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.
Track Listing: 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
Personnel: Joe Williams: vocals; Junior Mance: piano; Mickey Roker: drums; Ben Webster: tenor
saxophone; Bob Cranshaw: bass.
I love jazz because next to my kids, it's the love of my life.
I was first exposed to jazz by Joe Rico from a tiny station in Niagara Falls in 1954 when I was 13.
The best show I ever attended was Maynard Ferguson who blew the roof off Massey Hall in the late 50s.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to everything you can and then listen again.