Blues Bytes


October/November 2015

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Joe Stanley
EllerSoul Records

Joe Stanley

Tenor saxophonist/singer 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 first exposure.

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.

--- Graham Clarke
Read Graham's blog


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