Ida Blue’s is a composite blues style, modeled after Prohibition- and Depression-era singers such as Ida Cox, Bessie and Mamie Smith, Sippie Wallace, and Victoria Spivey. Less rural and more theatrically extroverted than the Delta blues, this was an outlet for women to sing or heartbreak, loss, and loneliness, but with a frank candor and wordplay that was borderline scandalous when heard over the radio and out of the saloon. It was never notated – there is no sheet music. The group had to learn it by ear from the originals, with Ridenhour and Reitz making occasional transcriptions. This also adds to the personalization and spontaneity exhibited by Ida Blue, as they learn their rep in the time honored fashion of listening to it. Blues, after all, was made for this: a prescribed progression with melody, harmony, and counterpoint weaving over, through, and around, half improvised. Ms. Kaye is also musically inspired by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sharon Jones, and Etta James, though much as she loves jazz and soul, she is focusing her present energies on the blues, “enjoying my experience with an era of music that is fresh and exciting to me.”
That Ida Blue arrives at a truth value precisely by not presenting themselves as their historical models should not be taken as a mark of inauthenticity. A living tradition, even in revival, is alive. One learns it firsthand and then continues to evolve it, just as did its progenitors; at no point does it become a matter of static conservation or convention, whether blues or Baroque.
Ida Blue came together as three musicians of very diverse backgrounds, who formed an old-timey blues trio for the best reason of all: because the music connected to them on an immediate and emotional level. No thesis to prove, no classified ads, and no manager or producer with the finished product in mind. As Ms. Kaye said, “It’s been a very natural process. Nothing was forced or pushed. The progression has been organic. Hopefully whatever happens moving forward will fall within that same standard.” Ultimately, there is no magic, no secret to such success: find a voice that speaks to and through you, and nurture it with conviction. Remain open to all influences, yet remain specific in your decisions. It’s the same in any genre, in any art.
Ida Blue will be performing:
New Year’s Eve, Saturday, December 31, 9:00 pm
Freddy’s Backroom and Bar
627 5th Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11215-5434