Over the years, I've come to be a bit skeptical of the "discovered" or "lost classic" type of record release. You know, the kind where the historical significance is trumpeted and the sound quality is at a subbootleg level. Most of the time, that stuff languished in a vault for a reason all those years. Still, when I heard about Havin' a Good Time, the only known pairing of the great jazz/blues singer and Basie alum Joe Williams with Duke Ellington's legendary tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, I was willing to suspend my disbelief.
Good thing, too, because Havin' a Good Time is the real deal for once. The sound is surprisingly clean and clear; Williams' rich voice jumps right out at you, and the mix is no worse than most live recordings from the early '60s. Williams had a fine band in tow, including drummer Mickey Roker, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and a consistently inspired Junior Mance on piano, for this date recorded on a cold night in Providence 43 years ago. Webster was in town on his own gig and apparently asked if he could sit in; I can only imagine that the band spent scant seconds in deliberation.
The performance offers no profound revelations, perhaps, but a swinging good time from start to finish. Williams and Webster were each among the finest interpreters of blues and ballads on their respective instruments and it is a pleasure to hear them together. Everybody seems to be enjoying themselves on stage, and their pleasure is infectious.
Sittin' Rockin'; Kansas City Blues; River St. Marie; That's All; Alone Together; I'm Through;
Great City; 100 Years; Ain't Misbehavin'; Honeysuckle Rose; Alright, OK; Havin' a Good
Joe Williams: vocals; Junior Mance: piano; Mickey Roker: drums; Ben Webster: tenor
saxophone; Bob Cranshaw: bass.
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.