This week’s Sunday morning album is an old blues classic, Blues From The Gutter by Champion Jack Dupree. Born and raised in New Orleans in the first-half of the 20th century, he was often considered to be the last of the great barrel-house pianists. He lived a tough life, orphaned at an early age and then growing up in a rough area of New Orleans he then spent much of his adult life struggling with addiction, a theme that is present throughout this album.
The album itself in it’s remastered format (as I own it) is in remarkably high quality. Many great blues records including those recorded up to the early 60s often suffered from hiss and scratching on the recordings even once remastered for later re-releases. Luckily the master tapes from these sessions must have been of a high-standard as the music is preserved beautifully, as it deserves to be.
Originally released in 1959 on Atlantic, the album consists of a majority of original tunes written by Dupree accompanied by two older folk tunes, namely ‘Frankie and Johnny’ and ‘Stack-o-Lee’. Each of the tracks on the album is a joy to listen to as Dupree’s moaning vocals with slight N’Orleans’ twang accompanied by his deft piano-playing and the rest of the band’s great back-up create a real sense of the old blues. Special mention at this point should be given to the line-up of the band; Pete Brown, Ennis Lowery, Wendell Marshall and Willie Jones. Each of whom fills their role wonderfully. Brown and Lowery with their tasteful solo playing and Marshall and Jones who provide a solid rhythm section that melts away into the background but is also unfailingly consistent at keeping the groove flowing.
The majority of the tracks on the album take the form of slow blues’ allowing Dupree and the soloists to languish in the laid-back atmosphere of the tracks. There are several exceptions to this however, for example the upbeat, faster-paced ‘Nasty Boogie’ that’ll get your toe tapping at the very least, as well as my personal favourite track of the album, the final ‘Stack-o-Lee’.
A great example of the older blues music preserved for generations to come and some great tunes to listen to as a bonus.
Good morning and a happy Sunday to you.
This morning the weekly album choice is Bill Evans’ aptly named 1961 album Sunday at the Village Vanguard. Anyone in anyway familiar with the wonderful world of Jazz will know the name Bill Evans. He played through a great career, trragically cut short as a result of demons that plagued him throughout his life. This album was recorded with his jazz trio, with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. Regarded as one the finest trios ever to play and record together, but unfortunately no longer still with us.
The album itself is generally considered one of the finest live jazz recordings ever to have been cut. Within even the first few minutes of listening Evans’ tasteful piano voicings and Bud Powell-esque flourishes combine with the fine rhythm work of LaFaro and Motian to create that quintessential trio soundworld. As with all great trios they work as single unit, keeping a tight groove and playing off each other with almost intuitive precision. The ambience of the room with the sounds of the club flowing over some of the quieter sections generates a window into a lost time. Close your eyes and be transported to that room with the smoke curling, glasses clinking and Evans sat at his piano with the music just flowing out of him. This sets a precedent against which live recordings should be compared. Very few recordings actually exude atmosphere quite like this, but this does and in spades.
Both LaFaro and Evans present wonderful improvisations with tasteful slower sections and more fiery faster runs that carry the motion of the tracks forward and present a sense of virtuosity without once stepping over the line into overindulgence or creating an intensity that overshadows the chilled vibe of the room. Motian follows the pair with unbreaking support and is understated and tasteful in his grooves. Together they present a great recording, one that deserves a place in everyone’s collections, even those who are not die-hard jazz aficionados, alongside ubiquitous albums such as Kind of Blue. It is an hour and 20 minutes of chilled grooves that functions as both full-concentration listening as well as background ambience. It can provide the soundtrack to your morning coffee, brunch, dinner party or evening drinks.
Give it a listen.
Happy Sunday 🙂