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Jimmy Rushing: Rushing Lullabies

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Jimmy Rushing sang the blues superbly, of course, but he was rather more than “a blues singer,” as he was customarily described. He was a remarkable, almost unique example of that very rare cat, the jazz singer. That is, he was quite different from all those somewhat fraudulent male pop singers who liked jazz and sang jazz songs, but didn’t really qualify. Oddly enough, more women seemed to (like Ella Fitzgerald, Helen Humes, Billie Holiday and Mildred Bailey), but not if we consider the sub-stratum of jazz musicians who doubled as singers, beginning with the greatest, Louis Armstrong and continuing with Jelly Roll Morton, George “Fathead” Thomas, Fats Waller, the Lunceford vocalists (Willie Smith, Joe Thomas, Sy Oliver and Trummy Young), Jack Teagarden and Lips Page. Most of these would merit what Irving Townsend said of Rushing in his superior notes to the Columbia set: “a jazz singer with an affinity for the blues.” And if you’re mumbling about Joe Turner and Joe Williams, you can turn that around and say, “a blues singer with an affinity for jazz.”

The Columbia disc embraces two LPs, Little Jimmy Rushing and the Big Brass and Rushing Lullabies, the second of which has already been reissued as a single CD with one previously unreleased track, “Travel the Road of Love.” The first was made at three sessions with a big band that included several of the singer’s former Basie colleagues, namely Buck Clayton, Emmett Berry, Dicky Wells, Vic Dickenson, Earle Warren, Buddy Tate and Jo Jones, not to mention H.M. Coleman Hawkins. The band roars through arrangements by Jimmy Mundy, Nat Pierce and Buck Clayton with hot authority as Rushing delivers a choice selection of blues and favorite songs from his enormous repertoire. Here, as it were, you have a survivor picturing a jazz singer hollering fervently before a shouting band in a crowded dancehall of the pre-microphone era. That was where Rushing’s voice was tested and proven, and where his marvelous disposition enabled him to triumph over all kinds of trouble.

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