The fourth of five volumes (the first four are two-CD sets) that reissue all of Bessie Smith's recordings traces her career from a period when her popularity was at its height down to just six songs away from the halt of her recording career. But although her commercial fortunes might have slipped, Bessie Smith never declined and these later recordings are consistently powerful. The two-part "Empty Bed Blues" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" (hers is the original version) are true classics and none of the other 40 songs (including the double-entendre "Kitchen Man") are throwaways. With strong accompaniment during some performances by trombonist Charlie Green, guitarist Eddie Lang, Clarence Williams's band and on ten songs (eight of which are duets) the masterful pianist James P. Johnson, this volume (as with the others) is quite essential.
On the third of five volumes (the first four are double-CD box sets) that reissue all of her recordings, the great Bessie Smith is greatly assisted on some of the 38 selections by a few of her favorite sidemen: cornetist Joe Smith, trombonist Charlie Green, and clarinetist Buster Bailey. But the most important of her occasional musicians was pianist James P. Johnson, who makes his first appearance in 1927 and can be heard on four duets with Bessie, including the monumental "Backwater Blues." Other highlights of this highly recommended set (all five volumes are essential) include "After You've Gone," "Muddy Water," "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," "Trombone Cholly," "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair," and "Mean Old Bed Bug Blues." The power and intensity of Bessie Smith's recordings should be considered required listening; even 80 years later they still communicate.
Bessie Smith, even on the evidence of her earliest recordings, well deserved the title "Empress of the Blues" for in the 1920s there was no one in her league for emotional intensity, honest blues feeling, and power. The second of five volumes (the first four are two-CD sets) finds her accompaniment improving rapidly with such sympathetic sidemen as trombonist Charlie Green, cornetist Joe Smith, and clarinetist Buster Bailey often helping her out. However, they are overshadowed by Louis Armstrong, whose two sessions with Smith (nine songs in all) fall into the time period of this second set; particularly classic are their versions of "St. Louis Blues," "Careless Love Blues," and "I Ain't Goin' to Play Second Fiddle." Other gems on this essential set include "Cake Walkin' Babies From Home," "The Yellow Dog Blues," and "At the Christmas Ball."
In the 1970s, Bessie Smith's recordings were reissued on five double LPs. Her CD reissue series also has five volumes (the first four are double-CD sets) with the main difference being that the final volume includes all of her rare alternate takes (which were bypassed on LP). The first set (which, as with all of the CD volumes, is housed in an oversize box that includes an informative booklet) contains her first 38 recordings. During this early era, Bessie Smith had no competitors on record and she was one of the few vocalists who could overcome the primitive recording techniques; her power really comes through.
Reissue with SHM-CD format and new 24bit remastering. In 1957, Johnny Smith was at the height of his artistic power when he cut this album for the Roost label. Smith had a patented method for shifting from single-string statements of the melody line to complex chordal structures with amazing ease. This ability is put to use for each of the cuts on this album, but is especially useful on such cuts as "Angel Eyes" and "You Go to My Head." Smith's guitar also seemed to have a one of a kind resonance to it, which energized every melody he played, whether on the melody itself or when improvising, making his playing immediately recognizable.
Reissue with SHM-CD format and new 24bit remastering. An overlooked 50s set from guitarist Johnny Smith – one that features a piano added into his trio, hence the "foursome" in the title! The pianist here is Bob Pancoast, who has a fluid, sometimes gentle touch on the keys – one that spins out Smith's guitar a bit more than usual, with a lyrical flair that we really like – and which is sometimes a bit of a contrast to his better-known mellow mode. The rest of the group features Knobby Totah on bass and Jerry Segal on drums.
Reissue with SHM-CD format and new 24bit remastering. The Johnny Smith sound is a wonderful one – not just the sound that he makes with his groundbreaking work on the strings of the guitar, but also the way he records the instrument – which set a new standard in jazz guitar albums, and also helped pave the way for countless generations to come! A date like this is a great example of the standard-setting work that Smith was able to give us in his prime – and the approach slightly updates the Smith guitar sound of the early 50s – clarifying it a bit, but still keeping that great tone right out front – with a group that includes Hank Jones on piano, George Duvivier on bass, and Ed Shaughnessey on drums.
When Lonnie Liston Smith left the Miles Davis band in 1974 for a solo career, he was, like so many of his fellow alumni, embarking on a musical odyssey. For a committed fusioneer, he had no idea at the time that he was about to enter an abyss that it would take him the better part of two decades to return from. Looking back upon his catalog from the period, this is the only record that stands out – not only from his own work, but also from every sense of the word: It is fully a jazz album, and a completely funky soul-jazz disc as well. Of the seven compositions here, six are by Smith, and the lone cover is of the Horace Silver classic, "Peace." The lineup includes bassist Cecil McBee, soprano saxophonist David Hubbard, tenor saxophonist Donald Smith (who doubles on flute), drummer Art Gore, and percussionists Lawrence Killian, Michael Carvin, and Leopoldo. Smith plays both piano and electric keyboards and keeps his compositions on the jazzy side – breezy, open, and full of groove playing that occasionally falls over to the funk side of the fence.