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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby




Crotchet
Midprice

The Definitive

JOE WILLIAMS

VERVE 589 846-2

 

  1. Every Day I Have the Blues
  2. All Right, OKAY You Win
  3. Please Send me Someone to Love
  4. Teach Me Tonight
  5. Our love is Here to Stay
  6. Singin’ In the Rain
  7. Party Blues
  8. Roll ‘Em Pete
  9. A Man ‘Ain’t Supposed to Cry
  10. Goin’ to Chicago
  11. If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight
  12. I was Telling Her About You
  13. Alone Together
  14. Until I Met You
  15. Come Sunday
  16. Who She Do
  17. Ev’ryday (I’ll Fall in Love)
  18. Sometimes I’m Happy
  19. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve

It was the singing of Joe Williams that helped to launch the Count Basie Band of 1954 to stardom, Bill Basie had always had a good band, but it was better known to the limited jazz circle, than the general public. Joe Williams was much more than a replacement to Jimmy Rushing who had the job with Basie earlier, he was not only a blues shouter (he was very good at it, but he was also an excellent ballad singer as well). Joe had an enormous stage presence; a huge deep warm voice and he could create excitement at the drop of a hat.

The first six tracks demonstrate these facets of his work with the excellent Basie bands of ‘54 to ‘56 in support. Ernie Wilkins was the arranger for tracks 1 to 4 and Buddy Bregman on 5, 6 and 8.

Track 7 Party Blues, pairs Joe Williams with Ella Fitzgerald and a very tight sounding Basie Octet. You can feel how much everyone enjoyed doing this one, with both singers ‘scatting’ in great style and a really good ensemble sound. Roll ‘Em Pete is back to the blues, Joe Williams could have been a great singer just doing the blues!

A Man Ain’t Supposed to Cry has Joe with the Jimmy Munday Orchestra, this was an effort by the singer to launch a more sophisticated side to his career, he eventually left the Count Basie Band in 1961 to pursue a solo career. The 1958 Goin’ to Chicago has the benefit of Lambert Hendricks & Ross in support on this Basie/Rushing tune. From the same year If I Could be with You and I Was Telling Her About You have the excellent Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison on trumpet and Basie on Organ, these tracks were almost a try out for when he launched his own band in 1961.

The band Joe launched with Edison, Jimmy Forrest on Tenor and Sir Charles Thompson on piano are heard on Alone Together. The arrangement by Ernie Wilkins is superb and it is very well played by the band. Until I Met You turns out to be a vocal version of the Basie favourite Corner Pocket.

The next track comes from an album Joe made with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Band in 1966. Several members of the band were ex-Basie at that time, including co-leader Thad Jones. I found this track a bit disappointing; it never seems to get off the ground. Tracks 16,17 and 18 feature Joe in 1987 with a small group consisting of Norman Simmons-piano, Henry Johnson-guitar, Bob Badgley-bass and Gerryck King-drums. These are taken from a live session and once again Joe is at his best, swinging as only he could. The last track is just Joe with Ellis Larkins on Piano from 1990 singing the little heard Frank Loesser song What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve. The warmth and roundness of Joe’s voice are still in evidence and when you consider he was over 70 at the time, these are remarkable performances. They were the however last he made, Joe died in March 1999. He was still working right up to the end. In fact he had a visit planned to visit Ronnie Scott’s in Birmingham that year which I had planned to go to. He never made it, but I am awfully glad that I saw him live with the Basie Band on a number of occasions. He was an awesome performer!

 

Don Mather

 

 



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