Monday, September 21, 2015

The Henry Gray/ Bob Corritore Sessions Vol. 1

Bob Corritore has been championing the greats of blues, especially Chicago blues, for several decades. Host of a terrific blues radio program in Phoenix where he also operates the Rhythm Room, he also has produced a variety of blues recordings. His latest production celebrates pianist Henry Gray who turned 90 in January 2015. The Henry Gray/ Bob Corritore Sessions comes our way with “Vol. 1 Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest” (Delta Groove). Included are 14 selections featuring the pianist perhaps best known for his 14 years with Howlin’ Wolf as well as session work with a variety of artists for Chess and other labels. Its been about 45 years since Gray left Chicago and moved to Louisiana where he has played, playing festivals and clubs.

For “Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest”, Corritore has put together 14 selections from 12 sessions over a 19 year period (including one on Henry’s 90th Birthday) with Gray and Corritore joined by a wide range of blues legends and players including Robert Lockwood, Jr.; John Brim; Willie ‘Big’ Eyes Smith; Nappy Brown; Tail Dragger; Chico Chism; Dave Riley; Bob Margolin; Bob Stroger; Chris James; Patrick Rynn; Kirk Fletcher; Kid Ramos; and June Core.

Gray has been overshadowed by Pinetop Perkins amongst his contemporaries in general recognition, and while folks might argue on who is the stronger pianist, Gray, although an untrained singer, is more forceful and displays more personality, as reflected on his impassioned singing on the title track (most associated with Jimmy Rogers). But he certain captures the spirit of shouter Grant Jones’ “Let’s Get High” and Hot Lips Page “They Raided The Joint.” On several tracks he provides strong support behind some legendary figures including Robert Lockwood, Jr. on “Ramblin’ On My Mind,” and Nappy Brown on a superb rendition of “Worried Life Blues” that was a signature song of Gray’s major piano influence, Big Maceo. Dave Riley tackled “Ride With Your Daddy Tonight” while John Brim sings “That Ain’t Right.” Lowell Fulson’s “Trouble Blues” features one of Gray’s top vocals here with Bob Margolin adding slide guitar while Tail Dragger adds some color commentary to the rollicking “Boogie Woogie Ball.”

After a credible Jimmy Reed cover, “Honey Don’t Let Me Go,” this CD concludes with a moody swamp blues flavored rendition of B.B. King’s “She Don’t Move Me No More,” with Corritore (outstanding throughout) heard here in a Walter Horton vein. This is a solid and delightful collection of classic Chicago blues with a touch Louisiana swamp blues mixed in. Given that this is labeled Vol. 1, one looks forward to a further release of Henry Gray’s blues sessions with Bob Corritore.

I received my review copy from Delta Groove and this review originally appeared in the July-August Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 361). Here is Henry in performance.

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