Memphis Slim

Memphis Slim's Tribute to Big Bill Broonzy, Leroy Carr, Cow Cow Davenport, Curtis Jones, Jazz Gillum

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Blues pianist Memphis Slim, harmonica wizard Jazz Gillum, and guitarist Arbee Stidham assembled in a New York City recording studio on January 16, 1961, under the supervision of Nat Hentoff to track an album session for Candid Records. That they did, but what began to emerge was a loose, musical "trialogue" on departed blues artists that the trio had either known or been influenced by, a list that included Big Bill Broonzy, Leroy Carr, Cow Cow Davenport, Curtis Jones, Walter Davis, Roosevelt Sykes, Blind Blake, Washboard Sam, and Big Maceo, each of whom is given a tip of the hat in one song or another. Slim's piano is a bit out of tune throughout the proceedings, as is Stidham's guitar, which makes this less than a perfect recording, but the respect and reverence and wonderfully loose, intimate, and ragged delight these three veteran blues performers bring to these tracks offset the technical defects. Highlights include a sparkling and upbeat version of Cow Cow Davenport's "Cow Cow Blues," a crisp take on Roosevelt Sykes' "Forty-Four Blues," and a vigorous tip of the hat to Blind Blake on "Diggin' My Potatoes." The end result isn't a perfect album, mostly due to the tuning problems, but it has a very real intimacy to it, and it unwinds like an easy musical reminiscence between three old friends. This tribute from Slim, Jazz, and Arbee may not be essential, but it sure is honest, and true to the name of the record label, it is indeed candid. There's something to be said for that.

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