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UPC - 660652903120
Jimmy Witherspoon - Jimmy Witherspoon

Release Date - Apr, 2001
$14.98

Aint Nobody's Business - 3.06
In The Evening - 2.58
Frog-I-More - 2.48
Mcshann Bounce - 2.26
How Long Blues - 3.04
Money'S Getting Cheaper - 2.55
Skidrow Blues - 3.42
Spoon Calls Hootie - 2.42
Backwater Blues - 3.07
Jumpin' With Louis - 2.59
Destruction Blues - 2.33
Aint Nobody's Business - 2.55
Hot Biscuits - 2.29
Slow Drag Blues - 3.01
M.R. Boogie - 2.26
Buttermilk - 2.36
Skidrow Blues - 2.47
Soft Winds - 2.34
No Name Boogie - 2.58
Thinking About My Baby - 2.39
Geronimo - 2.23
Twelve O'Clock Whistle - 2.53
Mellodrag - 2.29
Eatin' Watermelon - 3

Jimmy Witherspoon has always acknowledged his personal indebtedness to Joe Turner and even today some evidence of Turner's singing is to be found in his work. Now however he has a long career behind him, his singing has been modified, sweetened somewhat. Today he sings many ballads and the brash forcefulness of his early recordings with their youthful vigor has gone. This collection drawn from his rare records of the forties reveal Jimmy Witherspoon in his prime, and show that even as a young singer he had an authentic voice of his own. It comes as no surprise to find that Jimmy Witherspoon, like the other blues shouters mentioned, was born west of the Mississippi in the country of the southwestern blues bands. His home was Gurdon, Arkansas and he was born there on the 18th of August, 1923. As a child he saong in the local church choir and in his youth heard the singing of visiting blues shouters working with Territory bands. Drafted at the age of eighteen, he went into the Merchant Marine and served in the Pacific theatre of war in the crucial years 1941-43. His ship made a regular run to Calcutta and it was as a result of this that unexpectedly, he entered the world of blues shouting. Calcutta would seem to be the last place in the middle of the war that one might expect to find a jazz musician working, but at the Grand Hotel Winter Gardern there, Jimm encountered pianist Teddy Weatherford. Weatherford was born in West Virginia in 1903 and after playing piano in New Orleans he moved to Chicago in 1921 to join the celebrated Erskine Tate Vendome Theatre Orchestra for which Louis Armstrong also played. He was famous in Chicago but was a restless man and within a few years went to California- and then, still further on. With unusual curiosity for a jazz musician he made his way to Asia where he played in China, Japan and Malaya, bringing his own brilliant piano jazz to Shanghai, Hong King, Singapore and the East Indies. Though he made a brief tour in Europe in the 'thirties he liked the East and returned there to settle in India. Weatherford attracted a miscellany of musicians, including a number of expatriate Americans and was well known to visiting servicemen. When Witherspoon heard him he was invited to sing with the band at the Winter Garden, which he did with a success that surprised himself. Weatherford died in Calcutta in 1945, but by this time Jimmy Witherspoon had secured a job that decided his career. Back in the States he was footloose in Valejo, California when a Kansas City band blew into town. It was Jay McShann's and "Hootie", as the leader was called, had just recently lost his resident blues shouter, Walter Brown. It was a lucky break for Jimmy Witherspoon, who stepped into Brown's place. "Spoon" had arrived. Though he led a fine swinging band, Jay McShann did not achieve the fame that Bill Basie did. Perhaps he played in the wrong places. His was largely a touring band, following the circuit of mid-west and western locations which the "Territory" bands had played since the 'twenties. He was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1909 and in 1929 formed his first important band in Kansas City. A pianist who played in the western blues piano tradition, with strong left hand and boogie flavor he led a band which prominently featured blues. Such bands were the nurseries of many of the avant-garde musicians- the most famous alumnus of McShann's was undoubtedly Charlie Parker but such musicians as Paul Quinichette or Gene Ramey got valuable experience with him. In the first couple of years of 'Spoon's association with the band there were numerous changes of personnel, but McShann's blues based music gave it unity and Jimmy's strong, personable singing the continuity necessary. For a while in 1945 he was joined by Crown Prince Waterford and Numa Lee Davis to make a particularly strong vocal team to front the band, but when Waterford left, Jimmy stayed on to enter the period of his best work from which these recordings come. Most of the tracks were recorded at two sessions on November 15th and 20th, 1947, in Los Angeles for Jack Lauderdale's Down Beat-Swing Time label. The full McShann band at this time had Forrest Powell on trumpet, Frank Sleets and Charles Thomas on alto and tenor sax respectively. Louis Speigner played guitar. Benny Booker bass and Jay's brother Pete McShann was on drums. An accomplished band, it is to be heard to advantage on for example Frog-I-More, and old Jelly Roll Morton tune which features the characteristic qualities of a McShann group- the hard-blowing saxes, the excellent trumpet obligato against the vocal played by Forrest Powell, the riffs in the closing choruses and the final ride-out. Comparison with Spoon Calls Hootie or Destruction Blues, two items made on June 10th the following year is instructive of the leader's influence. Though there is no trumpet and Frank Sleets remains in the