Sunday, December 30, 2007

Some outstanding 2007 Jazz Releases

Completing my lists of recordings I found outstanding from 2007 is a list of Jazz. This list includes new and historical releases. I have linked several of the releases to appropriate prior blog entries.

Ahmed Abdullah - Solomonic Quintet - (Silkheart). Strong freebop session
Louis Armstrong - In Scandinavia (Storyville) 4 CDs that include 1933 performances said to be first live jazz recordings. Others date from 1952-1967.
Peter Brotzmann - The Complete Machine Gun Sessions - (Atavistic) Free jazz to cleanse your soul by in these reissued recordings.
Von Freeman - Good Forever (Premonition) Another great session by the great Chicago tenor.
Janine Gilbert-Carter - Live at the 15th Annual FMJS East Jazz Festival (Jazz Karma) She is DC artist and a terrific vocalist at 2006 performance.
Clifford Jordan - Glass Bead Games (Harvest Song) Reissue of legendary Strata East double album by neglected tenor saxophonist with two different quartets. Bassist Bill Lee (Spike's dad) is heard on some of these performances.
King Oliver - Off The Record: The Complete 1923 Jazz Band Recordings (Off the Record -Archeophone). Amazing reissue of legendary recordings. These recordings have never sounded as good as they do here.
Mel Martin/Benny Carter Quintet - Just Friends (Jazzed Media®) Marvelous album of live performances issued to help celebrate centenary of legendary Benny Carter
Frank Morgan - A Night in the Light: Live at the Jazz Standard Vol. 3 (HighNote) Recently he passed away and this is stupendous disc.
Houston Person with Bill Charlap - You Taught My Heart to Sing (HighNote)
Quintette Marianne Trudel - Live: Sands of Time (TRUD) Marvelous recording, mostly live by wonderful pianist and composer with a solo track, several trio tracks and her marvelous quintet. (link is to blog entry on her and not review of this disc)
Soul Con Timba - Live at Bohemian Caverns (DEJF) Recorded in DC and a terrific fusion of Latin jazz and hard bop.
Charles Tolliver Big Band - With Love (Mosaic/Blue Note) Superb big band album by trumpeter and composer who made a number of challenging recordings in the sixties and seventies that have never received the acclaim they merited. Hot big band with terrific arrangements and brings fresh approach to Monk's 'Round Midnight.
Various - Gypsy Jazz (Proper) 4CD reissue (with excellent booklet) of Django Reinhardt, his contemporaries, associates others including Baro Ferret, Oscar Aleman, and Stéphane Grappelli.
Bennie Wallace - Disorder at the Border (Enja/Justin Time) Great tribute to Coleman Hawkins by tenor player with superb band.
Larry Willis, Blue Fable (HighNote). Excellent quintet date with bassist Eddie Gomez, and drummer Billy Drummord, with three tracks also having saxophonist Joe Ford and trombonist Steve Davis.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Some Outstanding Blues Reissues of 2007

In a second of three posts here are some reissues of first release of vintage blues and R&B that I believe merits your consideration. I have links to my reviews of the cds on this blog.
Andrew Brown - Big Brown Blues (Black Magic) Magic collection by singer who may superficially be described as in the style of Little Milton.
Johnnie Taylor - Live at the Summit Club (Stax). The Soul Philospher in a great live performance from time of Wattstax with a heavy blues emphasis on material.
Henry Townsend - The Real St. Louis Blues (Arcola) Distinctive acoustic blues by one who performed with Robert Johnson, Lonnie Johnson, Roosevelt Sykes, Walter Davis and others. His minor key piano blues are particularly moving. This label has some really important releases out and I do not believe they have been publicized but they certainly deserve. I became aware of this label last year so even though its a pre-2007 release I am including it.
Various - Bullet Records Blues (SPV Blue). Excellent collection of blues by the likes of Walter Davis and St. Louis Jimmy that was issued on Nashville label.
Various - Bullet Records Rhythm & Blues (SPV Blue). Another of Fred James' compilations of vintage Nashville labels with some great jump blues starting with Wyonnie Harris (with Sun Ra on piano). He has other notable reissues on SRV Blue of the Champion and other labels, but these two on Bullet are musically the finest.
Various - Crescent City Bounce (JSP) Wonderful European public domain 4 CD set of rare New Orleans recordings including great sides by Archibald, Smilin’ Joe, Roosevelt Sykes, Tommy Ridgely, Earl King and others.
Various - Down Home Blues Classics- (2CDS) California & West Coast 48-54 (Boulevard Vintage). Simply stunning downhome blues performances by the likes of KC Douglas, Sidney Maiden, Black Diamond, Little Son Willis, Haskell Sadler, Slim Green and others
Various - Down Home Blues Classics- (2CDS) Memphis & the South (Boulevard Vintage). Another compilation of terrific downhome blues with Willie Love, Willie Nix, Joe Hill Louis, Lightning Slim, Schoolboy Cleve, Big Joe Williams, John Lee, Luther Huff, Dr. Ross and more.
Various - MERCURY RECORDS- (2CDS) The New Orleans Sessions 1950 & 1953 (Bear Family). Expanded compilation that includes early recordings by Professor Longhair and others (including Lee Allen's first recordings as a sideman).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Outstanding New Blues Recordings of 2007

The first of three posts to include CDs that I consider outstanding releases of 2007. This focuses on the blues and soul releases. I have links to reviews posted on this blog.

