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One beauty of the blues is that its masters may get together with no practice and produce fabulous music. That is what occurs on The Bob Margolin All Star Blues Jam, where the leader assembles what is left of the Chicago Blues 1950s heyday for a bit of a trip down memory lane. Margolin, himself an alumni of the Muddy Waters band, is quite deft at pulling this all off. Joining Margolin is harpist Carey Bell, who produces a very credible "One Day You’re Gonna Get Lucky" and Hubert Sumlin, whose guitar style pioneered electric blues. Add octogenarian Pinetop Perkins on piano, Will Smith on drums, and one has two more stellar Waters alumni. Mookie Brill holds down vocals and bass duties.
Almost all of the participants sing. Margolin opens the games with Johnny Shines’ "Brutal-Hearted Woman." He then provides Perkins some tasty slide guitar as the pianist stretched out on the Robert Nighthawk gem, "My Sweet Black Angel." Brill croons his bet Bobby Bland on "I’ll Take Care of You."
Carey Bell swings around the very slow "Easy to Love You" sounding more like himself all of the time. Margolin, Sumlin, and Brill have a trio date on Jimmy Roger’s "Last Time." Muddy’s "Country Boy" is sung by Willie Smith with more of Margolin’s fine slide guitar, electrified but still smelling of the Delta.
As an all-star recording, this one is better than most. But, as good as it is, it tends to have a contrived feel and mood. It is not likely the best blues recording you have heard this year, but it's still pretty damn good.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.