 'L' on Down the Road") in addition to two recordings that contain some of his very best moments on record, and therefore the best examples of his artistry. "Don't Drink It in Here" is an outrageously funny depiction of a police raid on a good time flat, while "Willie the Weeper" is the perfect encapsulation of Half Pint's one-of-a-kind delivery, complete with high pitched guffaws and a punchy rhythmic pacing that other singers were rarely able to achieve or sustain.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf
feat: Ikey Robinson & His Band