Friday, February 05, 2010

Jimmy Rushing & the Two Cool Tenors

I am a long time fan of Mr. 5 X 5 and the chance to review a recent previously unissued recording by the former Count Basie singer is something I could not resist. The review originally appeared in June 2009 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 317 and on page 15), which can be downloaded at

Jimmy Rushing is best known for his association with the classic Count Basie Orchestra for whom he was the principal male vocalist for a period of over 15 years. His acquaintance with Basie began much earlier as he was a member of the legendary Blue Devils, and after that band disbanded, they both were part of Benny Moten’s well regarded band.

The blues shouter, known as Mr. 5 by 5 reflecting his stocky build, was an important part of the Basie band with his blues and ballad singing. After leaving Basie, he made a number of excellent albums for such labels as Vanguard and Columbia, but thanks to High Note, we can add to Rushing’s discography the marvelous, previously unissued 1965 performances with a small combo that included tenor saxophonists Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, “The Scene: Live in New York.”

Included on this are eight vocals by Rushing but such staples of his time with Basie as “Deed I Do,” “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You?,” “I Want a Little Girl,” “Goin’ to Chicago,” “I Cried For You,” and “Good Morning Blues,” with Cohn and Sims adding their voice with a rhythm section generally comprised of Dave Frishberg, either Major Holley or James Beal on bass and Mousey Alexander on drums. The remastering of the tapes by Jon Rosenberg is first-rate as Rushing’s voice has quite a presence here. The band really swings behind him and their are a number of excellent solos.

In fact it should not be surprising as both Cohn and Sims are among those indebted to Lester Young’s whose tenor enlivened so many of Rushing’s classic recordings with Basie. Sims’ solos on “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You?,” and “I Cried For You,” are especially marvelous with the almost feathery tone. Cohn is heard to best effect on “I Want a Little Girl,” with his somewhat harder tone, but no less swinging style.

Two hot instrumentals with unidentified rhythm sections provide Cohn and Sims with the spotlight and complement the superb Rushing vocals here, that make this such a pleasant surprise that fans of Jimmy Rushing and swinging jazz will want.

For purposes of FTC regulations, my review copy was provided to me by Jazz & Blues Report.

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