Ida Cox

Ida Cox: The Essential

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As is the case with most every "Essential" collection in the Classic Blues catalog, The Essential Ida Cox is a double-disc sampling of representative selections drawn from the artist's primary period of performing and recording activity. In her case, that formula is placed within a time frame from June 1923 through December 1940, across which 36 titles are strewn in vaguely chronological order, if only because the examples from 1939 and 1940 are tossed into the second half of the collection. Throughout much of this anthology Cox is backed by small groups under the leadership of pianist Lovie Austin and variously including trumpeter Tommy Ladnier, clarinetist Jimmy O'Bryant, and alto saxophonist Charles Harris. Cox's pianist during the late '20s was often Jesse Crump, who helped her compose the "Death Letter Blues," the "Deep Sea Blues," and the "Last Mile Blues." Examples of Crump's piano technique may be heard on the "Pleading Blues," "Hard Oh Lawd," "Seven Day Blues," "Mojo Hand Blues," "Lost Man Blues," the "Midnight Hour Blues," and the "Give Me a Break Blues." In February, 1924, Cox recorded "Down the Road Blues" and "Mean Lovin' Man Blues" with the Pruitt Twins, who were both named Miles. These intimate offerings will compare nicely with Ma Rainey's Pruitt Twins recordings ("Dream Blues" and "Lost Wandering Blues"), which were cut in March 1924. Other noteworthy presences include Papa Charlie Jackson, who is credited as the composer of "How Long, Daddy, How Long"; cornetists B.T. Wingfield, and (King Oliver's nephew) Dave Nelson; trombonists Roy Palmer and Charlie Green, and pianist Tiny Parham, as well as a quintet led by Fletcher Henderson billed as Ida Cox's Five Blue Spells. The later recordings were made by two powerful swing bands that collectively included trumpeters Henry "Red" Allen and Hot Lips Page, trombonist J.C. Higginbotham, clarinetist Edmond Hall, pianists James P. Johnson and Cliff Jackson, electric guitarist Charlie Christian, and, on some tracks, Lionel Hampton behind the drum set. An amazing lineup for a legendary vocalist. While other chronologically stacked Ida Cox retrospectives demonstrate the gradual evolution of her artistry, The Essential Ida Cox will work well as an all-purpose stash containing many of her very best recordings.

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