T-Bone Walker / Big Joe Turner / Otis Spann

Super Black Blues

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Bob Thiele, the former head of blues at ABC Records who founded the Flying Dutchman imprint BluesTime in the late '60s, designed the 1969 album Super Black Blues as a way to showcase the label's three recently signed blues legends, T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner, and Otis Spann. That this LP happened to follow the format of Blue Horizon's recent hit Blues Jam in Chicago -- a record that featured plenty of Chicago stalwarts, including Spann, backed by Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac -- is not incidental. Super Black Blues was a way to bring these '40s stars to the attention of '60s audiences and perhaps entice a couple of old fans to listen as well. The record was just four tracks, with the long jams "Paris Blues" and "Blues Jam" anchoring the A and B sides and balanced by "Here I Am Broken Hearted" and "Jot's Blues." The emphasis on improvisation and long grooves certainly made Super Black Blues different than the original '40s and '50s sides by Walker, Turner, and Spann -- those were restricted by technology and taste -- and it's fun to hear them stretch out with George "Harmonica" Smith, Arthur Wright, Ernie Watts, Ron Brown, and Paul Humphrey in tow. If the record isn't necessarily energetic and sometimes flirts with formlessness, chalk that up to the aftermath of psychedelia, where jams were prized over energy. This does mean Super Black Blues is a bit dated and a bit of an anomaly in the catalogs of Walker, Spann, and Turner, but time has turned this into an amiable detour: not the first record to hear by any of these three by any means, but it's fun to hear the giants find common ground.

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