Carey Bell & Lurrie Bell - Gettin’ Up Live (Delmark) Last recordings of harp icon with son who played DC many times. Also available on DVD.
Lurrie Bell - Let’s Talk About Love (Aria B.G. Records) Excellent disc by Carey's son
Nappy Brown - Long Time Coming (Blind Pig) Excellent disc by veteran singer with DC area's Big Joe Maher on drums
Franklin & Baytop - Searchin’ For Frank - (Patuxent) DC area artists doing terrific acoustic blues
Billy Gibson - Southern Livin’ (Inside Memphis)
ZZ Jill Jr - Goin' To Mississippi (Delta Roots) Great soul blues recording by Chicago based singer
The Holmes Brothers - State of Grace (Alligator) Marvelous album that defis categorization
Marie Knight - Let Us Get Together: A Tribute to Reverend Gary Davis (MC) (Inspired tribute to the legendary fingerpinker)
Frankie Lee - Standing at the Crossroads (Blues Express) One of my favorites singers.
Lady Bianca - Through A Woman's Eyes (Magic-O) Amazing good singer and pianist. Marcia Ball has nothing on her.
Little Milton - The Last Concert - (Juke Joint Media). The last performance a few weeks before he suffered stroke and passed. I have DVD but I believe there is CD of this. I was there.
New Orleans Rhythm Conspiracy -Dancin' Ground (self-produced). Post-Katrina band formed by members of Walter Woilfman Washington's RoadMasters, bassist Jack Cruz and drummer Wilbert 'Junkyard Dog' Arnold along with guitarist George Sartin with Uganda Roberts, Jimmy Carpenter and the Wolfman present on a set of blues, soul-funk and Mardi Gras Indian chants. Marilyn Barbarin and Tyrone Pollard handle the vocals with Brother Tyrone covering Blue Moon Risin', one of my favorite Wolfman Washington recordings (Wolfman and Cruz wrote it) updated for post-Katrina comments.
Nick Moss & the Flip Tops - Play It ‘Til Tomorrow (Blue Bella) Great double album of Chicago blues, one electric in style of Magic Slim and the Teardrops and the other acoustic
John Németh - Magic Touch (Blind Pig)
Darrell Nulisch - Goin’ Back to Dallas (Severn)
Papa Grows Funk - Mr. Patterson's Hat (self-produced) Latest recording by New Orleans and his jamming funk band that includes guitarist June Yamagishi, and drummer Jeffrey 'Jellybean' Alexander
Big Pete Pearson - I’m Here Baby (Blue Witch)
Tad Robinson - A New Point of View (Severn)
Ryan Shaw - This is Ryan Shaw (Columbia) Amazing twenties singer brings Wilson Pickett and others to life
Roscoe Shelton - Save Me (SRV Blue Late veteran Nashville R&B blues shouter
Various - House Rockin’ and Blues Shoutin’!, (Blue Witch)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Trix Stopped Walking


The Trix label was started by Peter Lowry in the 1970s and included field and studio recordings of a number of blues artists who unfortunately are no longer with us. Included were two marvelous Robert Lockwood albums that I believe are in print on Savoy Jazz as The Complete Trix Recordings. Also were equally good recordings, many in the Piedmont tradition and by lesser known but by no means lesser blues performers. The November 1994 Jazz & Blues Report ran my review of three of these albums that were reissued on Muse in the early 1990s but probably only available on ebay or some select mail order specialists such as bluebeatmusic.com. Here is my review from 1994:

Muse Records has released several new Trix reissues on compact disc, as they continue to make available the label’s important documentation of East Coast bluesmen. Like the original four releases, these include reproductions of the original covers and liner notes with an addendum from producer Peter Lowry.

The Guitar Shorty of Alone In His Field (Trix 3306) is a different individual than David “Guitar Shorty” Kearney, who currently records for Black Top. Born John Henry Fontescue, he was a North Carolina native when Lowry located him there in Elm City. While he recorded for Savoy in 1952, his recordings (as Hootin’ Owl) were not released. When discovered in Elm City, he was living in pretty poor conditions, but little of that could be heard in his ebullient recordings, which show influences including Blind Boy Fuller and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Like Bukka White he could create blues spontaneously with unusual twists, occasionally scatting as on Boogie, Now. A limited, and not completely apt reference point would be describing Guitar Shorty as an East Coast Jesse Thomas, but that only partially suggests his wonderful and totally unique music which employs his own unique tuning. Lowry mentions that there is more material from this gentleman who died in 1975. This is an album that anybody seriously interested in acoustic or older blues must get.

