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CLARENCE WILLIAMS

Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home? His 26 finest 1923-1933

RETROSPECTIVE RTR 4303

 

 

 

 

 

     

    Baby, Won't You Please Come Home?

    Gulf Coast Blues

    Wild Cat Blues

    Kansas City Man Blues

    'Taint Nobody's Bizness If I Do

    Texas Moaner Blues

    Everybody Loves My Baby

    Mandy, Make up Your Mind

    Cake Walking Babies from Home

    Papa De-da-Da

    Gravier Street Blues

    Candy Lips, I'm Stuck on You

    Cushion Foot Stomp

    Red Hot Flo from Kokomo

    Church Street Sobbin' Blues

    Wild Flower Rag

    West End Blues

    Organ Grinder Blues

    In the Bottle Blues

    Breeze, Blow My Baby Back to Me

    Whoop It Up

    I've Found a New Baby

    Worn out Blues

    He Wouldn't Stop Doin' It

    Shout, Sister, Shout!

    Dispossessin' Me

    Clarence Williams (piano, vocals, jug) with his Jazz Kings, Blue Five, Wasboard Five, Wasboard Four, Washboard Band, Novelty Band, Novelty Four, James P Johnson, Eva Taylor, Ethel Waters Bessie Smith

    Recorded 1923-33

     

    Pianist, bandleader, composer, vocalist and catalyst, Clarence Williams has always enjoyed the esteem of enthusiasts for the company he kept. But it’s not just those epochal Blue Five sessions with Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet – jousting New Orleanians unprepared to cede the centre ground – that have earned him such gratitude. He had on board the various permutations of his Jazz Kings and other aggregations a starry line-up of 1920s talent. Tom Morris, Ward Pinkett, Ed Allen, Louis Metcalfe and indeed King Oliver were in his recording outfits – and they were just the trumpet or cornet men. His recordings from this period offer a compendium of the strata and sub-strata of the music of the time – Blues, stomps, hokum, washboards, vocals, piano duets and more besides.

    The tracks start with a 1931 Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home, which sports a tuba hammering down the rhythm to such an extent that things never really swing. Reverting to the late acoustics allows us to hear Bessie Smith’s Gulf Coast Blues with Williams’s functional accompaniment and the raft of Blue Fives sides, the earliest with Tom Morris, the remainder with Armstrong. He and Bechet made other recordings with Williams but perhaps it would have unbalanced the selection to have included them all, much though they would have elevated the musical stature of the album. Cake Walking Babies is the locus classicus of the duel between the two supreme jazz virtuosos of the 20s; Armstrong seems slightly nearer the recording horn than Bechet whose soprano would carry further.

    An altogether different ethos can be heard in Gravier Street Blues , with its two-clarinet front line which, with Cyrus St Clair’s tuba and a banjo, sounds altogether droll after the volcanic combustion of the Blue Fives. Howard Nelson’s fiddle makes its mark on the novelty-inclinedRed Hot Flo from Kokomo whilst Buster Bailey’s alto playing on Church Street Sobbin’ Blues was beginning to sound decidedly old fashioned by 1927. Williams’s affiliation with Ragtime can be heard inWild Flower Rag, there’s the very famous In the Bottle Blues, with King Oliver and Eddie Lang, a vocal from Ethel Waters, and the splendid cross-talk between Williams and fellow ivory tickler James P Johnson.

    The transfers are certainly respectable, the notes helpful and the selection wide enough to take in most facets of Williams’ recording career.

    Jonathan Woolf


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