It's always a joy to hear the Chicago blues when it isn't cut with anything, and this is as pure as it comes. Willie Buck has been leading bands in the city for over forty years and this material was committed for posterity some twenty eight years ago. Passing time hasn't diminished it however and it sounds as uplifting now as it would have done back then.
Buck knows how to read a lyric and as a singer he's his own man, but that wouldn't count for much if he hadn't surrounded himself with a band that knows its stuff inside out. On the slow and vaguely brooding "How Can I Be Nice to You" the harmonica is outstanding even while it doesn't upstage Buck. The guitars of John Primer and Louis Myers snap and slink and the resulting mood just oozes sincerity.
Covering Willie Dixon's "I Live The Life I Love" isn't just Buck reaching back into the Mother lode, it's an example of how timeless this music is, at least when it stays true to itself. Buck makes the point again with Muddy Waters' "Champagne & Reefer" where the tempo is downright filthy in the most positive sense and the blues once again serves the purpose of getting rid of human frustrations in face of life's arbitrary injustices. It's thus, in short, good for what ails you.
The groove is of a different order on "Sweet Sixteen" proving that it is possible to be innocently lascivious, especially when a band is as intent on nailing it as this one is. Big Moose Walker rolls on piano to the extent that he wouldn't have sounded out of place in the Chess records studio three decades before this material was cut, while drummer Jerry Porter shows he's as well acquainted with the backbeat as Fred Below and Earl Palmer.
The last five tracks were recorded live. What they lack in audio sophistication is more than compensated for by their immediacy and fire. Recorded in Chicago back in 1984 they are in summary further testament to no holds barred blues. It's not clear whether or not it's Little Mac Simmons on harmonica on these sides but whoever it is knows his Little Walter; it's clear in every scintillating blast. It's also true that as a singer Buck is so far inside the part of the blues shouter that it can only be described as amazing. The same term goes for the potency on offer all over this release.
Track Listing: She's All Right; How Can I Be Nice To You?; I Live The Life I Love; I've Got A Right To Love My Baby; Champagne And Reefer; There's A Time; Everything's Gonna Be Alright; Sweet Sixteen; Found My Baby Gone; Nineteen Years Old; I Want You To Love Me; Got My Mojo Workin'; Sugar Sweet; Don't Go No Further; Checkin' Up On My Baby; Just To Be With You; Blues Had A Baby.
Personnel: Willie Buck: vocals; Louis Myers: guitar; Little Mac Simmons: harmonica; Big Moose Walker: keyboards; Dave Myers: bass; Jerry Porter: drums (1-12) Jodie North: drums (13-17) John Primer: guitar (1-12); Dimestore Fred: harmonica (2, 3, 5, 6, 8-12).
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.