Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jay McSHANN - Blues from Kansas City 1941-42

Jay McSHANN - Blues from Kansas City 1941-42
GRP 1995
Apr 30, 1941-Dec 1, 1942


This CD surpasses all former collections of pianist Jay McShann's early recordings, for it is comprised of every commercial side made by McShann during 1941-1943, including 11 delightful, if rarely heard, trio and quartet numbers (featuring McShann, bassist Gene Ramey, and drummer Gus Johnson), along with four lesser-known vocals by the limited but talented Walter Brown that are normally skipped. The result is as complete a musical picture of Jay McShann's early piano style and his orchestra (at least how they sounded in the studios) as is possible. Altoist Charlie Parker has five influential if brief solos (best is "Sepian Bounce") and trumpeters Orville Minor and Buddy Anderson, altoist John Jackson, and Paul Quinichette on tenor also have their spots. However, McShann is clearly the main star of this definitive set by the last of the great Kansas City swing big bands. Highly recommended.
By Scott Yanow.
Kansas City is the place where Blues met Jazz. B.B. King once said, there's all kinds of blues, but Kansas City is where Blues began to swing. Kansas City pianist, bandleader and songwriter Jay 'Hootie' McShann was the last of the great Kansas City players, and developed a style that combined swing and blues that changed the course of popular music. If you want to hear how Jump Blues started, this is a great example. Jump Blues was still in it's early stages in the early 40's. The smaller groups and honkin saxes that mark jump blues had not developed yet. Early on, you can hear the influence of boogie woogie, especially with artists like McShann who played piano, in addition to being a band leader. The boogie woogie piano gave the music some of its "jump."

McShann probably deserves better recognition for his contributions to developing jump blues, but he is probably most remembered as the leader of the band that featured young future bebop legend, Charlie Parker. A piano player with a unique and subtle touch, McShann was a bluesman at heart. His best known composition 'Confessin' The Blues' has been recorded by artists like The Rolling Stones, BB King, Little Walter, Esther Phillips, and Jimmy 'Spoon' Witherspoon among many many others. Settling in Kansas City in the mid-'30s, he soon formed a small group, but by 1940 had a large band which included a young alto sax player, Charlie Parker. From 1941 he made recordings for Decca that featured the blues singing of Walter Brown. His band, which now included Charlie Parker, Gene Ramey, Gus Johnson, and the trumpeters Buddy Anderson and Orville Minor, made its first appearance in New York at the Savoy Ballroom in February 1942.

Typecast as a blues band, McShann's group recorded few of his more complex jazz arrangements, but they helped build his reputation and he was able to move to New York in 1942 - however, the second World War intervened. McShann was drafted, and after serving in the army (1943-4) he re-formed his big band, which he led at the Savoy, at other clubs on 52nd Street in New York, and in California, where in the late 1940s he led a small group that included Jimmy Witherspoon. Later he moved again to Kansas City (after 1950), performed in the Midwest. For many years, he languished in relative obscurity, but emerged again in 1969, taking up a heavy touring schedule that brought him international fame.

Twenty-one sides on this album were cut by Jay McShann and His Orchestra and the Jay McShann Quartet for Decca Records between 1941 and 1943, with Charlie Parker on about half of what's here, and stretching out on a handful of cuts. The highlight is the group's recording of "Confessin' the Blues," which was a huge hit and resulted in their recording of more than half a dozen similar vocal blues numbers, featuring Walter Brown (who wrote "Confessin'") on vocals. The material here is pretty much weighted to jump blues and boogie-woogie-style numbers, all of it hot and extraordinarily well-played. The pity is, between Decca's insistence on more songs like "Confessin' the Blues" (which was later covered by Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, among others) and the 1942 recordings band, not much of McShann's repertory or Parker's more outstanding material from the period was laid down. What is here, however, is extraordinary, some of the tighted, bluesiest jazz you'll ever here, all in excellent sound as well, and Parker does soar on a large handful of these tracks.
Bernard Anderson- Trumpet
Lawrence Anderson- Trombone
Joe Baird- Trombone
Rae Brodely- Sax (Baritone)
Walter Brown- Vocals
Harold Bruce- Trumpet
Willie Cook- Trumpet
Fred Culliver Sax- (Tenor)
Rudolph Dennis Sax- (Alto)
Harry Ferguson Sax- (Tenor)
Al Fook- Trombone
Bill Goodson- Sax (Tenor)
Dan Grave-s Drums 
Al Hibbler- Vocals
John Jackson- Sax (Alto)
Gus Johnson- Drums 
Jesse Jones- Trumpet 
Bob Mabane- Sax (Tenor)
Jay McShann- Piano
Bob Merrill- Trumpet, Vocals
Orville Minor- Trumpet
Dave Mitchell- Trumpet
Rudy Morrison- Trombone
Charlie Parker- Sax (Alto)
Alonzo Pettiford- Trombone  
Paul Quinichette- Sax (Tenor)
Gene Ramey- Bass
Harold "Doc" West- Drums 
01. Swingmatism-  McShann  2:36
02. Hootie Blues-  Brown, McShann  2:53
03. Dexter Blues-  McShann  2:53
04. Vine Street Boogie-  McShann  2:34
05. Confessin' the Blues-  Brown, McShann  2:50
06. Hold 'Em Hootie-  McShann  2:37
07. One Woman's Man-  Brown, McShann, Tums  3:01
08. 'Fore Day Rider-  Brown, McShann  2:53
09. So You Won't Jump-  McShann, Ramey  2:36
10. New Confessin' the Blues-   Brown, McShann  3:02
11. Red River Blues-  Nelson  2:53
12. Baby Heart Blues-  Brown, McShann  2:44
13. Cryin' Won't Make Me Stay-  Williams  2:29
14. Hootie's Ignorant Oil-  Anderson, McShann  2:41
15. Lonely Boy Blues-  Brown, McShann  2:54
16. Get Me on Your Mind- Johnson, Tums  3:01
17. The Jumpin' Blues-  McShann  2:59
18. Sepian Bounce-  Hall, McShann  3:06
19. Say Forward, I'll March-  Hall, McShann, Ramey  3:06
20. Wrong Neighborhood-  Hall, McShann, Merrill  3:18
21. Hometown Blues-  Brown, McShann  3:04