The late Joe Williams was one of the great male big band singers from his association with Count Basie, and later remained an extraordinary vocalist of blues, ballads and standards. The following review appeared in the January-February 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 279). I likely received my review copy from that publication
Hyena has just issued a posthumorous release by the great Joe Williams, Havin’ a Good Time! Recorded at Pio’s in Providence, Rhode Island in the snowy winter of 1964, this tape was among the items that the Estate of Joe Williams gave the Hamilton (NY) College jazz Archive.
This is a club recording the great blues and ballad singer backed by the Junior Mance Trio (Bob Cranshaw on bass and MIckey Roker on drums) with Ben Webster joining the proceedings. Sound is generally good with Williams’ voice and Webster’s sax having a definite presence in the mix. The backing trio can be felt if not as prominent listening to this, although Mance has plenty of space for his strong, bluesy piano playing.
There is a real nice mix of material opening with Duke Ellington number Just a Sittin’ and A Rockin’ , using the lyrics of the Delta Rhythm Boys 1946 rendering of this number and a nice song for Webster who took the solo on Ellington’s original. Its followed by Kansas City Blues, Williams’ rendition of the Pete Johnson-Big Joe Turner blues classic, Piney Brown Blues, with Williams pointedly saluting the Boss of the Blues in his intro. While not sure he knew all the words of the standard That’s All, Williams more than gamely handles it for the request of the audience member who braved the blizzard conditions for the show. Also on the program are a couple of Fats Waller classics, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Honeysuckle Rose, some other standards and Williams’ hit Alright, Ok, You Win.
I suspect the presence of Webster is a factor in the release of this material which is a welcome addition to Williams discography. This is a release that is consistently enjoyable, if perhaps not an essential release. It does lead to anticipation of further releases of Williams recordings from the Hamilton College Jazz Archives.