Various Artists

Honkers & Bar Walkers, Vol. 2

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Founded in 1944, New York-based Apollo Records was home for a time to an impressive roster of artists, including saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Arnett Cobb, and Illinois Jacquet. Honkers & Bar Walkers, Vol. 2, a compilation of meat-and-potatoes blues, blues-based swing, R&B, and some early rock & roll, is one of a series of reissues by Delmark of material from the Apollo archives. This volume focuses on some of Apollo's other sax players and sax-based bands and combos. Sequenced chronologically, the set presents rare and previously unreleased sides from eight sessions recorded between 1950 and 1956, opening with Willis Jackson's "Call of the Gators" and concluding with King Curtis' "Dynamite at Midnite." The riffing and bumptious beats here can blur into an indistinct haze over the course of its 22 tracks, but taken individually, there are a number of fine performances. Highlights include an astonishing artistic and technical display from alto master Hilton Jefferson on the ballad "Darkness on the Delta" -- one of four tracks from drummer and bandleader Panama Francis; the unidentified baritone sax player with Bobby Smith on "That's for Sure"; and the prototypical yakety sax of King Curtis' "Rush Hour." There are also some interesting vocal choruses, notably the lugubrious moaning behind the unidentified bluesy tenor sax on "Hard Times" from Charlie Ferguson & His Orchestra. The hopelessly politically incorrect stereotyping on "Gitchie Gitchie Goomba," one of two tracks from Morris Lane & His Orchestra, is the only lame moment.

The compilation's documentation is helpful: Bob Porter's useful liner notes provide context and attempt to identify as many of the key performers as possible, and the track listings include session dates, master numbers, and take numbers. The remastering is also very good, bringing to life sounds that current players might be able to approximate but never replicate.

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