Ida Blue, consisting of Mara Kaye on vocals, Dan Reitz on trombone, and Dalton Ridenhour on piano, does old-timey Prohibition- and Depression-era blues, with breaks in sets covered by Mr. Ridenhour’s stride piano stylings. They are the stuff of a 1920s or ‘30s hothouse or speakeasy. They sound like they come straight from a 78 – that is, absolutely contemporary and true, without a hint of formal replication. Ms. Kaye’s voice bears a resemblance to Mamie Smith or Sippie Wallace, though with slower tempi, hers is a more introverted style, to which she adds a Betty-Boop-like coy, knowing coquetterie,and a subtlety not apparent on the original records.
The individual members came upon their rarely-heard specialty coaching and studying the craft under aging masters of ragtime, jazz, and blues, and by copious listening to the originals. Of singers, these included Smith and Wallace above, and other notables such as Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Victoria Spivey, and Ida Cox, after whom the ensemble is named. Their deeply studied workmanship only enhances the personalization of their delivery. Ida Blue creates a beautiful sense of ensemble, each member anticipating decisions made by others. This intuition and active listening also help the group avoid parody. They are no costumed museum piece trying to identify as something it’s not – there is no sense of historical re-enactment, of presenting a curious artifact for nostalgia or amusement. Everything they do is alive and reactive, a thing of the performers themselves, and of their own inspiration, experiences, and identities, expressed through the medium of the words and music.
Regarding the texts, they remain very relevant in their pathos, sensuality, desperation, loneliness, or perseverance. The lyrics, for all their euphemisms, remain bracingly explicit, far more so than in many contemporary songs and sundries, where the minimally controversial is stated as coarsely as possible for the easy notoriety of shock value. The frank, unapologetic honesty of Ida Blue’s material and presentation comes across with total commitment. They will not transport the listener back in time, but instead communicate directly, from one person to another, in our shared time and place.
Bluesy and Boozy with Ida Blue
Wednesday, December 14th and January 11th at 8:30
603 Vanderbilt Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11238
Also appearing selected Thursday and Friday evenings at:
627 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215