King Curtis

Music for Dancing: The Twist

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This delightful 12-track set was originally released by RCA Records in 1961 to cash in on the twist dance phenomenon that was then sweeping the east coast, and while it was hardly an LP for all time, the music was spirited and frenzied, and it remains so all these decades later. At the time, King Curtis was predominately a top-tier tenor sax session man, and vocalist Don Covay, who sings on half of the album’s tracks, was just starting out in his career, too, so this set has a certain historical significance, but it’s the music itself that speaks loudest. Working with a big band that included guitarists Mickey Baker, Billy Butler, and Carl Lynch, fellow tenor sax player Warren Luckey, baritone saxist Heywood Henry, pianists Ernie Hayes and Paul Griffin, and drummer Joe Marshall, Curtis sets the energy level high on big-band standards like “Jersey Bounce" (a hit in 1942 for Benny Goodman) and “Stompin’ at the Savoy” (originally recorded by both Goodman and Chick Webb in 1934), and somehow makes them seamlessly fit with then-current pop dance hits like “Let’s Twist Again,” which featured Covay's bright and soulful vocals. Everyone involved went on to bigger and better things as musicians, but this funky little set has a certain joyful elan that makes it endearing, and it rocks like a steam train barreling out of the station. It’s a timepiece, yes, but it’s also a lot of fun, and 50 years after its original release, it’ll still get you dancing.

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