Bertha “Chippie” Hill 1925-1929
Bertha “Chippie” Hill
With contributions by;
Richard M Jones
Genres; Female Blues Vocal / Jazz.
Extensive, detailed booklet notes by CoIin J. Bray.
The majority of Bertha Chippie Hill’s records were made for the General Phonograph Corporation and later for the Okeh Phonograph Corporation, and issued on their Okeh label. Consequently the company’s A. and R. man in Chicago, Richard M. Jones influenced the choice of material Chippie Hill was to record, the majority of the songs being written by him. Fortunately he wrote some excellent blues and was a fine pianist too, being present on many of the tracks on this CD. Ten selections also feature the remarkable cornet playing of Louis Armstrong. Louis had taken a tough decision to break away from King Oliver’s band in late 1924 and soon thereafter joined Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra in New York. On his return to Chicago in early November 1925, the very first records he was to make were Low Land Blues
and Kid Man Blues
accompanying Chippie Hill. The first of his classic Hot Five records were made for Okeh just three days later. Within a few months Louis was back in the Okeh studios to accompany Chippie again. This session produced one of the most outstanding jazz inspired blues records of alt time Trouble In Mind
. Louis’ long introduction sets the theme for Chippie, who passionately belts out the words. Rudi Blesh, in his book “Shining Trumpets’ was absolutely right in describing her singing on this record as fervent.
Jones’ own band accompanies Chippie on five titles. As was the case for any New Orleans musician, Jones surrounded himself with other men from the crescent city including Preston Jackson, Cliff “Snag” Jones and the outstanding Johnny St. Cyr. Shirley Clay had the unenviable task of filling in Louis’ shoes in which he does a creditable job.
The first two sides made for Vocalion in mid-October 1928. Some Cold Rainy Day
and Weary Money Blues
, find Chippie with Georgia Tom and Tampa.
The two final sides bring Georgia Tom and Tampa Red back into the studio to accompany Chippie in her last recordings from the early stage of her career. Fortunately the veteran jazz pioneer Bill Johnson (he was 56 when this record was made) was present on string bass. His big, sonorous tone drives these two sides and is as good an example of superlative New Orleans bass playing that has ever been recorded. I Ain’t Gonna Do lt No More
is a lovely slow blues, beautifully sung by Chippie with Bill Johnson slapping the bass strings, moving back and forth between 2/4 and 4/4 time. Pratt City Blues
is an absolute gem with the usual expected fine vocal from Chippie but it is Bill Johnson again who drives the band accompaniment. He slaps the bass in the introduction and then, in typical New Orleans bass style, switches to bowing a single chorus before returning to slapping the strings throughout the rest of the side. At one point a band member cries out, “pull it boy”, referring to the time honoured New Orleans style of pulling the strings away from the bass and allowing them to snap back against the neck.