Mezz Mezzrow

1944-1945

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Mezz Mezzrow was a fascinating and driven character, very involved during the mid-'40s with dynamic elements like Integration, Socialism, Sidney Bechet, Afro-American culture in general, and most emphatically his personal religion, The Blues. Mezz always returned to this idiom, this way of thinking and playing, as if it were home. The trio session that opens this disc is composed of four variations on blues changes. "Feather's Lament," a searching sequel to "Really the Blues," trails off suddenly at the three-and-a-half-minute mark. It is obvious that Mezz was absorbed in his reverie, probably playing with his eyes closed, and lost track of the time. This is a precious little segment of the Mezzrow chronology. Intimate communication between three friends resulted in music of incredible honesty and depth, particularly at slow tempos. When they picked up steam, Mezz had a way of hammering out shrill tones with very human but also rather taxing insistence. He wheedles and whittles with his woodwind, keening like a locked-out feline as every ounce of his private emotions sincerely splatter all over the room. It's downright cathartic. Mezz probably should not be compared to other reed players. There's just no point, and it's not fair. Pee Wee Russell had a more advanced musical mind, and better chops. So what? Like Pee Wee and a number of peculiarly gifted jazz musicians, Mezz existed in his own alternative reality. He was a poet who adored his Afro-American inspirations. Mezz believed in a hip, integrated society where everybody is on the level. His musical adventures demonstrate terrific courage. Aligning himself with a formidable musician like Sidney Bechet was more than brash hubris or foolish bravado. Mezz had chutzpah and should be respectfully remembered for it. One thing about Bechet's leonine intensity and gravitational pull -- it allowed Mezz to noodle creatively without having to carry the full weight of an embellished melodic line. "House Party" is a beautiful example of a slow drag played by the Mezzrow/Bechet duo fortified with rhythm and a third horn, in this case Hot Lips Page. "Perdido Street Stomp" takes this energy out into the street. "Revolutionary Blues" follows the established pattern of a relaxed blues that heats up to a stomp for the flip side. "Blood on the Moon" is as scary as its title, with Page threatening and complaining in ways that are inseparable from the blues tradition. A whole stack of blues was concocted the next day by this same band, with vocals by an often unpleasant fellow named Pleasant Joe. There is also one vocal by Douglas Daniels, former member of the Spirits of Rhythm. "Ole Miss" demonstrates the precise discipline that Bechet could bring to any ensemble. The remaining tracks, which include a couple of reinterpretations of tunes that had been waxed earlier in the season, are about as solid as anything that this odd couple ever recorded together.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:07
2 2:38
3 3:28
4 2:55
5 2:42
6 2:22
7 3:13
8 2:34
9 2:27
10 2:57
11 2:35
12 2:54
13 3:04
14 3:03
15 2:56
16 2:42
17 3:02
18 2:48
19 3:32
20 2:56
21 2:40
22 2:42
23 2:31
24 2:32
blue highlight denotes track pick