Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jimmy Rushing's Classic Blues Shouting

Avid Jazz is one of several European Public Domain reissue labels that have compiled reissues of vintage jazz albums primarily from the 1950s and among recent reissues is Four Classic Albums Plus by Jimmy Rushing. Rushing is best known as a vocalist with the classic Count Basie Band of the swing era. His career of course started prior to that and his first recording was made with the legendary Blue Devils. Later he was associated with the Bennie Moten Orchestra which after the leader's death eventually morphed into The Count Basie Band. While more than simply a blues singer, his vocals on such songs as Boogie Woogie, Good Morning Blues, Goin' To Chicago, Sent For You Yesterday, and Don't You Miss Your Baby, led him to be cast as a blues singer. Of course he did sing more than just blues as exemplified by the Hoagie Carmichael classic New Orleans, with Moten as well as such pop tunes and novelties as as Exactly Like You, Boo Hoo, Georgiana, and Mama Don't Want No Peas 'N' Rice 'N' Coconut Oil. Like his blues vocals, he always swung hard with his phrasing and his full-throated and ebullient delivery.

By the 1950s he had established himself as a single artist. He had recorded for Vanguard Records under John Hammond's direction in the early 1950s with members of the Count Basie band and boogie woogie legends like Pete Johnson and Sammy Price. Subsequently he recorded a number of albums for Columbia of which four are featured on this Avid Jazz compilation: Jimmy Rushing and the Smith Gals, Little Jimmy and The Big Brass, Brubeck & Rushing and The Jazz Odyssey of James Rushing Esq. In addition to the music from those albums, these reissues also include a performance from the legendary TV show The Sound of Jazz and a rare British EP, The Way I Feel.

Altogether there are 49 songs over the two CDs included here so there is plenty of music. Some of the recordings are familiar to me from a Columbia vinyl reissue of the 1970s, but many of these specific recorded performances are fresh to the ears. On much of the recordings he is backed by some of the cream of the swing era musicians including Basie veterans like Walter Page, Buck Clayton, Dickey Wells, Sweet sEdison, Jo Jones, Vic Dickenson, and Buddy Tate, along with such other legends like Coleman Hawkins, Budd Johnson, Hank Jones, Milt Hinton, Hilton Jefferson, Doc Cheatham, Danny Barker and Zutty Singleton. And of course one of the albums included here had Rushing backed by Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright and Joe Morello.

From the opening moments of Arkansas Blues to the closing The Way I Feel, one is treated to some wonderful renditions of blues and classic pop songs that are sung with heart and humor. He can sound world weary on the blues like Down Hearted Blues, and Jimmy's Blues, yet wink about the fact Somebody Stole My Gal. He provides his own personal signature on classic blues like T'aint Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do, and I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts of Town as well as interpretations of Louis Jordan's hit, Knock Me a Kiss, and the classic Earl Hines tune Rosetta. And we should not neglect to mention the welcome reissue of the rare EP with the terrific blues Go Get Some More.

While most of the recording has him with big band (or little big band in some cases), the album with Brubeck has its own charm with a bit more intimacy in the setting and the somewhat lighter backing provided on a revival of Evenin', one of the songs he recorded with Basie, Fats Waller's Ain't Misbehavin', and the torch song Am I Blue. There is a definite appeal to Brubeck's understated piano and Desmond's dry martini alto sound and if Brubeck may have been skeptical when Rushing first suggested they collaborate, the result was another stellar showcase of a vocalist who touched many years ago and whose singing still sounds fresh today.

Like other similar reissues, the liner notes are reproduced in the accompanying booklet (although in some cases only portions are). The music also sounds good to these deafening ears. There is not a solid overview of Rushing's Columbia recordings available on CD. This makes this reissue even more valuable in addition to the wonderful music contained here.

This was a purchase. Here Jimmy sings I Left My Baby, from the legendary TV show, The Sound Of Jazz.

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