Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Jump Blues Kings
The rise in popularity of "Jump Blues" after World War II is related as much to societal changes as to those that took place in the music industry itself. The role that record companies, radio stations and the proliferation of smaller clubs all favored the splintering of the traditional instrumental big bands as musical tastes in African American urban communities began to favor urban blues delivered with electric instruments. Another offshoot of these trends was the Jump Blues, whose smaller combos combined elements of jazz instrumentation, ( and many fine jazz musicians) and boogie woogie based rhythms with fascinating lyrics to provide an upbeat style whose purpose was to promote club dancing. Almost all Jump Blues recordings are characterized by a wild saxophone solos after the second verse. Jump Blues lyrics, which exalt alcohol consumption, conviviality and erotic pleasure more explicitly than those of white musicians at the time, contribute to the festive, raucous atmosphere the music creates.
Another important fact about Jump blues is that the style really is the crucial transition not only to rock n' roll but also to rockabilly. Both are greatly indebted to the new ground Jump Blues prepared, and draw from songs and stylistics of Jump Blues. And while most would not agree with hugely influential Jump Blues bandleader Louis Jordan's claim that rock n' roll was nothing more than white musicians playing rhythm and blues, it is really undeniable that both rockabilly and rock n' roll would not have developed in the same way without the groundwork established by Jump Blues in the 1940's. While the list of Jump Blues artists listed below is by no means exhaustive, it does provide a pretty representative sampling of most of the major artists. Thanks again to the generous collectors on youtube who have been gracious enough to share these treasures of American Roots Music with us.
Louis Jordan: Louis, from Brinkley, Arkansas, provides both the vocals and the sax solo on "Let the Good Times Roll," a song he performs live with his Tympany Five. This one is a prototype of jump blues from the mid to late 1940's that demonstrates the jazz influence on the genre.
Calvin Boze: Calvin's highly influential "Safronia B" is often cited as a bridge piece that anticipates the advent of rock n' roll. That said, it is classic jump blues with a nice sax and trumpet solo by Calvin himself. Great dance tune.
Wynonie Harris: Perhaps more than others here, the very talented and prolific Harris embodies the spirit of Jump Blues. Check out his fabulous vocals on "Loving Machine." Simply fantastic music with a great band behind him.
Lucky Millinder: Lucky had one of the best Jump Blues bands from the early 1940's on. Check out his wonderful "Chew Tobacco Rag." Great sax solo on this classic dance number.
Tiny Bradshaw: Hugely influential, Tiny also sported one of the finest bands on the Jump Blues touring circuit. Best known for penning the famous "The Train Kept a Rollin," check out the quality of Tiny's band on "The Bradsahw Boogie." Superb.
Jimmy Liggins: Jimmy also had an outstanding smaller combo and an outstanding rhythm and blues voice. Check out his wonderful "I Ain't Drunk" from 1950.
Bull Moose Jackson: Jackson is best known for his frothy double entendre songs in a great Jump Blues format. Best known is the famous "Big Ten Inch" but his "Nosey Joe" from 1949 is also superb. Great band and vocals, and sax solo.
Floyd Dixon: Texas born, Floyd is not as well known as some of the others on the list here, but he was a superb pianist and had a very tight west coast band that could really lay it down. Check out his "Roll Baby Roll."
Roy Brown: One of the most prolific and intriguing musicians of the 1950's, Brown worked in several genres and is known for his voice and versatility. His "Good Rockin Tonight" which so many have covered is performed with a band in a jump blues format. Wonderful sax break.
Jackie Brenston: It would be difficult to leave out Jackie's classic 1951 recording "Rocket 88" which Sam Phillips claimed to be the first rock n' roll song ever recorded. In any event it's a true jump blues classic, recorded with Ike Turner's band. Vocals and sax by Jackie.
Big Joe Turner: This classic blues shouter recorded some wonderful jump blues material in the forties and fifties. Check out this this live performance of "If You Remember" at the Apollo Theater in New York from 1955. Outstanding.
Rudy Green: Rudy is not well known and there is scarce bio information available, but his "It's You I Love" is a fantastic jump blues number with excellent guitar and sax solos.