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Ottilie Patterson with Chris Barber’s Jazz Band –

That Patterson Girl

LAKE LACD244 [77:08]

 

 


Poor Man’s Blues
Make Me A Pallet On The Floor
Trouble In Mind
Careless Love
I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate
Ugly Child
I Can’t Give You Anything But Love
New St. Louis Blues
Beale St. Blues
’Taint No Sin
Jailhouse Blues
Shipwreck Blues
Trombone Cholly
When Things Go Wrong
Kay Cee Rider
Don’t Fish In My Sea
Salty Dog
Mean Mistreater
As Long As I’m Moving
Backwater Blues
Heavenly Sunshine
Lonesome Road
Weeping Willow Blues
Ottilie Patterson (vocalist)
Chris Barber’s Jazz Band
rec. 1955-63

 

Lake has proved a goldmine for the Patterson-Barber aficionado, a state of affairs that happily – and verdantly – continues with this release. It covers the years 1955 to 1963 though it concentrates on the earlier years - 1955-57 predominantly. There are some titles provisionally dated to 1959 and three from January 1963.

But in the main this is classic territory. The first dozen titles derive from two EPs – That Patterson Girl, Volumes 1 and 2 and demonstrate quite how rapid her rise to eminence in the British jazz scene had become. Much of the material is Classic Blues, as one would expect – Bessie Smith predominately, but also Ma Rainey and Ida Cox. Her assurance results in uncanny verisimilitude. The primary models sound entirely absorbed and not freakishly put on like a cloak, or embarrassingly half diluted. But then Patterson was always the most dedicated and remarkable of the absorbers of the Classic Blues singers.

The band mines Bunk Johnson and George Lewis for Make Me A Pallet On The Floor with Pat Halcox’s wavery lead taking its cue from the dogmatic but assured idealism of Ken Colyer. Barber contributes some modified tailgate, sufficiently modified to be anathema to the righteous Colyer. Their rhythm is springy and vibrant in a superb performance of I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate complete with a very knowing vocal from Patterson. The band even at this point was tightly organised and versatile – note Halcox’s muted lead in Trouble In Mind and conversely the big fat almost Al Fairweather sound he gets on I Can’t Give You Anything But Love. Patterson sings Ugly Child quite straight, that’s to say entirely shorn of the gloriously leering vulgarity of George Brunies’s version. And Monty Sunshine comes to the fore in New St. Louis Blues where he spins a swinging line, eclipsing himself with a stentorian introduction to Jailhouse Blues, which inspires Patterson to some magnificent blues melismas. We can also hear her simple but effective piano playing over which she sings Shipwreck Blues. Her harmonium playing – in emulation of Fred Longshaw? – I find rather lugubriously attractive.

In some of the later tracks a few things intrude – the band gets congested and steps on Patterson’s toes in Don’t Fish In My Sea. Some of the later R ‘n’ B influenced sides won’t be to the tastes – a touch raucous - though I like them and Barber’s adventurous absorption of a range of musical models has always been one of the most enjoyable things about his bands, big and small. Patterson sings Gospel in Heavenly Sunshine doubtless influenced by singers such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and others with whom she and the Barber band toured. There’s a touch of pitch instability in the final track, Weeping Willow Blues, but it’s over quickly. The playing here, in 1963, sounds like a blueprint for the current band – energetic, wide-ranging and tremendously swinging.

Another winner from Lake – and given Barber’s perennial popularity a big seller one would think. But above all this is Patterson’s disc and offers a fresh look at her absorbing take on the Classic Blues.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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