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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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BOOGIE WOOGIE KINGS

Delmark DE 804

 

 


Albert Ammons
1. Pinetop’s Blues

Pete Johnson
2. G-Flat Blues

“Cripple” Clarence Lofton
3. Streamline Train
4. Pitchin’ Boogie
5. Mistaken Blues
6. Travelin’ Blues
7. I Don’t Know
8. Mercy Blues

Meade Lux Lewis
9. Doll House Boogie
10. Whistlin’ Blues

Henry Brown
11. Deep Morgan
12. 22nd St. Stomp
13. Pickin’ Em Out Again

Speckled Red
14. Dirty Dozens
15. Dad’s Piece
16. Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie
17. Right String But The Wrong Yo Yo

Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson & Meade Lux Lewis
18. Boogie Woogie Prayer

Meade Lux Lewis
19. Closing Time

 

Delmark has acquired some recordings originally made for the Euphonic Sounds label and this album contains the cream of their boogie woogie tracks by the best-known masters of the genre. Many of the tracks were recorded in 1939 at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago by the famous trio of Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis and Pete Johnson. These tracks are interspersed with others made later by such pianists as Speckled Red and "Cripple" Clarence Lofton.

The result is a CD that encapsulates the boogie woogie style at its best. Every pianist delivers that agile left-hand rhythm as the basis for right-hand improvisations. The beat is infectious right from the start, as Albert Ammons launches into the boogie classic Pinetop's Blues. You might expect a whole album of boogie woogie to be repetitive but the left-hand rhythms display a remarkable variety of techniques. Some players use the conventional boogie up-and-down sequence while others employ chords or single notes to drive the music along.

The word "blue" in several of the titles betrays the other strong influence in this music, since many performances are typical blues tunes, sometimes with bluesy vocals attached - like Clarence Lofton's Mistaken Blues. And a piece like Lofton's Streamline Train suggests where Humphrey Lyttelton may have found the rhythm for his hit Bad Penny Blues.

The style of Meade Lux Lewis is markedly different, with him whistling on Whistlin' Blues and switching from piano to tinkling celeste halfway through Doll House Blues. Recorded in 1960, Henry Brown seems to have been lumbered with a tinny piano but his sturdy playing comes through against the odds. Deep Morgan includes a fairly incomprehensible spoken commentary.

Speckled Red's contributions are rather clangorous, as he seems to like using the sustain pedal a lot. However, Pinetop's Boogie Woogie is an enduring piece of melodrama, with its continual cliff-hanging pauses filled by echoey clangour from the piano.

The trio performance of Boogie Woogie Prayer by Ammons, Johnson & Lewis is one of the album's highspots, setting up a rich and deep profusion of sounds as the three instrumentalists band together to whack seven bells out of their pianos. The CD ends with Meade Lux Lewis emphasising the bass in his interpretation of his own composition, Closing Time.

All but five of the 19 tracks on this album have been released before, so boogie woogie fans may find it duplicates parts of their existing collections, but the CD would make a valuable introduction to this arcane art for any newcomers.

Tony Augarde



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