Albert Ammons


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Here's vibrant proof that virtually any melody could be heated up and hammered out into an enjoyable boogie-woogie stomp. "Deep in the Heart of Texas," "Margie," "Roses of Picardy," "You Are My Sunshine," "Sheik of Araby," "When You And I Were Young, Maggie," and "Twelfth Street Rag" were all fair game for Albert Ammons' eight-to-the-bar gyrations. The twangy electrified guitar of Ike Perkins maintained rhythmic velocity with well-timed kicks and struts. On August 6, 1947, Ammons' Rhythm Kings quartet was fortified by the presence of Albert's son -- tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons -- and trumpeter Marvin Randolph. The pianist sounds deliberately old-fashioned during the introduction to W.C. Handy's hit of 1914, "St. Louis Blues." When the horns chime in during the bridge, everyone's rolling in a solid groove. Then Gene takes over, sounding majestically hip. This mood is continued and expanded on the flip side, "Shufflin' the Boogie," which is a rocker. "S.P. Blues" cooks just a bit hotter, and Gene wails up a storm. "Hiroshima" is this band's version of "Nagasaki," another goofy 1930s pop song turned jazz jam standard. Given what had happened to both cities in August of 1945, the retitling seems grimly playful. This session is perfectly symmetrical, with two steamy up-to-date boogies sandwiched between old standards. The Albert-and-Gene father-and-son combination is very exciting, and should be better known than it seems to be, even among seasoned jazz heads. "In a Little Spanish Town" sounds like a premonition of Professor Longhair's own Louisiana approach to the boogie-woogie, and compares well with Lester Young's version recorded in March of 1951. "Tuxedo Boogie" begins with a guitar lick that would eventually surface as "Shake Your Money Maker." Israel Crosby plays his upright bass on all six sessions, and the final date introduces a fine alto sax player by the name of Riley Hampton. These are the final sessions of Albert Ammons, preserved for posterity on Mercury Records. He passed away in Chicago on December 2, 1949, at the age of 42.

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