Tuesday, July 31, 2007

RIP Oliver Morgan and Jimmy 'T-99' Nelson

I spent this past weekend at the Pocono Blues Festival and return home to learn via the net that two more performers of blues and rhythm music have passed.

Sad to hear that Jimmy 'T-99' Nelson died. The blues shouter had been a resident in Houston for half a century. He recorded some wonderful blues for Modern Records in the early fifties including "Meet Me With Your Black Dress on," and "T-99 Blues". The latter number was a reworking of "Honeydripper Blues", best known by Roosevelt Sykes. Nelson was inspired and influenced by Big Joe Turner and in recent years had produced some fine recordings for Bullseye Blues and other labels. I never had the pleasure to see him perform.

Oliver Morgan was known for the recording "Who Shot the La La". A New Orleans singer and entertainer, he was a fixture at JazzFest times and I did have a chance to see him at JazzFestPonderosa Stomp where he did his best known song. Allen Toussaint recorded an album by him that was issued on NYNO in the nineties. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune obituary by Keith Spera, "In nightclubs and at the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, he performed with his trademark second-line umbrella. He was among the first to incorporate this jazz funeral accessory into a nightclub act, and never hesitated to lead a parade." He left New Orleans for Atlanta after Katrina destroyed his 9th ward home and had not performed since Katrina. He is pictured at the 2004 Ponderosa Stomp and the guitarist is Irving Bannister, the highly underrated Crescent City string bender

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

James "Wee Willie" Wayne

Many may be familiar with the song "Junco Partner". The song was written and originally by James Wayne although most are probably familiar from more modern recordings by Professor Longhair, James Booker and Dr. John (On his Gumbo album). He also has another recording Traveling Mood that Snooks Eaglin recorded for Imperial and Black Top (This link to Dan Phillips blog Home of the Groove has a nice label shot of the Imperial 45) and also nicely done by Dr. John on his live recording on Hyena, Right Place, Right Time.

On the post-war blues internet group at yahoo, this interesting link of Wayne's dealings with California judicial and mental health systems was provided and it is worthy of further publicizing. People v. James Douglas Wayne

Thanks to Terence McArdle for posting this link.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Montreal Jazz Festival - Marianne Trudel

I do not see as much live jazz as I wish i did. When I went to the Montreal Jazz Festival I did catch some blues, but discovered a variety of performers who were a total surprise and delight to me. The marvelous music of Marianne Trudel and her Quintet was captivating evoking me the terrific Keith Jarrett European Quartet and the early ECM recordings of the Jan Garbarek Quartet. She is a marvelous composer and her band played so wonderfully together. Her band this day was comprised of Chet Doxas - soprano sax, Jonathan Stewart - tenor sax, Morgan Moore - bass and Kelby MacNayr -drums. Their is slightly different personnel on her wonderful cd, Sands of Time, which has Rob Mosher on soprano sax and oboe and Robbie Kuster on drums. While I do not speak French, her music spoke to the heart and it sang so joyfully. Check out her website, www.mariannetrudel.com for more on her and information on how to purchase Sands of Time, which I heartily recommend.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Baytop & Franklin's Duo Blues

My years with Rick Franklin go back to when we both were on the Board of Directors of the DC Blues Society in the late eighties and also I enjoyed when he performed with Neil Harpe and sometimes Rick Usilton, or by himself. I remember a Black History Program at Northern Virginia Community College where he shared the stage with Archie Edwards & John Jackson. Mike Baytop, head of the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation, and him have a new recording Searching For Frank, on Patuxent out of Rockville MD. The Frank on this CD is Frank Stokes and imagine an entire acoustic blues CD reviving tunes that deserved to be revived, not simply over familiar mediocre Robert Johnson covers. I have not heard the disc but they performed all the songs from it at a CD party at Paxtuxent's studios today and it was delightful to hear the two guitarists evoking the marvelous sound of Stokes who certainly should be something most of you should be familiar with. Not that was all there was. Baytop played mandolin on a nice Stop and Listen Blues, while harp and bones for other tracks, and on an encore of Jambalaya, Eleanor Ellis joined in on washboard. It was a wonderful evening and if the CD is half as good as the party I will be in for a treat.

