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Phil's Jazz Pleasures 9

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Phil’s Jazz Pleasures 9

Influence of the Blues on Jazz

We at RVJB all hope you are keeping as well as can be expected in these difficult times. This month I am going to have a brief glimpse at the relationship between jazz and the Blues.

My first choice is by the great Chicago blues player Little Walter - My Babe. This wonderful track contains much that is familiar to our appreciation of great blues. The 12 bar blues chorus with its highly familiar harmonic structure and narrative form plus truly terrific harmonica playing.
The Blues originated in the Deep South often sung by slaves and newly liberated slaves. Many of whom left the South to seek employment and a better life settling in urban cities such Chicago and Detroit. My second choice is Tom Waits outstandingly great song - Chicago – telling the story of one Black family contemplating moving to a better life in Chicago. The way Wait’s band creates the rhythm of a train is so effective and clever.
The Blues may have originated in the Mississippi Delta but settled and developed further North. My third choice is BB King’s The Thrill is Gone – one of the great Blues artists that made that journey to Chicago.
Of course, jazz as we now know it would not exist without the Blues – simple as. The Blues format was the single most popular original template for jazz musicians. Since then, of course, much has been done with it/to it by various jazz “giants” as my selection hopes to show.
My fourth selection demonstrates this very well – it is the great New Orleans pianist Alain Toussaint with a fabulous version of Cab Calloway’s blues standard St James Infirmary – most delightfully interpreted and adapted. I hope you agree.
On now to the genius John Coltrane, who built his tour de force A Love Supreme on a basic Blues riff not far removed from the one underpinning Willie Dixon’s masterpiece Seventh Son. The final part A Love Supreme - Psalm – is my 5th choice. Elvin Jones’ drumming and McCoy Tyner’s piano are quite majestic. Enjoy!!!  This is jazz at its very, very best.
From one genius to another, enter Miles Davis. Sixth, his magnificent All Blues in which he substitutes scales for chords to produce a wonderful adaptation of the Blues. You can just imagine yourself going round and round in a happy relaxed way all day long to this piece. More top drawer jazz.
Oh no! Another genius! Charlie Parker – one of the ultimate jazz improvisers around Blues rifts. I have chosen Barbados. If you shut your eyes you can imagine yourself in some lovely Caribbean bar listening to this.
The Hammond organ is often featured in jazzy Blues numbers. It certainly is on my 8th choice, the late great Roy Hargrove – trumpet player extraordinaire – using Captain Jack McDuff’s Hammond to great effect for a truly most wonderful piece of Bluesy jazz - Blues for Booty Green’s.
Jazz now that simply affects great Blues feeling. Few do this as well as Frank Sinatra. White Crooner Blues if you like. My next pick is Sinatra singing the totally perfect One for My Baby (and One more for the Road). “When I am gloomy. Won’t you listen to me – till it goes away.” We’ve all been there! Next the great Cannonball Adderley bending the Blues HIS way and offering his OWN advice on how to overcome adversity  - with Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.
Arguably, the greatest Chicago Blues players, Howlin’ Wolf,  is the 11th track I have chosen – Do the Do - from his London Sessions albums; backing him are a fantastic collective of great British Blues musicians – Eric Clapton, Stevie Winwood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. This is a pure Blues delight.
Finally, arguably one of the best love, jazzy Blues songs ever written – I’d Rather Go Blind – and Etta James’ completely sublime rendition of it.
Till the next time – stay safe!

This Month’s Playlist

Little Walter                            My Babe on The Essential Little Walter
Tom Waits                                Chicago on Bad as Me
BB King                                    The Thrill is Gone on Anthology
Alan Toussaint                          St James Infirmary on The Great Mississippi
John Coltrane                           A Love Supreme Part 4 Psalm on A Love Supreme
Miles Davis                               All Blues on Kind of Blue
Charlie Parker                          Barbados on Bird and Miles, Vol 2
Roy Hargrove Quintet               Blues for Booty Green’s on The Vibe
Frank Sinatra                            One More for My Baby on Classic Sinatra
Cannonball Adderley                Mercy, Mercy, Mercy on Jazz Masters
Howlin’ Wolf                            Do the Do on Howlin’ Wolf The London Sessions
Etta James                                I’d Rather Go Blind on Tell Mama


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