The history of female jazz singers often tends to read like an episode of VH1's Behind the Music. They worked their way up, got famous, styles changes; fame decreased, in came the drugs, etc. This CD and companion book present many artists, many of whom fit this description. The CD itself is an average jazz compilation. It looks at a wide array of artists, including Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, and Doris Day. The album contains mostly original recordings, with the exception of Alberta Hunter's "Somebody Loves Me" and Ernestine Anderson's "I Love Being Here With You," which were recorded much later in their careers. With all of the jazz compilations out there, one could definitely find a more definitive collection. However Andrew G. Hager's 72-page book is an extremely well written counter part making the CD seem much weaker by comparison. The book traces the history of jazz from its roots to the 1950s. Although not getting into to much detail about each particular offshoot, he explains how the different styles came about and who the most famous female singers were during each period. The book even devotes a section to the importance the microphone's invention and how that helped push vocalists, both male and female, to the forefront of bands. While jazz aficionados will no doubt find some rather gaping holes in the history, overall this book provides a great introduction to the history of early popular jazz, even if the CD lags a bit behind.
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AllMusic Review by Curtis Zimmermann