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March 05

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Joe Williams featuring Ben Webster
Havin’ A Good TimeHyena Records

Kansas Citians serious about their city’s jazz history can ill afford to ignore this remarkable discovery and release from Hyena.

The two jazz giants featured did a lot playing in KC back in the day. Joe Williams refined and sculpt his velvet-wrapped baritone voice with the likes of Andy Kirk, Lionel Hampton and Count Basie, bands that camped in KC many times. Howard Reich described Williams’ voice in the Chicago Tribune, just before the singer’s 74th birthday, as “supple, flexible, lithe, warm, embracing.” Listening to Williams in this remastered 1964 live recording at a small Rhode Island nightclub on a cold, snowy February night, makes Reich’s description at once complete and lacking in capturing Williams’ grace and talent.

As the story goes, the roaring blizzard kept the crowd small and to the surprise of Williams’ band, as they took the stage over in the corner sat Ben Webster with his sax. Known to move around as a single when playing, Williams quickly had Webster join in. In the first cut, “Just A Sittin’ and A Rockin’,” Williams adds the line “sittin’ here rockin’ with brother Ben.”

Webster’s roots began in KC, born here in 1909; and like Williams he did playing time with Andy Kirk along with Bennie Moten and Duke Ellington. Webster is considered one of the big three of swing tenors along with Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. His sax playing complements Williams’ voice completely with its deep, passionate pacing. The artistic pairing of Williams and Webster that night in 1964 could have been pure coincidence. Webster might have been snowed in from trying to catch a flight back to Europe. He moved to Denmark permanently that year.

Havin’ A Good Time is just that. A jazz time frozen in sound with all the nuances of an appreciative audience heard in the background. On some cuts, it’s a drift into history, a mind picture of a moment when communication from the soul lazily formed around a small group of artists so perfectly formed by their love of jazz and blues.

Standout cuts include “Kansas City Blues,” “I’m Through With Love,” “That’s All” and a updated version (for that time) of Fats Waller’s classic “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Other band members included Bob Cranshaw on bass, Mickey Roker, drums and a superb Junior Mance on piano. As Williams’ sings on “Kansas City Blues,” “...the boys still jump and swing and sip the good wine ‘till long after broad daylight.” — Bruce Rodgers (posted 3/11/05)


Rumblejetts
FourplaySpinJett

Recorded at the semi-legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, "Roostina", from up and coming rockers The Rumblejetts, should be rootin-tootin good...but since it isn't out yet, you can only judge from the four tracks on Fourplay their preview CD, or mini-CD, or test print; who knows? Maybe they just had too many blank discs’ sittin' around.

Anywho, while just four samples of material from this obviously virtuoso group of musicians can barely wet the whistle (not to mention that most rockabilly songs are very fast and very short as it is), tracks like the bluesy "That'll be All From You" and the twangy celebration of that famous trailer-park icon, "Big Bouffant," reminds one why "hard core country rockabilly" just won't die no matter how many Stray Cats wannabes try to put a wooden stake through it's heart. —Brandon Whitehead . (Posted 3/04/05)


Janiva Magness
Bury Him at The CrossroadsNorthern Blues

Despite having a name that sounds like something you'd buy at Starbucks, the sultry, smoky voice of Janiva Magness (along with the help of Colin Linden's magnificent guitar pickin') has produced one of the finest and truest blues albums in years. Starting right off the line with "A Woman Knows" (any arguments?), Magness rolls out a vocal arrangement that proves she does indeed know just what she's doing.

While some of these 13 tracks suffer from a slightly muddy recording quality that's unfortunately common in blues recordings, Bury Him at the Crossroads is a mighty powerful statement from a woman in a world traditionally dominated by men, and one that's much needed to keep the stagnation off of one of the few truly unique American musical styles.

Just to sit back and listen to cuts like "Wasn't That Enough" or the haunting lyrics of the title track "Bury Him at The Crossroads" is so simply satisfying it's hard too believe this blues diva hasn't been around since the '30s.

Magness is performing March 9 at the Grand Emporium, where rumor has it blues music was once played; the doors open at 7 p.m. —Brandon Whitehead . (Posted 3/04/05)


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