The title of the Many Faces of Boogie Woogie compilation makes reference to both "many faces" and boogie-woogie. The former aspect is much easier to define: there are multiple dozens of musicians here, including many bandleaders or solo stars from the world of blues and jazz and their seemingly endless parade of sidemen, some of whom are stars in their own right. As for boogie-woogie, it is one of these vague musical terms that in some cases listeners might recognize when they hear it. The piano style of Albert Ammons, for example, is a grand example of what is known as boogie-woogie piano. The phrase "boogie-woogie" and its cousin-by-groove "boogie" have been used to describe much other material besides his kind of virtuoso piano thumping, however. There is even a Captain Beefheart song with "boogie-woogie" in the title, although that isn't part of the program here. It could have been, though, based on the perimeters of what is included. Jazz tracks by Benny Carter and Tommy Dorsey reveal not only an eagerness to make the same kind of use of what was no doubt a faddish style in song titles but to manipulate the sound of the big band in order to up the complexity level that had been attained by boogie-woogie pianists. Whether it be jazz or blues, and some of these tracks are tricky to define one way or another, boogie-woogie is one of the few musical labels that can actually refer directly to music content. Many of these tracks include variations on a type of riff that is often identified as boogie-woogie, such as the bluesy "It's a Lowdown Dirty Shame" by Louis Jordan. There are many different ways to twist these riffs, of course, all of them unique. A New Orleans jazz performer such as Edmond Hall puts such an individual twist on the entire notion that the question looms of what makes a track a boogie rather than just a blues. Much of this material is simply both. Some of it, such as "Boogie Woogie Man" by the Casa Loma Orchestra, is dated and strained, with as much relation to the essence of Ammons as a tuna casserole. All in all, this is a highly enjoyable selection of music, much of which might already be in the collection of blues and jazz fans. For neophytes it makes for a good batch of tuneage, combining related but unfortunately often segregated aspects of the same stylistic roots. It would be too much to expect any compilation to provide clear answers to the boogie questions, but The Many Faces of Boogie Woogie is at the least a nice way to act on the advice of the late John Lee Hooker: "Don't forget to boogie!"
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2