Memphis Slim

Born With the Blues [2004]

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Perhaps too idiosyncratic in its song selection to be an ideal introduction to blues piano great Memphis Slim, Born with the Blues is nonetheless an excellent overview of John Peter Chatman's later years, which he spent in happy musical exile in Paris, recording for Barclay Records and remaining a fixture in the city's blues clubs at a time when most of his pre-rock & roll contemporaries were sliding into frustrated obscurity back home. In fact, one of the highlights of this set is the slow 'n' easy "Pigalle Blues," a tribute to Paris' legendary red-light district that suggests that Memphis Slim felt right at home in his adopted land. Although these songs, recorded from the late '60s to the early '80s, don't have the crackling vitality of the pianist's early sides from the late '40s, nor the sympathetic backing and immense self-assurance of his career high points at Chicago's Vee Jay label, they're the sound of a man in complete control of his music, and they're unfailingly entertaining.

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