Compared to Guitar Shorty, Henry Johnson may come across as conventional on his album, Union County Flash (Trix 3304), but that doesn’t take away from the fact he was an excellent artist. On an album of originals, and his own unique adaptations of traditional blues, Johnson emerges as a facile fingerpicker (his playing on Crow Jane stands up well to Carl Martin’s classic 78), as well as a capable player of bottleneck using a knife on the exhilarating John Henry. Peg Leg Sam adds his rough-edged country blues harp on the house party number Boogie, Baby and My Dog’s Blues, a slow blues. Rufe’s Impromptu Rag is a delightful instrumental which mixes a bit of blues, gospel, ragtime and country. Playing in a variety of settings and tunings, Henry Johnson remains another long gone master of the Carolina blues tradition, and it is hard to believe it’s been two decades since he passed away. Acoustic blues of this level is far rarer to find today.

Rufe appears on a couple of tracks on Peg Leg Sam’s Medicine Show Man (Trix 3302). His real name was Arthur Jackson and he lost his right leg below the knee while riding the freights. As the album title states, Peg Leg Sam played medicine shows. Sonny Terry provides an obvious reference point as Sam comes out of the same basic musical tradition, plays in a similar, but not derivative, fashion, and sings in a similar husky style. In addition to Henry Johnson’s two accompaniments, four tracks feature’s Baby Tate’s nimble guitar, while Ode to Bad Bill and Born in Hard Luck are narratives, adding diversity to a mix of folk songs and Piedmont blues from the Blind Boy Fuller school. In addition to an unusual treatment of the old folk song Reuben, Sam has two spectacular features for his vocals and harp playing, his treatment of Lost John, and Peg’s Fox Chase. His harmonica pyrotechnics certainly will impress the most jaded listener. Certainly this is a must for those who enjoy rural blues harmonica playing.

Omar Sharriff's modern piano blues

The career of pianist Omar Sharriff demonstrates that talent and originality does not necessarily result in success. One of the most distinctive blues pianists, an evocative vocalist, and a songwriter whose lyrics capture the bittersweet reality of modern urban life, it may be Sharriff’s refusal to compromise his beliefs, or the rawness of his blues, that led to his relative lack of recordings, or commercial success in music. Black Widow Spider, his 1994 release on the Have Mercy label mixed striking versions of classic blues with powerful originals. Fingers of Fate is a splendid piano boogie, while Seven Years of Torture depicts his years living in Clovis, a town full of rednecks and fruit growers, and a very bad romance. In contrast, Fire of Fury features his rap with a forceful commentary on the Rodney King beating and the Los Angeles riots. He personalizes Ray Charles’ Greenbacks, and the Joe Williams-Count Basie classic recording Smack Dab in the Middle, reworked almost like Don’t Start Me To Talkin’ with harp. His choice of covers shows him not bound by categories but his version of All Across the Watchtower is spoiled by messy blues-rock guitar. Sharriff is a fascinating pianist who mixes jazz, gospel and other idioms with the blues. Saxophonist Steve Ghundi is a first rate player whose accompaniments and solos are thoughtful, and responsive to Sharriff’s lead. This was an important album by an major, under recorded artist. I checked and the Have Mercy website lists this as available. It would be worth checking the website for order info.
This is revised version of the review from October 1994 Jazz & Blues Report.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mercy Dee's Troublesome Blues

It was back in the early 1990s that Arhoolie made available its 1961 recordings by Texas pianist-singer Mercy Dee Walton Troublesome Mind. Mercy Dee, who died in 1962, was one of the more distinctive performers and lyricists of the postwar blues. You may not have heard his Specialty recording, One Room Country Shack, but are likely familiar with other recordings of the song (Including Buddy Guy) and will have a sense of the powerful lyrical imagery conveyed (“People, I sitting here a thousand miles from nowhere. Here in my one room country little shack,”). The album includes a remake of it along with several songs employing the same melody as well as also possess distinctive and equally compelling lyrics like Have You Ever Been Out In The Country. While not as extroverted a showman as other Texas born pianists who moved to the West Coast such as Amos Milburn and Little Willie Littlefield, Mercy Dee played crisply and thoughtfully. On the slow pieces he plays a spare bass while playing authoritatively with his right hand. He certainly could barrelhouse with the best of them as on Mercy’s Shuffle or the rocking Red Light, with his clever use of rhymes in the tradition of What’d I Say. Mercy Dee's straightforward vocals mixed with his lyrical imagery and solid piano (backed by among others K.C. Douglas and Sidney Maiden) packed a real punch. This is a first rate reissue.

(This is rewritten from my original review which appeared in the February 1992 Jazz & Blues Report.