Okay, it is true that ninety-year-old legend Jay McShann was only 85 when he recorded this live album in early 2001 at the Montreal Bistro in Toronto, intending it for broadcast on CBC Radio. But I think it's safe to conclude that his powers haven't dimished a bit since that event.
McShann (aka Hootie) is a Kansas product who made his name in Wichita and Kansas City in the 1930s and is likely the only survivor of those days. Just consider that among that group were Count Basie and all of his significant players of the day (eg. Lester Young, Dickie Wells, Buck Clayton, Ben Webster), plus Bennie Moten, Mary Lou Williams and, of course, Charlie Parker. This is an amazing collection of colleagues. McShann's partial success during the war years evolved into several decades of inactivity, and when he started recording in the mid-'60s, his skills as a blues pianist (and at that time, a singer) began a revived career.
For the past forty years, McShann has recorded for a number of independent labels like Black & Blue, Classic Jazz, Sackville and Storyville. For this recording, he is joined by Canadian saxophonist Jim Galloway, who has also recorded for Sackville. Galloway is a fine post-war player who appears on soprano and tenor sax here. His wife, Rosemary, is the bassist, and Don Vickery is the drummer.
McShann provides a timeless program of several songs that are very familiar to his fans, like the signatory "Confessin' The Blues" and "Hootie Blues," as well as standards like "Deed I Do" and "All of Me." McShann throws in some strategically placed vocals to remind us of his ease in bridging the barrier between blues and jazz. "When The Lights Go Out" is a perfect example of that distinction.
Galloway's presence adds a most positive aspect to the session. He proves to be the perfect musical foil for McShann with his solos and obbligatos. As a specialist in post-war swing, Galloway meshes well with McShann's style. For historians, the album concludes with a 24-minute interview of Jay McShann at the 2003 North Sea Jazz Festival in which he speaks of his formative years in Wichita and Kansas City and provides lots of anecdotal information.
Personnel: Jay McShann: piano:vocals; Jim Galloway: soprano and tenor sax; Rosemary Galloway: bass;
Don Vickery: drums.