Saturday, November 07, 2015

Joe Stanley - DC Saxophone Legend

The late saxophonist Joe Stanley was a major force on the rock and roll and blues scenes in Washington DC from the 1960s until his passing in 2007. Stanley played with a who's who of music luminaries including Link Wray, Charlie Daniels, Roy Clark, Bill Black's Combo, and his legendary band, The Saxons, helped such pivotal figures as Danny Gatton and Billy Hancock get their start. This writer saw Stanley numerous times with the DC area band, Big Joe and the Dynaflows, whose leader Joe Maher, has produced a new double CD of Stanley "Legend" on EllerSoul Records of previously unissued recordings.

The first of the two CDs has, in addition to Stanley and his sax and solos, Maher on drums, John Cocuzzi on organ; John Previti on bass and Rudy Turner on guitar where heard. Stanley's big tone will evoke Plas Johnson, Earl Bostic, Sil Austin and Red Prystock. With a heavy vibrato he launches into the mid-tempo latin-flavored "Blue Moon" that illustrates his driving, full-throated attack backed by the solid combo with Cocuzzi's greasy organ adding to the appeal. Stanley's rendition of "Flamingo" also certainly will appeal to fans of honking sax. Stanley was an affable crooner as heard on the standard, "The Nearness of You," and then picks up sax for the funky "Ode to Billy Joe." His vibrato on "September Song" might evoke Ben Webster, while he tears into Horace Silver's "The Preacher," with nice guitar in the backing.

The first disc was recorded in a studio, while the second disc comes from a variety of live recordings. Stanley, Previti, Cocuzzi (also on piano) and Maher are all present (although several tracks feature the late Jeff Sarli on bass); with Ivan Appelrouth on guitar, Frank Cocuzzi subbing on drums on one selection and Chris Watling adding baritone sax to one selection. With Cocuzzi on piano, Stanley digs into "Deep Purple," before the swinging "A Foggy Day in London Town," with a robust vocal and more brawny sax. There are a couple of lively renditions each of "Jambalaya" and "Just a Gigolo." Maher takes the vocal on "Let's Get High," with Stanley robustly soloing. After a marvelous "Walking With Mr. Lee," there are two versions of "You're Cheating Heart." The sound is uneven on these, but at worst is quite acceptable.

The closing track on each disc is Big Joe Maher interviewing Billy Hancock for his recollections of Stanley and for those simply wanting the music, can easily be bypassed. For those interested in the history of the Washington DC music scene, these interview selections will be of great interest. Marty Bauman designed the attractive CD package and wrote the liner notes. The only quibble would be with the personnel listings on the back cover that are incomplete and refer to tracks that do not exist. Otherwise this is a recording that fans of rock and roll saxophone and blues honkers will love. It is a wonderful tribute to a person, whose music, like him was always full of life.

Received my copy from EllerSoul.  Here Joe can be heard with Big Joe Maher and the Dynaflows doing a Wyonnie Harris classic. 

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