Considering the influence he's had on blues and jazz piano coupled with the fact that he's still sounding great in his 80's, the discography of Kansas City legend Jay McShann is far too brief. That's part of what makes Hootie's Jumpin' Blues such an absolute delight.
These tracks were recorded in an Edmonton, Canada studio in August 1996 while McShann and Duke Robillard were appearing together at the Edmonton Folk Festival. The decision to team these two artists was a brilliant programming move, and we can be glad that Stony Plain Records had the foresight to also take them into the studio. Robillard and his band, supplemented by two additional horn players, provide excellent backing to McShann's still lively piano work. Especially noteworthy is the trumpet playing of Bob Tildesley.
McShann encores many of his well-known standards like "Hootie Blues," "Jumpin' the Blues," and the excellent "Confessin' the Blues." Even though he recorded the originals nearly 60 years ago, McShann gives these classics new life. You'll want to hear them over and over.
One of my favorite numbers is the spirited "Doo Wah Doo." It's nice to know that a man well into his 80's can still swing like this. The interplay between McShann's bluesy vocals and Tildesley's muted trumpet make "Confessin' the Blues" a candidate for blues song of the year, and is without a doubt the highlight of the album.
Further adding to the value of Hootie's Jumpin' Blues is the 21+ minute bonus track at the end, featuring an interview and several informal solo piano numbers. In the interview McShann tells the listener of his experiences playing in whorehouses and how Charlie Parker got his "Bird" nickname.
My advice is to buy this disk for yourself, and get several more copies for your friends. They'll thank you for it.
- Bill Mitchell
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