Johnny Lewis

Shuckin' 'n Jivin'

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The Johnny Lewis Quartet was a standard organ trio-plus-tenor sax combo working in restaurants and nightclubs in the Pacific Northwest when the group released its sole album, 1972's Shuckin' 'n Jivin', in a tiny self-pressing. Recorded live at the Trojan Horse restaurant in Seattle, Shuckin' 'n Jivin' documents nothing more than a fairly hot set by a very good supper club soul-jazz combo. Tenor Johnny Lewis, organ and clavinet player James (Moody) Thompson, guitarist Joe Villa, and drummer Kenneth Drake are all skilled players with a knack for mellow grooves (a nine-minute take on the standard "Willow Weep for Me" features some particularly good interplay between Lewis and Thompson) and refreshingly little time for showboating, but from the endearingly amateurish cover art and dated period photo (nice collars, dudes) to the solid but uninspired playing in the grooves, Shuckin' 'n Jivin' sounds exactly like what it is: proof that most local bands remain local for a reason. It may have kitsch appeal and some vague historical interest, but as something to be listened to, it's as bland as a ketchup-based shrimp cocktail. The Luv 'n' Haight reissue adds two tracks from a 1975 studio session, competent versions of the Meters' "Cissy Strut" and Buddy Miles' "Them Changes."

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