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Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham: The Concord Jazz Heritage Series

Ed Kopp By

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Since 1984, Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham have recorded eight infectious blues-based jazz albums on the Concord label. The Cheathams combine Kansas City blues, jump, swing, and occasional doses of bop and boogie-woogie in their danceable amalgam. This retrospective CD compiles 11 of the best tracks from their Concord recordings, and it's well worth checking out. This Cheathams are raucous enough to energize a frat party, yet mainstream enough to find on the jukebox at any good jazz club.

Jimmy Cheatham is one talented bass trombonist and arranger who's played with the likes of Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman and Thad Jones. Jeannie Cheatham is a bluesy pianist whose resume includes stints as an accompanist for Dinah Washington and Jimmy Witherspoon. Mrs. Cheatham is also a coquettish singer with a soulful style derived from early blues pioneers Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith.

Accompanied by an ever-changing collection of respected jazz musicians known as the Sweet Baby Blues Band, the Cheathams throw a great party on every CD. These 11 tracks feature such luminaries as Clarence Gatemouth Brown (guitar), Red Callender (bass), Hank Crawford (alto sax), Curtis Peagler (alto sax), Rickey Woodard (tenor sax), Frank Wess (tenor sax and flute) and Snooky Young (trumpet).

You begin to grasp the Cheathams' fun-loving vibe from their song titles: "Meet You With Your Black Drawers On," "Big Fat Daddy," and "Take The Wrinkles Out Your Birthday Suit." This is good-time jazz featuring superb soloists and toe-tapping arrangements. Believe me, the Cheathams are just as much fun in concert. I caught their act a few years ago, and they had people dancing on the tables.

Jump blues and small-band swing just don't get any better than the Cheathams. Here's hoping the new swing revivalists discover this veteran duo.

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