To most fans of vintage American music the scene of Central Avenue in the Forties needs no introduction. A hot spot arguably unrivaled at the time, it was a place painted in the florid and exciting hues of African American music on the move. Numerous strains of blues coupled hedonistically with the improvisatory elements of jazz creating a wealth and variety of sounds that fortunately and frequently made it on to record. A lesser-known fulcrum of the scene Jack McVea, christened McVoutie by the redoubtable wordsmith Slim Galliard, was in fact one of the most in-demand session men of the day. Adopting a “have horn will play” attitude he gigged regularly with everyone from T-Bone Walker to Floyd Dixon.
McVea’s sessions as a sideman with Texas-born vocalist/drummer Rabon Tarrant are the focus of the collection, but the savvy folks at Delmark wisely intersperse other artists amongst the thirteen Tarrant-led tracks. The strategy suggests a two-fold purpose showing off McVea’s versatility within the rather stolid R&B and jump blues idioms while also injecting a healthy dose of variety into the program. McVea’s sultry lines compliment Tarrant to a “T,” embellishing and accentuating where they could just as easily trample and interfere. The vocalist responds in earnest, at turns belting or crooning the vernacular lyrics with a brio that routinely turns infectious.
On the slower numbers guitar chording echoes the subtle strum of vintage Nawlins banjo. Gene Phillips cutting amplified style on the Harris tracks traces a different lineage straight back to T-Bone Walker, sparring eagerly with the blustery brass of the famous R&B shouter’s horn section. The quartet of cuts (comprised of two alternates) under McVea’s own leadership are tailored from typical templates of the day- instrumental blowing vehicles that burn bright and fast (“O-Kay For Baby”) or smolder with romantic longing (“Don’t Blame Me”). Arguably the most intriguing line-up for jazz fans is the Tarrant Octet session featuring then-youthful legends Lucky Thompson and Charles Mingus in the band (“I’ll Be True” and “Hey Hey Hey Baby”), but the other aggregations contain exciting soloists/accompanists as well. In sum this is a set that spotlights an under appreciated saxophonist and elucidates his stature in a time and place that is still reverberating in popular music over a half century later.
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Track Listing: Jack McVea: O-Kay For Baby/ Rabon Tarrant: Listen Baby Blues/ Opus Boogie/ It Never Should Have Been This Way/ Wynonie Harris: Gone With the Wind/ Baby Look At You/ Jack McVea: Don’t Blame Me (alternate)/ Wild Bill Moore: Boulevard Boogie/ Rabon Tarrant: Blues This Morning/ We’re Together Again/ Naggin’ Woman Blues/ Cee Pee Johnson: The “G” Man Got the “T” Man/ RabonTarrant: Tarrant Blues/ Blues All Night/ I Live True To You/ Bob Mosely: B Flat Boogie/ Rabon Tarrant: Then I’ve Got to Go/ I’ll Be True/ Duke Henderson:Wiggle Wiggle Woogie/ Rabon Tarrant: Love Will Get You Down/ Hey Hey Hey Baby/ Don’t Blame Me/ O-Kay For Baby.
Personnel: Jack McVea- alto & tenor saxophone; Wynonie Harris- vocals; Rabon Tarrant- vocals, drums; Teddy Buckner- trumpet; Bob Mosely- piano; Gene Phillips- guitar; Frank Clarke- bass; Cee Pee Johnson- vocals; Edward Hale- alto saxophone; W. Woodman Jr.- tenor saxophone; E. Brooks- piano; D. Russell- bass; R. Ross- drums; Karl George- trumpet; Gene Porter- clarinet; Jewel Grant- alto saxophone; Lucky Thompson- tenor saxophone; Wilbert Baranco- piano; Charles Mingus- bass; Lee Young- drums; George “Happy” Johnson- trombone; Wild Bill Moore- tenor saxophone; Shifty Henry- bass; Duke Henderson- vocals; Jessie Perdie- trumpet; Marshall Royal- alto saxophone; Jimmy Shackleton- piano. Recorded: various locations August- December 1945.
I grew up listening to my father's jazz records and listening to the radio. My dad was a musician for many years as a vocalist, bassist and drummer. His two uncles played in the Symphony of Reggio Calabria back in Italy
I grew up listening to my father's jazz records and listening to the radio. My dad was a musician for many years as a vocalist, bassist and drummer. His two uncles played in the Symphony of Reggio Calabria back in Italy. So music and jazz specifically have been a part of me since I was born. I love and perform in all styles of music from around the world. Improvisation in jazz is what drew me in, and still does as well as other genres that feature improvisation. A group of great musicians expressing themselves as one is the hallmark of great jazz and in fact all great music.