Joe Stanley was a musical
legend in the Washington, D.C. area for over five
decades. He played with the premier local R&B band
the Saxtons (also called the Saxons) for over 30
years, and also played with Big Joe Maher & the
Dynaflows. He worked with a prestigious and
diverse group of musicians ranging from Link Wray
and Roy Clark to Big Joe Turner and Marvin Gaye. He
gave the late guitarist Danny Gatton and another D.C.
music icon, singer/guitarist Billy Hancock their
The veteran sax man passed away in 2007 at age 71,
but his musical influence is still felt. Maher, who
likened Stanley’s sound to “entering a time machine
and hearing the best R&B sax men of the 1940s and
’50s, has assembled a nice special edition tribute
to the late artist and released it on EllerSoul
Records. Legend consists of two CDs that really give
listeners the essence of Stanley’s sound and his
versatility. He was able to adapt his style to
whatever the popular musical trend was at the time.
Disc One features Stanley performing a varied set of
classic jazz and swing, with nine tunes ranging from
“Blue Moon” to “The Nearness of You” to “Ode To
Billy Joe” to “September Song.” These tunes are
mostly instrumental, save for “The Nearness of You,”
with vocals from Stanley, and also feature Maher
(drums), John Cocuzzi (organ), John Previti (bass),
and Rudy Turner (guitar on “Ode To Billy Joe”). The
disc closes with an excerpt of an interview with
Hancock reminiscing about growing up and playing
music on the D.C. scene.
Disc Two is a collection of live recordings with
Stanley, Maher, Cocuzzi, and Previti being joined on
13 tracks by Jeff Sarli (bass), Ivan Appelrouth
(guitar), Frank Cocuzzi (drums), and Chris Watling
(baritone sax). These songs showcase Stanley’s
vocals more than the first disc and they are equally
wide-ranging, from “Deep Purple,” “Foggy Day In
London Town,” “Jambalaya,” “Just a Gigolo,” “Pennies
From Heaven,” “Please Release Me,” “Walkin’ With Mr.
Lee,” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Again, Stanley
shows amazing versatility on these tracks and proves
to be a very capable vocalist.
Legend is a very interesting retrospective featuring
one of the unsung heroes of the early days of R&B.
Listening to these discs will give you an idea of
just how exciting and creative this era of music
really was. No question that Joe Stanley played a
big role in the early development of blues, jazz,
and R&B, and not just in the D.C. area.