While hardly a household name, Jimmy Cavallo can legitimately lay claim to being one of the architects of rock 'n' roll. His was the first white rock 'n' roll band ever to play Harlem's famed Apollo Theater (Buddy Holly would be next), and he appeared in Alan Freed's seminal film, "Rock, Rock, Rock," helping to introduce the music, then in its infancy, to a nationwide audience.
So it's to their eternal glory that Blue Wave, a tiny independent label based in upstate New York, have put out a well-nigh perfect disc, capturing Jimmy Cavallo in a intimate session with a spirited and sympathetic band. It's an ideal showcase for Jimmy, a sprightly 74 at the time of the sessions and clearly having the time of his life.
There's an exuberance both sly and spry to Jimmy's singing, so that when he opens with Wynonie Harris' "Lovin' Machine" one gets the sense that yes, he may be just a little slower now, but there there's still plenty of party left in the man! From there it's a program of jump and swing blues classics, including a reprise of his own biggest hit, Roy Brown's "Fanny Brown." There's lots of New Orleans favour, with no fewer than four of the twelve tracks from the pen of Fats Domino, another Roy Brown chestnut with "Good Rockin' Tonight," and a spirited spin on "Bloodshot Eyes." . . . "I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town" is all smoky late-night mood, as is "I've Got News For You." Both are exemplary takes on balladry where jazz meets blues, territory ideal for Jimmy's laconic phrasing with its hint of the world-weary. Jimmy's originals are both irresistibly bouncy affairs; the cautionary "Leave Married Women Alone" and the instrumental "Walkin' With Mr. C."
The band, led by Ron Spencer, is uniformly excellent. With guitar, piano, upright bass, and drums augmented by a two-piece horn section, they lay down easy-swinging grooves that provide a firm foundation for Jimmy's spare and elegant tenor work. Others may honk harder, but Jimmy's all class, less showy but ultimately more satisfying by a long shot. The disc closes with a fascinating interview, almost a half-hour in length, with Jimmy chatting casually and candidly about his life in the biz. It alone is priceless, an invaluable slice of history; kudos again to Blue Wave for its inclusion.
But for all its historical importance, don't relegate "The Houserocker" to the museum; Jimmy's still kickin', still eminently able to rock your house too! A wonderful disc - my very enthusiastic recommendation!
Blue Wave Records
3221 Perryville Road,
Baldwinsville, NY 13027
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