Sunday, November 22, 2009
V.A. Super Black Blues Vol. 1&2 1969
This was a very unusual session for all the principals involved. Each of them (Turner, Walker, and Spann) had made their own solo albums for Bob Theile's "Bluestime" label of the late '60's. And each of them had been produced by Theile for ABC's "Bluesway" series a few years earlier. A fourth participant, Eddie Vinson, was slated for this date, but somehow didn't make the session.
Bob Theile was something of a renegade among record producers of his era. Perhaps best known as the producer of the "Classic John Coltrane Quartet" sessions for ABC's "Impulse" label during the early and mid 1960's, he also produced a lot of music for his own labels going back to the early '40's. More than most producers, it seems that Theile's approach was reflective of his own tastes, and his desire to produce only artists that he himself liked forced him to create his own, often less than fiscally successful record companies over the years. During the late '60's he created the Jazz label, "Flying Dutchman", of which "Bluestime" was a subsidiary. A quick glance at the artists in the "Bluestime" catalogue of that time: T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner, Otis Spann, Eddie Vinson, and Leon Thomas is evidence of his great taste. He was, however, somewhat critically maligned for presenting these artists in less than strictly traditional blues and Jazz formats, preferring to present them with what was then considered to be a more stylistically "up-to-date" sound. In retrospect, while respecting Theile's intentions, I would say that the sessions he produced for "Bluestime", and for "Bluesway" for that matter, were often less than fully successful. But I would add that they were also not completely without merit.
This particular session was meant to bring together the principal artists in the "Bluestime" stable for a little All-Star jam session, and given the collective talent involved, it couldn't help but produce some fine Blues. There is a looseness to the proceedings here that is genuine, and the material for this session seems to be literally thrown-together. The band, while functional, seems rather undistinguished. But it is T-Bone, Joe, and Otis who are of central interest here, and hearing them perform together should be a kick for any Blues fan. Indeed, a more distinguished triumvirate within the Blues is unimaginable. These guys were the greatest.
By Nathan C. Larson.
This is one of the best urban blues album ever recorded. Not only is the music terrific, but also the reunion of such great musicians as Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, Otis Spann, George "Harmonica" Smith and Ernie Watts, for the first and only time, backed by a brilliant rhythm section, including Ron Brown on bass, Arthur Wright on guitar and Paul Humphrey on drums, made this recording one-off. Last but not least, the producer, Bob Thiele, better known for his work with John Coltrane on Impulse. The session took place in New York, on October 17, 1969. Otis Spann, pianist for Muddy Waters before starting his own solo career, passed away a few months later, in April 1970. George "Harmonica" Smith was also the harp player for Muddy Waters before starting to play and record under his own name.
There are only 4 long tracks on this recording, 3 of them penned by T-Bone Walker, but over 40 minutes of fresh raw real blues. Put together the Kansas City singing of Big Joe Turner, the Texas guitar and singing style of T-Bone Walker, the Chicago piano and singing style of Otis Spann, the unique harp sound and playing of George Smith, the honky tenor saxophone of Ernie Watts, and what you get is this terrific vintage recording. Joe Turner and T-Bone Walker share vocals on most of the tracks.
As it happens with other music gems, the reissue of this album on CD took a long time, 32 years. The beautiful pictures from the vinyl version are included in the CD booklet, as well as the original liner notes by Stanley Dance. Highly recommended.
By Javier Fernandez.
Joe Turner- Vocal
T-Bone Walker- Vocal and Guitar
Otis Span- Vocal and Piano
George "Harmonica" Smith- Harmonica
Ron Brown- Bass
Arthur Right- Guitar
Ernie Watts- Tenor Sax
Paul Humphrey- Drums
Recorded in the USA, on October 17, 1969
01. Paris Blues 14:03
02. Here Am I Broken Hearted 3:47
03. Jot's Blues 8:15
04. Blues Jam 10:59
Recorded May 1970, Carnegie Hall, New York City, N.Y.
01. Honey Hush - Lou Willie Turner
02. Yakety Tak - Reece Fleming
03. Cleanhead Blues - Eddie Cleanhead Vinson
04. I Had A Dream - Eddie Cleanhead Vinson
05. Person To Person - Eddie Cleanhead Vinson
06. Welcome To New York - Leon Thomas
07. Disillusion Blues - Leon Thomas
08. Damn Nam (Aint Goin To Vietnam) - Leon Thomas
09. Stormy Monday Blues - T Bone Walker
10. Sail On - T Bone Walker