Slam Stewart

Fish Scales

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The late bassist Slam Stewart had relatively few opportunities to record as a leader, and most of them took place in the last 15 years of his life. Noted for playing bass while simultaneously scat singing an octave above it, he is, of course, the primary soloist on nearly every track of Fish Scales. This CD compiles portions of three studio dates which originally appeared on two Black & Blue LPs, adding a pair of previously unreleased tracks. Most the music comes from a quartet date with pianist Johnny Guarnieri, guitarist Jimmy Shirley, and drummer Jackie Williams, all of whom acquit themselves during their brief solos. Unfortunately, the tempos for many of the songs are rather turgid compared to other versions recorded elsewhere by Stewart, whether as a leader or sideman. A turbocharged duet with drummer Jo Jones, "Foolin' Around" eventually adds pianist Gene Rodgers to its swinging conclusion, while "Indiana" pales in comparison to Stewart's famous 1945 Town Hall performance with tenor saxophonist Don Byas. A rather subdued but extended "Willow Weep for Me" features Al Casey's bluesy guitar along with Wild Bill Davis (on piano rather than his customary organ) and drummer Joe Marshall; this track feels more like a warm-up to a session or something that would have normally been rejected by most producers. Overall, this is an enjoyable but hardly essential CD for fans of Slam Stewart.

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