Acrobat Music, a European label that I am familiar with from some of their public domain reissues of jazz and vintage rhythm’n’blues, has issued their initial batch of releases with their American affiliate of the same name. Among the releases is B.B. King and His Orchestra Live, a 1983 performance at the MIDEM trade fair in Cannes as part of a jazz concert with Dave Brubeck and Pat Metheny. Outside of identifying trumpeter Calvin Owens as leading the band, the rest of the personnel are unidentified.
This opens with a barn-burning opening B.B.’s Theme, after which the tempo slows down and Owens brings B.B. to the stage. Perhaps because of the setting he launches into instrumental versions of “Why I Sing the Blues, and Darling You Know I Love You. On the former song B.B. opens up with a rocking solo with punching horns framing the funky bass guitar solo before King takes the tune down as he slows down the tempo, interjects some lines from Dueling Banjos, before getting into a call and response with the horns. It is rather unusual to hear these staples of his repertoire done without vocals, but perhaps he was responding to this being a jazz concert.
A rendition of Sweet Little Angel, opens with a lengthy guitar introduction before he launches into his vocal. It is followed by Everyday I Have the Blues, with a lengthy piano solo to take it out. Labeled as “All Over Again is a powerful treatment of “I Got a Mind to Give Up Living (and Go Shopping Again), with King’s impassioned vocal smartly supported by the orchestra here. There is nothing surprising with The Thrill Is Gone, ands B.B. follows with a good rendition of Caledonia, before closing with a fervent Paying the Cost to Be the Boss.
This is an enjoyable recording, as if B.B. and his first-rate band were capable of less, and the instrumental renditions of some classic numbers make this an unusual release. However, there is so much live B.B. King out there that is as good, if not better, than this.
I received a review copy from Jazz & Blues Report in which I believe this review first appeared.