Born Eurreal Wilford Montgomery in 1906 (he died in Sept. 1985) in Kentwood, La., Little Brother is easily the most talented and stylistically versatile blues pianist on record. Not only was he a master of blues, boogie-woogie and ragtime-inflected stride, but he was as equally capable performer of Irish tunes, hymns and pop standards.
He grew up listening to ragtime pianists in his father's honky-tonk and began his career on the southern barrelhouse circuit during World War I. At 18 he enlisted with a traditional jazz ensemble and was soon picked up by the New Orleans-based Joyland Revelers.
The late 1920s found him with steady work in Chicago playing rent parties with Blind Blake, Charlie Spand and others. During his tenure in the Windy City, Little Brother Montgomery helped to usher in the Golden Age of blues piano. It is his piano playing that one hears on Otis Rush's legendary Cobra sides, to name but one high-profile session appearance.
Many of his classics are here: "No Special Rider," the much-imitated, double-rhythm marvel "Vicksburg Blues," which gets a new name, "New Vicksburg Blues" and the bouncy, boogie-woogie show-stopper "Farish Street Jive."
This is a fine update of the original September 1, 1969 analog recordings and is a must-have for collectors of early Chicago blues.
P.O. Box 7688, Silver Springs, Md., 20907, (301) 434-6958
This review is copyright © 2000 by Matt Alcott, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.