Drummer Barrett Deems is listed as the leader of this septet set but the real star is the great swing clarinetist Chuck Hedges. Jamming in a septet also including vibraphonist Don DeMichael (who was better-known as a jazz journalist), Bob Roberts on solo guitar, rhythm guitarist John Defauw, pianist Steve Behr, and bassist Wilson McKindra, Hedges and Deems perform eight vintage swing and Dixieland tunes in spirited fashion. Highlights include "Deed I Do," "Shine," "After You've Gone," and "Get Happy."
For many decades, African-American churches have worried about losing their best singers to secular music. And inevitably, many of them will, in fact, explore secular music instead of devoting 100 percent of their time to gospel. Al Smith is a perfect example. The obscure singer's roots were gospel, but he favored a jazz-influenced approach to blues and soul when he recorded two albums for Prestige/Bluesville: Hear My Blues in 1959 and Midnight Special in 1960. Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's famous New Jersey studio, Midnight Special finds Smith backed by a rock-solid quintet that consists of King Curtis on tenor sax, Robert Banks on organ, Jimmy Lee Robinson on electric guitar, Leonard Gaskin on acoustic bass, and Bobby Donaldson on drums.
Composer Charles Koechlin, 1867-1950, one of the underrated geniuses of modern music, has written some of the most challenging, thrilling and interesting music for the modern flute. The dynamic range of his music, from passionate lyricism to explosive, angular motifs has been a great gift to the modern flute, extending its range and expressivness.
This document of Smith's first year in the studio reveals a blues giant in full command of her talents. And while later dates - especially the epochal 1925 sessions with Louis Armstrong - offer more in the way of the era's horn-blowing royalty, these early sides nicely showcase Smith in the unadorned company of a variety of top pianists like Clarence Williams and Fletcher Henderson. The Empress of the Blues flexes her vocal muscle throughout, ranging from Broadway fare like "Baby Won't You Please Come Home" to the dark-hued rumblings of "Graveyard Dream Blues." She also revels in the provocative ambiguities of "Nobody in Town Can Bake a Sweet Jelly Roll" and puts her stamp on the future blues warhorse "'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do…