For generations of musicians and historians, Mildred Bailey remains the most important female jazz singer of the pre-Billie Holiday/Ella Fitzgerald swing era.

For generations of musicians and historians, Mildred Bailey remains the most important female jazz singer of the pre-Billie Holiday/Ella Fitzgerald swing era. Sadly, Bailey has been overlooked in recent years; happily, this remarkable 10-disc, 214-performance compendium of her 1929-42 work for Columbia rectifies the situation. In addition to recording with such giants as Benny Goodman, Paul Whiteman, and xylophone king (and one-time husband) Red Norvo, Bailey surrounded herself with such top session players as Mary Lou Williams, Roy Eldridge, and Teddy Wilson. While Bailey was sometimes saddled with those creepy, "dear old Southland" tunes of the era, she also recorded fistfuls of such now-standards as "Ghost of a Chance," "Georgia on My Mind," "All of Me," and "Old Rockin' Chair." Frankly, Bailey could sing along to the phone book and still touch hearts. The remastering here is ideal, and alternate takes abound. Will Friedwald's liner notes omit nothing.—BH

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