While there I discovered Paxtuxent has two new CDs as well. Eleanor Ellis' Comin' a Time (again with no Robert Johnson covers, but plenty of Memphis Minnie and John Estes and others). Eleanor is as good as any acoustic blues woman out there and would be better known if she wasn't such an angel. She has recorded with the late Flora Molton and toured with her and Archie Edwards, putting their interests before her own. She produced the wonder movie Blues HouseParty which recently was issued on DVD. She was also one of the founders of the DC Blues Society and the Archie Edwards Foundation. I have been waiting for years for her to finally have an entire album by herself.

Finally there is a new Warner Williams and Jay Summerour disc, Down'N'Dirty by a most wonderful singer-guitarist, perhaps the word songster best describes Warner. Another DC treasure, but one who will not fly. Anyway, the website is www.pxrec.com and I would eventually expect to see some of this on cdbaby.com

Blues Boss Strong Boogie Woogie Disc

Here is a two year old review of a wonderful disc by a fine musician and gentleman, Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne. This disc won the 2006 Juno Award, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy Award

A few years ago I was sent a cd by a West Coast pianist, Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne which was a superb disc of hot R&B and jump blues in the vein of such legends as Amos Milburn, Floyd Dixon and Little Willie Littlefield. Subsequently he has started to tour at top festivals and clubs and the Canadian Electro-Fi label has issued Let It Loose, his second disc for the label and I believe fourth overall. The cd opens with a hard rocking Blackberry Wine, yet another tune of many derived musically from Amos Milburn's Chicken Shack Boogie. Milburn is clearly the main influence on Wayne who plays strong jump boogie piano that would have served Milburn proud. Joogie to the Boogie is a nice easy rocking number with some strong tenor from Pat Carey. A trio of songs, Bewildered, Let Me Go Home Whiskey, Memphis Slim's Blue and Lonesome, are a mini-tribute to Milburn who was one of the top selling R&B acts between 1948 and 1953. A more modern tone and a funk groove mark the slow reflective Wishing Well, while the title track is a high-stepping number that should prove irresistible for the swing dancers with its quick but not frenzied tempo. A more contemporary feel also characterizes the closing, Blues Carry Me Home, which is perhaps not as striking as some of the other numbers. Russell Jackson on bass anchors a solid rhythm section that never rushes the tempo and Brandon Isaak plays solid idiomatic guitar to complement Wayne. Wayne also contributed most of the songs here, and his songwriting is like his piano and vocals, first-rate. With all the albums that are supposedly extending the blues, its nice to find a disc whose playing and vocals is rooted in some undeservedly forgotten giants of the music that makes for a generally terrific recording.

Friday, July 20, 2007

John Jackson's Last Performance

I was going through some of my old photos and I discovered I had cd-rom from John Jackson's last performance so I thought many who saw him and loved his music would appreciate seeing these.

