Vocalist Ethel Waters recorded and toured with Fletcher Henderson in the 1920s. Appearing with both black and white star-studded bands, she popularised classics like "St Louis Blues", "Dinah" and "Am I Blue". Broadway beckoned, in the shape of the all-black musical "Africana", in 1927, followed by "Blackbirds Of 1930" and "Rhapsody In Black". Irving Berlin wrote three songs for her to sing in "As Thousands Cheer" and, for the first time on Broadway, a female black artist was given equal billing with her white co-stars.
In 1940 Ethel secured the part of Petunia in "Cabin In The Sky" - a stage musical and movie score which gave her five great songs re-issued on this CD. Ethel returned to the recording studio a few times, notably with a backing group assembled under drummer J. C. Heard's name. Six of the eight tracks cut that April day in 1946 are included here: Ethel reprises "Am I Blue" and "Dinah" in versions that still hark back to her first performances of these songs, and four Leonard Feather originals. A further session the following year with just pianist Reggie Beane as accompanist provided Ethel with the opportunity to revisit more of her old repertoire including a superior version of "Summertime" and a stand-out rendering of Berlin's "Supper Time". Two tracks with the Bob Davis Singers conclude the programme.