Joe Lutcher

Jumpin' at the Mardi Gras

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This is quite a comprehensive collection (25 tracks) for a relatively minor early R&B performer. However, it shouldn't be considered a best-of as it only covers his stint with Modern in the late '40s and early '50s, not including any of his Capitol and Specialty material, and thus omitting the R&B hits "Shuffle Woogie" and "The Rockin' Boogie" (although "Mardi Gras" is here). In fact, only nine of the numbers (both sides of four 1949-1950 singles, plus a song that didn't come out until a 1983 Ace compilation) were previously released; the remaining two-thirds are previously unissued outtakes and alternates. Like many of the musicians recording in L.A. in the late '40s (including many of the ones doing Modern sessions), Lutcher was at the pivot in the transition between jazz, jump blues, and R&B that was vital to the birth of rock'n'roll. As such pioneering saxophonists go, Lutcher was a little more traditional than most, at times sounding like a link between older New Orleans jazz and R&B. On other sides, such as the 1949 single "Ojai," he's closer to the big band mood of Dizzy Gillespie or even Benny Goodman than he is to R&B and pre-rock'n'roll. What history will most remember his Modern stint for, however, are the cuts with a Mardi Gras influence (particularly in the rhythms), which stand as some of the first tracks ever recorded to bear an identifiably New Orleans R&B stamp. "Mardi Gras" itself, which was done before Professor Longhair's more famous version, is certainly the most galvanizing of those. Otherwise the disc is an energetic but somewhat samey-sounding hybrid of jump R&B, jazz, and the occasional New Orleans flavor, encompassing vocals (including two songs with an unidentified female vocalist) and instrumentals.

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