From the Record Shelves #118

Concentratin’ On You

CD The Old Masters mb 103

There are vocal records and there are records with orchestras featuring a vocal refrain. In the beginning of the 1930s Mildred Bailey was doing records of both kinds. Here she is mostly in a sentimental mood, but I prefer when she displays her feeling for light swing, so I’ve chosen this up-tempo tune that also was recorded by Connie Boswell. The lyrics are funny. Paul Whiteman’s sideman and sometimes arranger Matty Malneck shows off his improvisational skills on violin, and he is also the formal band leader of the session.

Mildred’s former experiences don’t seem very glorious. She was the sister of Al Rinker that were one of the Rhythm Boys with Bing Crosby and Harry Barris. After a short marriage where she got the name Bailey, she married a bootlegger in the mid-twenties and was singing in a speakeasy in Los Angeles.

When Paul Whiteman came west in 1929 to shoot the film King of Jazz she invited the band to have dinner on a Saturday night. When her brother coxed her to sing a song Whiteman heard it from the kitchen, liked what he heard and gave her a contract on Monday morning.

Soon when the swing era broke out and the big bands began their business it became standard to feature a female refrain singer. For Mildred Bailey her career then was largely connected to her musical partnership with her new husband vibraphonist and xylophonist Red Norvo. She was more of a jazz singer than the rest and the two got the epithet “Mr and Mrs Swing”.