Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Taking the Blues Time Machine Back to January 1977

This is my blues column from the January 1977 Buffalo Jazz Report which had Lee Konitz on the cover. The column had my review of the best blues releases of 1976, and there were not nearly as many back then as today so it was a bit more manageable as well as hoping for more live blues to actually be brought to Buffalo. There would be no column for February issue as the Blizzard of 1977 would paralyze the city around the time the issue came out. I have noted the first 58 issues of Buffalo Jazz Report (now Jazz & Blues Report) have been digitized and can be downloaded from the University of Buffalo Library system. The website for these archived issues is: http://digital.lib.buffalo.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/BuffJazz. Note that the Living Blues mailing address has not been valid for many years, and the vinyl LPS I mention are no longer in print (with the exception of Sweet Blood Call as an expanded CD).

For this column I'd like to first go over what I consider the best blues albums of 1976. The best was perhaps Robert Jr. Lockwood and the Aces, Blues Live in Japan (Advent 2807) featuring Lockwood's stunning jazz-blues guitar and enthusiastic readings of blues standards. Mr. Johnson's Blues (Mamlish 3807) is the first American lp devoted to reissuing the classic and innovating work of Lonnie Johnson whose place in blues and jazz history is underappreciated. The best album by a previously unrecorded artist is Good Rockin' Charles (Mr. Blues MB 7601). This a fine set of Chicago blues with relaxed yet gritty singing and harp from Charles.

Honorable mentions for outstanding albums go to the two Joe Turner albums Nobody in Mind and In the Evenin' (Pablo). Otis Rush Cold Day in Hell (Delmark), When Women Sang the Blues (Blues Classics), Windy City Blues:The Transition and Detroit Ghetto Blues (Nighthawk), and Louisiana Red Sweet Blood Call (Blue Labor). As can be seen most of the finest al-bums were on small collectors labels (the major exception being the Joe Turners on Pablo). The big names in blues turned out either disco blues, Albert King with a pleasant album on Utopia, empty endless boogie, the Iive James Cotton album, or a Iive jam which never really ignited (B.B. King and Bqbby Bland). The small labels can turn out more interesting music perhaps because they don't expect to sell a gold album and don't compromise the music for sales. And the blues can progress as Jimmy Dawkins' has proved without losing its identity in a disco or funk setting.

1977 could be a year of some very fine recordings. Alligator records promises a Son Seals album, Delmark has re-issues of early Junior Wells among others ready, RCA's Utopia subsidiary has a Clifton Chenier in the can, Trix has Robert Jr.· Lockwood playing twelve-string coming soon and hopefully much more. Of course I will let you know what is available, and what it sounds like. 

Other items of interest. Living Blues continues to be a source of interesting informative articles, reviews and interviews. The Record Runner carries current issues and a years subscription (6 issues) costs $4.00 sent to Living Blues Publications, 2615 N. Wilton Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60614. 

It is possible that live blues may soon be coming to Buffalo in a format similar to the Tralfjazz series with perhaps comparable prices (depending on the act). for the entire night, etc. I would be curious about reader response.as any indication of support for this before it is undertaken is important. Artists being contemplated include Robert Jr. Lockwood, Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon, Otis Rush, JohnnyShinesand others. Please write me in care of the BJR with your comments and suggestions. There has been Iittle Iive blues brought to Buffalo in the past few years and such places where blues was typically booked, an example being the Coffeenouse series at UB, haven't had blues in a year and a half. Imagine a series on American folk music which ignored the most basic American folk music. Blues can be brought and brought in an imaginative fashion. WBFO's David Benders, when head of the Coffeehouse, brought in not only folk blues but also a working Chicago Band, Son Seals, who played in the Rathskellar. It is to be hoped that the Coffeehouse committee at UB shows more imagination this year (1977) than in the past year and a half and brings blues both as pari of the Coffeehouse Circuit and as more than token representatives at the folk festival. I am willing to assist any organization that brings live blues to Buffalo and can be reached at either WBFO or the BJR. (David Benders incidentally hosts. Codfish Every Friday on WBFO at 10 PM to 11 PM which has blues featured about once a month.

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