Don't let the title of this one fool you; tasty 12-bar blues is intertwined with traditional jazz staples throughout this fine compilation from Sony Music.
The three disc and 49 song compilation begins with "Manyanga Drum Rhythm," a fine example of the layering of contrasting ostinato patterns. On this interesting track, percussionists freely improvise upon their respective rhythmic figures resulting in rich polyrhythmic textures.
Track two, Leroy Miller's "Berta, Berta," is an expressive work song performance that shows a glimpse at what African-American vocal music may have sounded like before Emancipation. Sung in a loose call and response manner, the repetitive melody is based upon a pentatonic scale (or five note) scale, with the third, fifth and seventh notes from the root sung lower in pitch (blue notes).
Other historical cuts appearing on this compilation is Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Black Snake Moan." This is a song full of sexual connotations answered with arpeggiated chords and often allusive gestures on the acoustic guitar that almost sound like a second voice. It is interesting to note the loose structure of what was yet to become a standardized 12-bar blues form.
Also present is Bessie Smith's "St. Louis Blues," an antiphonal duet between the expressive voice of Smith and the eloquent cornet playing of Louis Armstrong. This version of W.C. Handy's famous composition is considered one of the greatest performances of classic blues in the 1920s.
Other recordings from the compilation that use 12-bar blues form is: King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band's "Dippermouth Blues"; Armstrong's "West End Blues"; Count Basie Orchestra with Joe Williams' "Every Day (I Have the Blues)"; Thelonious Monk's "Straight, No Chaser"; Horace Silver's "Senor Blues" and Charles Mingus' "Better Git It in Your Soul."
Sony Music Special Products, 550 Madison Ave, New York, NY, 10022-3211
This review is copyright © 2000 by Matt Alcott, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.