band, Milburn Newman plays baritone, Tiny Webb takes over on guitar and Ralph Hamilton and Jesse Sailes play bass and drums; it is essentially McShann's band and the accompaniment is as sensitive to the singer's requirements. Jay McShann himself is showcased on a typical boogie-blues McShann Bounce while his excellent and under-rated guitarist Louis Speigner is given a deserved feature spot on Jumpin' with Louis. Confident and extrovert, the twenty-four year old singer belts out Skidrow Blues and Money's Getting Cheaper, original, modern blues with topical relevance in the late 'forties. They are Witherspoon's own blues compositions of the time. His respect for the blues singers of older generations is demonstrated in his more contemplative recordings, the versions of Leroy Carr's classic In the Evening and How Long Blues, and the timeless Bessie Smith - James P. Johnson, Backwater Blues. Bessie Smith was singing Ain't Nobody's Business in the year that Jimmy Witherspoon was born, but he approached the old, traditional blues with a sympathy that made it peculiarly his own. Now, years later, it is still associated with him, though he never sang it with more feeling and sincerity than on this occasion in November 1947. "Blues shouter" he was and is, and a major figure in that line of blues descent. But he is an interpreter of the blues, too, and it is exhilarating to hear him as he was at the threshold of his successful career. Other tracks feature vocalists with Crown Prince Waterford coming over best, although Lois Booker and Maxine Reed are competent enough singers, but one tends to listen to the backgrounds and accompanying solos on their tracks. The supporting musicians, in fact, are little known but a number certainly do not deserve their obscurity. Thinking about My Baby and No Name Boogie are the first records on which Art Farmer appears, though it is probably James Ross who plays the muted trumpet on the first title, but it is the little known tenor men Buddy Floyd and Pete Peterson who attract attention with swinging full-toned solos very much in the style of Buddy Tate. Another excellent tenor man, long a West Coast stalwart, is Maxwell Davis and he has driving solos on several tracks, though it is his companion on alto, Don Hill, who shines on Geronimo and Soft Winds. Vernon Smith is possibly the most striking soloist on the album and he is heard to advantage on Buttermilk, Hot Biscuits and Slow Drag, making one regret that he has been so little recorded over the years. McShann himself is an assured soloist who can perform very capably in the boogie idiom, but he shows on Mellowdrag and Soft Winds that given the opportunity he can play solos that reveal genuine melodic imagination. Mellowdrag is a feature for McShann and over a quiet ensemble background he takes a solo that can be compared to the best of his earlier work with his big band. Jazz exists on many levels and while such musicians as McShann, Vernon Smith, Pete Peterson and Don Hill are obviously not major stylist that are soloists of genuine merit. Their performances are technically assured, swing well and are in the mainstream of the jazz tradition. This is an engaging and worthwhile album. - Paul Oliver & Albert McCarthy (a & b) Jimmy Witherspoon (vocal) (a) Jay McShann (piano) Forrest Powell (trumpet) Frank Sleets (alto saxophone) Charles Thomas (tenor saxophone) Louis Speiginer (guitar) Benny Booker (bass) Pete McShann (drums) (c) Jay McShann (piano) Louis Speiginer (guitar) Benny Booker (bass) Pete McShann (drums) (d) Jimmy Witherspoon (vocal) Jay McShann (piano) Forrest Powell (trumpet) Frank Sleets (alto saxophone) Milburn Newman (baritone saxophone) Tiny Webb (guitar) Ralph Hamilton (bass) Jesse Sailes (drums) (e) Lois Booker (vocal) Jay McShann (piano) James Ross (trumpet) Art Farmer (trumpet) Frank Sleets (alto saxophone) Pete Peterson (tenor saxophone) Milburn Newman (baritone saxophone) Addison Farmer (bass) Robert Brady (drums) (f) Maxine Reed (vocal) Jay McShann (piano) Vernon Smith (trumpet) Frank Sleets (alto saxophone) Buddy Floyd (tenor saxophone) Tiny Webb (guitar) Ralph Hamilton (bass) Jesse Sailes (drums) (g) Jay McShann (piano) Vernon Smith (trumpet) Don Hill (alto saxophone) Maxwell Davis (tenor saxophone) Tiny Webb (guitar) Ralph Hamilton (bass) Jesse Sailes (drums) (h) Crown Prince Waterford (vocal) with unknown accompaniment Jay McShann (piano) Recorded in Los Angeles, CA (a) Nov. 15, 1947 (b,c) Nov. 20, 1947 (d) June 10, 1948 (e,f) ca. 1948 (g,h) ca. 1949 Original recordings by Jack Lauderdale Re-issue produced by Alan Bates Photography: David Redfern Layout & Design: Ric Simenson 1. Ain't Nobody's Business Grainger & Robbins (b) 3.05 2. In the Evening Carr (b) 2.58 3. Frog-I-More Morton (b) 2.46 4. McShann Bounce Boyd (c) 2.25 5. How Long Blues Carr (a) 3.02 6. Money's Getting Cheaper Witherspoon (a) 2.54 7. Skidrow Blues Witherspoon (a) 2.47 8. Spoon Calls Hootie Witherspoon (d) 2.42 9. Backwater Blues Smith (b) 3.08 10. Jumpin' with Louis Boyd (c) 2.58 11. Destruction Blues Witherspoon (d) 2.33 12. Ain't Nobody's Business Grainger & Robbins (a) 2.55 13. Hot Biscuits McShann (f) 2.29 14. Slow Drag Blues McShann (f) 3.03 15. M. R. Boogie Reed (f) 2.26 16. Buttermilk McShann (f) 2.33 17. Skidrow Blues Witherspoon (a) 3.39 18. Soft Winds Goodman & Royal (g) 2.32 19. No Name Boogie McShann (e) 2.55 20. Thinking about My Baby Booker (e) 2.38 21. Geronimo McShann (g) 2.21 22. Twelve O'clock Whistle Reed (f) 2.56 23. Mellodrag McShann (g) 2.28 24. Eatin' Watermellon Waterford (h) 3.02


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