Any Jay McShann release is serious cause for celebration--and a natural addition for any serious blues, jazz, or roots music enthusiast. 'Goin' to Kansas City' is the third release for McShann on Stony Plain Records. It's hard to believe, but it was 60 years ago that the Jay McShann Orchestra was attracting such young turks as Charlie Parker to the KC scene, mixing together blues, jazz and swing idioms, while also setting the table for the coming bebop revolution.
His latest was recorded in the hometown of this 87-year old piano great--oddly his first KC recording since the 50's. Re-united with pals Tommy Ruskin on standup bass and Milt Able on drums, these intimate sessions are a joy to behold, and as McShann approaches his 10th decade he's never sounded as vital, energetic, and interesting.
Maria Muldaur joins Jay on a playful duet of his ground-breaking classic, Confessin' the Blues". Jay's voice is one of the most graceful and distinctive in blues history. His solo reading of Leiber and Stoller's "Kansas City" is gripping, and the song gets an encore on the CD: legendary Johnnie Johnson (Chuck Berry's piano player) helps out on a rollicking version of the Wilbur Harrison chestnut.
There are 14 other tracks, so everyone was in a generous mood, and we the listeners are the beneficiaries. The other guest musician on the CD is "Renaissance Man" Duke Robillard, who spices up the proceedings with ultra-tasty guitar fills in the Charlie Christian mode.
Octogenarian McShann remains very much the innovator eager to explore to new musical approaches, as demonstrated on "When I Grow to Old To Dream", a case study in how to put some lowdown swing into a sophisticated standard. There's also plenty of good old-fashioned boogie 'n' woogie, as Jay holds court on "Nasty Attitude" and "The Fish Fry Boogie". "Just For You" is just what the doctor ordered to ease the blues, while well-known standards such as "Trouble In Mind" and "Ain't Nobody's Business" showcase McShann's total command of deep down blues.
The Old Master is in fine fettle on the sultry blues of "One Woman's Man", and "Doo Wah Doo" is an absolute delight that should tickle the most jaded listener's fancy. As a bonus, there's a 20 minutes interview with Holger Petersen. Jay's memory proves to be as sharp as his musical gifts, and his insights and recollections are absolutely riveting-and extremely funny.
The combination of tradition and modernity has never blended so well as with Jay McShann. 'Goin' to Kansas City' is a place where everyone should heading to.
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