John Jackson's Last Performance

A couple of real nice appreciations of John Jackson

Remembering John Jackson

Cascade Blues Obit

Carey Bell's Final Blues

Listening to and watching Carey Bell’s vigorous vocals and harp playing on a new CD/DVD he share with his son Lurrie, Gettin’ Up Live (Delmark), one will be astonished to learn that Carey had suffered a stroke, fell and broke a hip weeks before and yet still appeared at Rosa’s a few days after leaving the hospital. This new recording/ video captures the two at Rosa’s in July, 2006 and at Buddy Guy’s Legend’s in October 2006, along with some intimate performances at Lurrie’s home the day after the Rosa’s performance. With strong supporting musicians for the band sides and the empathy they demonstrate whenever they perform together, the Bells have produced both a strong CD and a delightful DVD. The CD has 4 performances from Rosa’s, Legends, and Lurrie’s home, while the DVD adds two performances from Rosa’s. The band selections are excellent with Roosevelt Purifoy certainly adding solid keyboards in support and the bass drum duos of Bob Stroger & Brian ‘BJ’ Jones or Joe Thomas & Kenny Smith keep things going. Scott Cable joins on guitar on Lurrie’s vocal at Rosa’s (a solid Baby Please Don’t Go) and the Legends’ performances. Carey is first heard on Junior Wells’ What My Mama Told Me, which is appropriate because Bell’s vocals evoke Wells. Gettin’ Up is one of those funky blues Carey was effective at, while at Legends he does a couple of Little Walter numbers along with his Low Down Dirty Shame. In addition to Bell’s vocals and really solid harp, Lurrie is marvelous with his mercurial guitar playing recalling some of Jimmy Dawkins’ equally fiery accompaniments on Carey’s first album over 35 years. Lurrie has really emerged as one of the finest blues guitarists, especially as an accompanist with suggestions of Dawkins and the equally individualistic Hubert Sumlin. Despite the flash and sizzle of his playing, he never overshadows his father’s performances, rather his embellishments and solos strengthen these marvelous performances. Carey handles three vocals at Lurrie’s home in the more intimate setting including John Estes’ Broke and Hungry, and J.T. Brown’s Short Dress Woman, before Lurrie closes things out with a heartfelt traditional gospel number, Stand By Me. The two songs on the DVD not on the CD are older Bell recordings although honestly are a tad bit weaker than those on the CD. The video on the DVD is simple and straightforward and all the more effective for its focus on Carey, Lurrie and their band. No claim that this is the best either has ever done, but this still is a first-rate disc of Chicago Blues that is highly recommended. Enjoy.
This was written prior to Carey's death, and having enjoyed him on disc as well as live over forrty years, I will miss him as will all blues lovers.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Celebration of Pinetop Perkins

Pianist Joe Willie ‘Pinetop’ Perkins keeps going, seemingly as musically vigorous in his nineties as much younger blues acts. Born in the Honey, The Pinetop Perkins Story is an hour-long bio-documentary produced by Peter Carlson who put together Don’t Start Me Talking: The Junior Wells Story. A narrative provides the details on Pinetop’s life including the circumstances of his youth and later emergence as a star on the blues circuit. Blended in are some stock still pictures of southern plantation, town and juke scenes, some acting to recreate Pinetop’s youth, along with interviews of Pinetop along with his admirers and some performance clips from a variety of shows including King Biscuit Festival, the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and some footage of him with The Nighthawks. Admirers include his colleagues with Muddy’s band such as Paul Oscher, who recalled when Pinetop replaced Otis Spann in Muddy’s band and, guitarist Bob Margolin and drummer Willie Smith. Others talking about Pinetop include Lonnie Brooks, Bobby Rush who tells a hilarious story about Pinetop who had some wisdom for men out on the town, Ike Turner recalling Pinetop’s influence and stature as a pianist, and Kim Wilson. Its an affectionate and loving performance that is as ingratiating as its subject. The DVD does not have any extras and does not seem divided into chapters, for those who that matters. It also comes with a CD of live performances, mostly Chicago performances with one studio track from a Bob Corritore that covers the same ground as his available recordings with versions of Chicken Shack, Mojo, How Long Blues, Ida B and the rollicking Down in Mississippi. Pinetop affably handles the material backed by Little Frank Krokowski on guitar, Bob Stroger on bass and Willie Smith on drums. The packaging erroneously credits Pinetop for Memphis Slim’s Grinder Man Blues, and Magic Sam for Rosco Gordon’s Just a Little Bit, titled here Little Bit of Your Love. Certainly a documentary that fans of the blues, especially Pinetop’s fans, will certainly enjoy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bennie Wallace's Coleman Hawkins tribute

