The Honest-to-Goodness Real-Life Blues

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Jones thumps and coaxes from his kit an exotic backdrop to the bebop classic 'Tunisia,' a tonal painting vibrant with the colors and rhythms of both bebop and orchestral swing.
So you groan through Thanksgiving and trudge through Christmas and endure another New Year's Eve and even force a smile through Valentine's Day...and now...

...and now, what? What?

You've still got more than nine months left in your "new" year, buddy. That's what.

And when that realization crunches you under its weight, the burden of one more year spent slogging through hundreds of mornings and evenings, each interminably and excruciatingly identical to the last one and to the next one, you scream and you wake up and then you've got 'em: The Honest-to-Goodness Real-Life Blues.

But have faith, brothers and sisters: The blues giveth pain AND the blues can taketh your pain away. Just listen to the call of the blues.


Count Basie & His Orchestra
Good Time Blues
Pablo
2004 (1970)

Recorded in Budapest, this previously unissued 1970 performance proves that nobody could make feeling the blues swing good and hard like Count Basie. Especially when fronting a typically first-rate orchestra, in this case featuring Eddie "Lockjaw Davis on tenor sax, returning son Harry "Sweets Edison (who first played with Basie in the late 1930s) on trumpet, and guitarist Freddie (no nickname given) Green.

This encyclopedic set runs as wide and broad and deep as a river, featuring arrangements by Davis ("Light and Lovely ), Benny Carter ("Sunset Glow ), Quincy Jones ("I Needs to Be Bee'd With ), Neal Hefti ("Cute ), and Sammy Nestico ("Magic Flea ), plus such pop and jazz classics as "A Night in Tunisia, "Summertime and "Frankie and Johnnie.

The orchestra begins by "Hittin' Twelve, a colorful arrangement rocked with boogie-woogie from bassist Norman Keenan which leaves drummer Harold Jones free to go off like a one-man bomb squad. The drummer's turns in "Frankie and Johnnie and furiously paced "Summertime combine propulsive washes and rolls punctuated by explosive bass drum and splash cymbal bombs. Jones thumps and coaxes from his kit an exotic backdrop to the bebop classic "Tunisia, a tonal painting vibrant with the colors and rhythms of both bebop and orchestral swing.

Good Time Blues reserves an almost uncharacteristic amount of musical space for the good Count. The title track, for example, opens with just a piano trio in which the principal truly shines up his blues and boogies. Basie also stretches throughout the nine-minute "I Needs To Be Bee'd With, softly jabbing single notes and strumming chords in a flowing blues rocked gently in the cradle by Green's nearly funky rhythm guitar, topped like a cherry with "Sweets ' exquisite blue moan of a trumpet solo. When the arrangement opens up the smaller quintet into the large ensemble, swaying horns swing this baby home.

All heck breaks loose as the full ensemble tears straight from "One O'Clock Jump into "Jumpin' at the Woodside to bring down the curtain. With Basie astride his piano rocking horse, riding roughshod on a stomping, swinging big band, it seems almost impossible to resist saddling up to gallop along for the ride.


Michael Bloomfield
If You Love These Blues, Play 'Em As You Please
Kicking Mule
2004 (1976)

This compilation is a blues purists' dream, packaging If You Love These Blues, Play 'Em As You Please (1976), guitarist Bloomfield's personal tour through the history of acoustic and electric guitar blues, together with Bloomfield / Harris, his 1979 instrumental overview of acoustic country-gospel blues jointly conducted with guitarist Woody Harris.

Bloomfield was the American leader in the same first wave of guitarists in which Eric Clapton and Peter Green discovered their blues-rock voices in Europe. Best-known for his work with Bob Dylan (on the Highway 61 Revisited recording, and in the electric band with whom Dylan notoriously debuted at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival) and various Paul Butterfield blues bands, Bloomfield proved adept with his guitar but less skilled with the pressures of "rock stardom, and died of a drug overdose in 1981.

Even Bloomfield's liner notes, personal annotations of each selection, sparkle with greatness! He notes, from If You Love, for example, that: "'City Girl' is a direct tribute to T-Bone Walker, who, to me, is the guy who popularized the idea of modern electric blues guitar and vocal against the background of a horn section. These If You Love notes supplement his own spoken, recorded narratives to each piece, such as this intro to "WDIA : "WDIA is a shuffle in the key of B flat using a Stratocaster with a twin reverb amp. It's in the style of B. B. King from his Kent Records period, approximately 1961.

Bloomfield proves adept at so many different sounds and styles, such as the solo guitar rag(time) "Thrift Shop Rag and the Jimmie Rodgers-style dustbowl blues "Hey, Foreman. "City Girl sashays as cool and blue as an after-hours club hidden in a dark corner of the city, while "Death in My Family, dedicated by Bloomfield to Eddie "Guitar Slim Jones, swings like the soul-rock-R&B hybrid that typified Jones' best work for Specialty Records.


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