Various Artists

Crescent City Bounce: From Blues to R&B in New Orleans [4 CD]

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It's difficult to imagine any place on earth that has given us more gutbucket piano players than New Orleans where seemingly every tonk and barrelhouse had a piano in the corner and a long line of musicians who knew exactly what to do with it. The city's esteemed jazz history sometimes obscures its equally unique R&B pedigree, but as this wonderful four-disc, 119-track box set shows, New Orleans has had a long and unbroken blues and R&B piano tradition that reaches virtually unmodified through to modern players like Little Professor, Fats Domino, Eddie Bo, Lee Dorsey, Dr. John and countless others. Covering the years 1950 to 1956, Crescent City Bounce is a wall-to-wall delight, full of bounce and verve as it explores the underground emergence of R&B in the city. Among the highlights are the two-part (the two parts were somehow reversed on the original single and are here set correctly) "Stack-A-Lee" by Archibald (Leon T. Gross), Smilin' Joe's (also known as Pleasant Joe) wry "Living on Borrowed Time," Roosevelt Sykes' "You Can't Be Lucky All the Time," the easy and boozy "Got You on My Mind" by Tommy Ridgley, the sprung rhythms of "Mornin' Train" by Blazer-Boy (George Stevenson), "Doing the Hambone" by a then 14-year-old James Booker (under the name Little Booker), and the sharp and impressive instrumental "Heavy Sugar" by Lloyd Lambert (Lawrence Cotton actually plays piano on this one, with Lambert on bass). It all adds up to a fun and informative romp through modern New Orleans R&B piano styles, and while a set like this has obvious archival value, it'll also kick your party into high gear.

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