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Jimmy Witherspoon: Jazz Me Blues

This “best of” collection was compiled by David Axelrod, who produced three of the sessions from which nine of the twenty titles derive. For him, Witherspoon was the “boss” of the blues and one of his “closest and dearest friends,” as he explains in enlightening notes. His achievement in getting the singer a brand-new Cadillac as an advance from a record company must certainly have cemented their friendship.

The astute choice of blues old and new obviously contributed much to Witherspoon’s success on records. His good articulation and subtle vocal inflection of melancholy make his performances both attractive and convincing, although he occasionally tends toward the overly dramatic. The accompaniments are good, even the strings on the three big-band sides being used effectively in H.B. Barnum’s arrangements. As Axelrod points out, one of the best and easiest sessions owed much to T-Bone Walker’s presence as guitarist and organizer. And for a finale, there is “‘Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness if I Do” from the 1959 Monterey Jazz Festival when the accompanists included Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines and Ben Webster, the last of whom blows an emotional solo chorus. This and the other four titles from that momentous occasion, please note, were previously issued on The Spoon Concerts, Fantasy FCD-24701-2.

Originally Published