Pinetop is a popular name for pianists, a generic along the lines of Guitar Slim/Shorty/Fats etc., etc. But Willie Perkins has had the name longer than most--in part because there just aren't too many 85 year old blues keyboard players still around. This album, the third where he's backed by George Kilby Jr. and The Coolerators was cut live on his 85th birthday, July 4 1998, in Montclair New Jersey.
The Coolerators are a five piece unit, rhythm plus baritone and tenor sax and they do a good job of framing Perkins rocking good piano and serviceable vocals. Guitarist Kilby has a New Orleans background, you can hear it in some of his rhythm chops--and the horns dip into some gumbo grooves here and there. Perkins is not a flashy soloist, rather he shines in an ensemble setting--he was the man picked to fill Otis Spann's chair in Muddy Waters band for over a decade. He does a good job as a meat-and potatoes player with a steady left hand, adding rolling fills with his right.
The program is mostly blues and R&B chestnuts such as "Chicken Shack," Roscoe Gordon's "Just A Little Bit," "High Heel Sneakers," even one from his former bossman, "Hoochie Coochie Man." There's one original, "Down In Mississippi" with Perkins naming his roots over a romping riff. It's mostly uptempo stuff with Leroy Carr's "How Long" being the bluesy exception. The band has a good dynamic sense and knows when to shut the hell up for a few bars behind the soloist--a trait more bands could study.
All in all, nothing new or flashy here, but some good-time romping standards from a master craftsman who still has energy and style.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Guadalupe Slim, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.