Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cake Walkin’ is Tasty Jump Blues Confectionery

Can there be little doubt we are blessed in terms of the availability of some terrific rhythm & blues from the music’s golden age of the forties through the sixties with the reissue of so much material. Add to this abundance of musical riches a new reissue from Ace Records in the UK from the Modern Records vault, “Cake Walkin’: The Modern Recordings 1947-1948,” by the Al ‘Cake’ Wichard Sextette. Wichard, born in Arkansas, but resident as a drummer, and participated in a number of the early post-war sessions out in the West Coast.

This is small group jump blues at the highest level which benefited from the presence of the great Jay McShann on piano for a number of tracks. It certainly did not hurt that the group was also fronted by vocalists Duke Henderson and Jimmy Witherspoon. Some of the selections by Spoon may have been issued on one of the Ace Witherspoon reissues (“Geneva Blues”), but others are alternates such as the risque “Daddy Pinocchio,” “Sweet Lovin’ Woman,” “Big Fine Gal,” and “Thelma lee Blues.” Some of the earlier sides were issued under Wichard’s name as McShann and Witherspoon were under contract to Mercury at the time. Included is Spoon’s excellent rendition of “I Want a Little Girl,” associated with Jimmy Rushing, and “Roll ‘Em Boy,” a thinly worded take on “Roll ‘Em Pete,” that Joe Turner waxed with Pete Johnson. Henderson himself accounts himself quite well on “His Majesty's Boogie,” and “Gravels in My Pillow.”

Several instrumentals are interspersed here like the two takes of “Junction Drive,” featuring McShann. The last two selections, “Boogie Woogie Basement,” and “Boogie Woogie Upstairs,” may have McShann on piano but feature guitarist Pee Wee Crayton. I’m not sure who the guitarist is on the McShann instrumental “Slow Lope,” but his playing is excellent as is McShann’s. There is also some excellent tenor saxophone (like behind Spoon on “Good Lover Blues,” which employs the “T’Ain’t Nobody’s Business” melody). Tony Rounce’s annotation details what we know about these recordings and Wichard and completes this superb jump blues reissue.

This is available from Bluebeat Music and other better internet stores.

1 comment:

D.S. Williamson said...

I wholeheartedly agree. I'd like to see them reissue as much as they have. Not that todays performers aren't good but there's just something special about those who wrote the book on the blues.
D.S. Williamson