Bessie Smith

Empty Bed Blues [Living Era]

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Bessie Smith was enormously popular, selling millions of records as one of the leading classic blues singers, a diva-featuring genre that drew from early 20th century vaudeville, jazz, and popular music. Smith recorded plenty of 12-bar blues, including raunchier songs like "Kitchen Man." Other songs, like W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues," were built like Tin Pan Alley tunes but were given the blues-like accompaniment of piano and one horn. The sideman credits reveal the degree of Smith's stardom in the '20s; on these recordings, which cover a decade of her work, she's accompanied by the cream of the era's jazz musicians, from Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden to James P. Johnson, Eddie Lang, and a small group led by Fletcher Henderson.

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