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Big Maceo: The Bluebird Recordings, 1941-42

As they’ve long known in Europe, CC is the way to go with important music. So BMG’s Bluebird is again to be congratulated for Complete Chronologicals. These two are valuable in their relation to the blues piano traditions, one largely overwhelmed by the wail of the electrical guitar. Yet a roster of distinguished names called off the top of the head suggests a field in need of more study: Leroy Carr, Little Brother Altheimer, Meade Lux Lewis, Sammy Price, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Jay McShann, Eddie Boyd, Charles Brown, Otis Spann, Pinetops Smith and Perkins, and these two, Big Maceo and Memphis Slim. Add your own choices!

Big Bill Broonzy and Big Maceo both befriended Memphis Slim after Joshua Altheimer died in 1940, but his original influence had been Roosevelt Sykes. As Broonzy told in his book, Memphis Slim subsequently developed his own strong, energetic style in Chicago. A line of descent can be traced here, already some distance from that formed on beaten-up pianos in Southern juke joints.

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