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Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Cripple Clarence Lofton, Meade Lux Lewis; Henry Brown, Speckled Red: Boogie Woogie Kings

Nic Jones By

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Some reviews write themselves and this is one of them. The good people at Delmark have recently acquired the master tapes to Paul Affeldt's Euphonic Sound label and any amount of work that might have taken is more than justified by the quality of the music.

The majority of these sides, no longer hidden from history, were recorded in Chicago in 1938 or '39. The six by Cripple Clarence Lofton are amongst them and reveal a player for whom the term charm would be a little patronizing. Indeed, calling him a force of nature covers it but tells nothing of his particular gifts, the way he was in thrall to singular rhythmic imperatives, or how the sheer goodness of spirit, which ensures his playing will never lose its allure for anyone with ears to listen, works its magic. It all comes to fruition on "Mistaken Blues," topped off as it is by his world-weary yet somehow gravity defying voice; his right hand seems to take on a life of its own too.

Meade Lux Lewis was a paragon of the idiom, and here the sheer drive of his left hand on "Doll House Boogie"—whilst playing celeste with his right—is a joy to hear. He played the latter instrument on record to telling effect with Edmond Hall in February of 1941, and here as there he rescues its sound from cloying gentility. For good measure he also blows—through puckered lips—on "Whistlin' Blues," and succeeds in transmitting his buoyant mood in a manner about which so many can only dream.

Henry Brown was a native of St. Louis and his sides were recorded there in 1960. At the time he'd recorded for the Decca and Paramount labels and it's clear that he was a musician who knew a thing or two. "22nd Street Stomp" exemplifies it, largely through the rolling bass figures and his firm yet slightly eccentric sense of dynamics.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, not even the three pianos on the aptly titled "Boogie Woogie Prayer" amount to overkill. Instead it's both a joyous shout in favour of everything positive that can be got out of life and a damn fine impression of a perpetual motion machine. Whoever came up with the description of a left hand like God surely knew what they were talking about. In short music like this, in all its joy, power and spontaneity, is an affirmation of life.


Track Listing: Pinetop's Blues; G-Flat Blues; Streamline Train; Pitchin' Boogie; Mistaken Blues; Travelin' Blues; I Don't Know; Mercy Blues; Doll House Boogie; Whistlin' Blues; Deep Morgan; 22nd Street Stomp; Pickin'Em Out Again; Dirty Dozens; Dad's Piece; Pinetop's Boogie Woogie; Right String But The Wrong Yo-Yo; Boogie Woogie Prayer; Closing Time.

Personnel: Albert Ammons: piano (1, 18); Pete Johnson: piano (2, 18); "Cripple" Clarence Lofton: piano, vocal (3-8); Meade Lux Lewis: piano, celeste (9, 10, 18, 19); Henry Brown: piano, vocal (11-13); Speckled Red: piano, vocal (14-17).

Title: Boogie Woogie Kings | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Delmark Records


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