Thursday, January 13, 2011

Robert Lockwood's Complete Trix Recordings Is Blues Reissue Blues Gem

Continuing my retrospective of the music of the late Robert Lockwood, Jr., here is a review that appeared in May-April 2004 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 267). The drummer on the Contrasts session, George Cook, had been a member of an organ trio that included Rashaan Roland Kirk. The cover illustrated was from an earlier reissue of this material. This CD is out-of-print, but worth checking out on ebay and other sources for out-of-print CDs.

The word legend is overused, but it is an appropriate one when discussing Robert Lockwood, Jr. Perhaps best known for his relationship to Robert Johnson, Lockwood was a pioneering electric blues guitarist in the Mississippi delta who played with such legends as Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Eddie Boyd, and Roosevelt Sykes, and was a session guitarist in demand in Chicago. Living in Cleveland since the sixties, an appearance at the second Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1970 led to his reemergence in the National blues scene, although this time as the leading figure of his group. Savoy Jazz has just reissued The Complete Trix Recordings which makes available his 1973 album Contrasts and his 1975 session, Does 12. This was previously issued on Muse-Trix around 1978 and it’s great to have this back in print.

Contrasts included 14 tracks, some with just bassist Gene Schwartz and others with a full band which included tenor saxophonist Maurice Reedus and drummer George Cook. Opening with the stunning slide guitar of Little Boy Blue, the album includes a remake of Robert Johnson’s Dust My Broom (which Lockwood initially recorded prior to Elmore James, although his recording was not issued until after James’) along with St. Louis Jimmy’s Come Day, Go Day, his uptown Hold Everything, and the wistful Forever on My Mind. The progressive boppish tinge to the music is evident on the instrumental Majors, Minors and Ninths, which is a feature for saxophonist Reedus.

Does 12 refers to the fact that Lockwood had started using a twelve-string guitar that his wife Annie gave him. Guitarist Mark Hahn is added and Jimmy Jones replaces George Cook on a session that swings and drives hard. From the opening funky reworking of Rosco Gordon’s Just a Little Bit to the cooking reworking of the radio theme from the King Biscuit radio show, King Biscuit Time, the album again shows the breadth of the musical reach of Lockwood and band. There are band reworkings of several Robert Johnson numbers including Terraplane Blues and Walkin’ Blues, a nice feature for Reedus on the Gene Ammons derived, Red Top and a choice blues ballad, Selfish Ways.  

Listening to the subtle nuances in Lockwood’s tone and his mix of chord and single note runs is are a refreshing break from the dime a dozen Stevie Ray clones out there. This is very nice stuff indeed.

I was likely provided a review copy of this CD by Jazz & Blues Report.

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