Even though they have the most expressive faces imaginable, so many inspiring jazz players and singers were passed over by film producers because they weren’t conventionally “attractive.” Think of how wonderful it would be to see Mildred Bailey sing. Alas.
But here are two clips of jazz / blues singers that we are lucky to have. And, coincidentally or not, the blues they are singing talk about Love, from very different perspectives.
First, the under-acknowledged Ida Cox, “Miss Ida” to even the most illustrious musicians, captured here with her husband, pianist Jesse Crump, some time in the Forties. I can’t find the source of this clip — which seems to be two versions of “‘Fore Day Creep” from different camera angles, spliced together. “‘Fore Day” is almost always incorrectly written and conceived as “Four Day Creep,” which suggests that the Wandering Man will be away Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Nay nay, to quote Louis. It’s “‘fore day,” as in “before sunrise,” but logic is elusive for some people.
Miss Ida looks healthy, assured, sure of herself and her advice. I love the Twenties hand gestures as well as the nimble, rippling piano accompaniment — a mixture of tidy minimalist stride and slowed-down boogie woogie figures. And her commentary? It might strike some as pre-feminist, but it comes from the same tributary as the song DON’T ADVERTISE YOUR MAN. Obviously, it’s a pre-internet conception of what can be kept private!
Here’s another bit of enticing memorabilia: an autographed Ida Cox publicity picture.
The second clip comes from a May 1965 BBC television program called JAZZ 625, which featured Humphrey Lyttelton and some of jazz’s finest players and singers: here, Big Joe Turner, Buck Clayton, and Vic Dickenson — here with Tony Coe, tenor sax; Joe Temperley, baritone sax, Eddie Harvey, piano; Dave Green, bass; Johnny Butts, drums. The song is CHAINS OF LOVE, much sadder and more uncertain — although Big Joe looks so powerful and assured here that the pleading questions he is asking of His Woman must be purely rhetorical. This clip also gives us Vic Dickenson up close, a beret over the bell of his horn, playing the blues ever so masterfully. Vic sang on his horn better than most singers.
Perhaps these two performances speak to our age much more that Petrarch spoke to his.