Tenor saxophonist Bennie Wallace has a most intriguing career playing with blues and gospel artists as well as served as the musical director for several films including Blaze and Bull Durham. His own recordings have included sideman as diverse as Tommy Flanagan, Dr. John, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dave Holland, Elvin Jones, Chick Corea, Oliver Lake and Ray Anderson. Viewed as among the most original saxophonists, he has had a deep reverence for classic saxophonists as Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Lester Young and Don Byas. His latest Enja/JustinTime disc is a tribute to Coleman Hawkins, Disorder at the Border, that was recorded at a German concert in 2004, the year of the Hawkins Centenary. With a superb nine-piece big little band, they run through a program of songs associated with Hawkins in swinging arrangements that hint at Jazz at the Philharmonic and similar type gigs, but with wonderful arrangements by Anthony Wilson (except for Wallace on Honeysuckle Rose) that provide a bit of a more modern ambiance than the simple riffs of those swinging groups of years gone buy. Others present are Terell Stafford on trumpet, Ray Anderson on trombone, Jesse Davis and Brad Leali on alto saxophone, Adam Schroeder on baritone saxophone, Donald Vega on piano, Danton Boller on bass and Alvin Queen on drums. It opens with Hawkins’ title track, a blues-based number that Wallace gets right into. Stafford and Schroeder certainly get noticed with some hot playing on Bean & the Boys, the other Hawkins original. Wilson’s arrangement over Vega’s piano provides just the right setting for Wallace’s ballad playing which suggests a bit of Ben Webster with his heavy vibrato. Wallace’s arrangement of Honeysuckle Rose is inspired by Benny Carter's arrangement of the song with Vega’s thoughtful piano being to the fore before the horns dig in and the tempo kicks up a notch in a playful mode with Davis and Leali featured as they both take several choruses before they start trading off each other, before Schroeder takes the front stage and a gruff chorus by Anderson. On Body and Soul, the spare arrangement almost provides a feeling to the performance that Wallace is unaccompanied on his remarkable homage to Hawkins on what was perhaps his biggest hit. It is a entrancing performance. The rousing Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho, is the longest performance which takes this marvelous disc to a strong conclusion.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Chick Willis' Albert King Tribute

Chick Willis
Its been close to forty years since this writer acquired a 45 by one Chick Willis that included a solid rendition of Guitar Slim’s The Things I Used to Do. Shortly thereafter, Chick recorded another single that would generate his career defining song, Stoop Down Baby. Such a song can be a blessing and a curse because it does provide work but it is also an albatross that prevents folks from appreciating just how good and varied a blues performer he is as opposed to be limited to bawdy double entendre numbers. Jacques ‘Saxman’ Johnson and Dr. Bill Clark had Chick come in to the Washington, D.C. area for a gig at Blues Alley as well as a recording session. The result is the new Old School Productions CD, Cookin’ the Blues: A Tribute to Albert King featuring Chick Willis. As the album title suggests, Chick is heard on a number of songs associated with the late blues giant including Can’t You See What You Are Doing to Me, I’ll Play the Blues For You, Angel of Mercy, Laundromat Blues, and What the Blues is All About. Willis sings and plays his distinctive guitar in a straightforward fashion and Johnson leads a punchy and brassy horn section supporting Willis’ fine performances. Four of the ten tracks are instrumentals that give the Saxman a chance to stretch out including a rousing rendition of The Hucklebuck, with Bill Clark getting some space to show his Hammond B-3 skills and Johnson’s son, Jacques Jr. being featured quite admirably on guitar. In summary, Cookin’ the Blues is delightful with solid Willis interpretations of classic Albert King recordings with the Saxman’s tenor sax features for an added treat. For information on how to order contact Old School Records at Jacques Johnson’s website www.jacquessaxmanjohnson.com or email sax251@aol.com. A website that carries some of the Old School Records and hopefully will have this one is www.rightonrhythm.com. It is also available at cdbaby.com.