Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Marvelous Reissue of Albums By George Lewis and Jimmy Yancey albums

One of the unexpected pleasures of the recent Sony Box set celebrating 50 years of Preservation Hall was the inclusion of some selections from a series of albums issued on Atlantic shortly after that fabled venue opened. It led to my checking into the availability of these albums. They have been issued on the Collectables label in a series of two albums on one CD. One CD, includes an album by a band led by The George Lewis Band of New OrleansJazz at Preservation Hall, reissued with an album Pure Blues, by legendary blues and boogie pianist Jimmy Yancey. Included are the original liner notes by Rev. A.L. Kershaw for Lewis and Ralph Gleason, George Hoefer and Art Hodes for the Yancey (with Hodes personal memories being quite moving).

The George Lewis Band of New Orleans included Kid Howard on trumpet; Jim Robinson on trombone; Alcide ‘Slow Drag’ Pavageau on bass; Emmanuel Sayles on banjo; and Joe Watkins on drums. On a few tracks the personnel include Snookum Russell on pianol “Papa John’ Joseph on bass; and Joe Watkins on drums. Lewis is amongst the greatest clarinetists of New Orleans jazz with his simple, blues-drenched style and he also was recorded extensively. This album of his is amongst the best recorded and contains a number of staples of his repertoire including Salutation March, Down By the Riverside, Careless Love, Burgundy Blues and St. Louis Blues along an amiable version of Jelly Roll Morton’s Winin’ Boy Blues. The selections with a full group are marvelous with the interplay between Lewis’ clarinet, Howard’s trumpet and Robinson’s tailgate trombone. Then there is Burgundy Blues, with the other horns sitting out on what is perhaps Lewis’ most celebrated number. The spare backing helps contribute to the melancholic tone of a stunning blues performance. This is amongst the best sounding as well as best recordings of George Lewis that I have heard.

Jimmy Yancey was a ground keeper for the Chicago White Sox (during World War I he played in the Negro Leagues) and also one of the greatest blues and woogie woogie pianists that one might fine playing rent and house parties in Chicago. He was a pioneer in the boogie woogie idiom and an influence on Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis. Atlantic recorded Yancey and his wife Mama Estelle Yancey in 1951 a few months before he passed away. These would be his last recordings although he had been recorded by Jazz Information, Solo Art , Session, Victor and Vocalion. 

One aspect of these performances, on which bassist Israel Crosby lends a light touch, is the focus on slow blues instrumentals (and accompaniments), while his earlier recordings had more in the nature of stomps and boogie woogies marked by his immediately recognizable touch and endings. Yancey’s Bugle Call comes closest to illustrate this aspect of his music, but much of this focus on on his atmospheric slow blues like on Mournful Blues or the musical poetry of his rendition of Leroy Carr’s How Long How Long Blues. The spare left-hand bass supplements the treble runs which focus on feeling and not flash. This same mood is present for another version of this heard here on which Mama Yancey so movingly sings. It is one of five vocals by Mama Yancey heard here which also include her take on the traditional, Make Me a Pallet On The Floor, again with Jimmy Yancey’s simple, moody backing. These vocals, like Yancey’s instrumental performances, are blues performances of the highest order and like the Lewis album would be easy to recommend if they had been issued separately. To have these combined on one release makes this album even easier to recommend.

I purchased this. Here is a video from 1962 of George Lewis performing.

No comments: