The 10 Most Quintessential Old Jazz Songs

Satch-1120.jpg
Library of Congress/Wikipedia
Louis Armstrong was once so popular he had a brand of cigar named after him.
The best thing about old jazz is how just one good song will serve as a reminder of how brilliantly romantic that time period was. The soulful cry of artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong was just made to intertwine with the rat-tat-tat-tat of crisp drums and and the wail of blaring horns. The collaboration between the big band and those big voices was -- and still is -- absolute magic.

And because it was such a magical time, we feel that everyone should spend part of their day dancing around to old jazz songs. While we may not be able to transport you back to the time when Dizzy Gillespie reigned supreme (our flux capacitor has gone missing) we can throw this here list your way to help you out instead.

So just throw on these old jazz standards and dance around like you're on some airy New Orleans veranda instead. We'll never tell.


More »

Little Joe Washington: The Stories Never End

LittleJoeRR1113-5.jpg
Photos courtesy of Ray Redding/TexasRedd Photography
Little Joe Washington at KPFT's Anniversary Party, April 2013
Houston is a little less of an action town today after Wednesday's passing of Little Joe Washington, the mighty-mite of the local blues scene. Washington's death is believed to be due to diabetic complications; he was 75.

I could prattle on here with the nuts and bolts of an overview of Joe's life: his birth on Velasco Street in Third Ward, his roots in the local scene here backing up guys like Albert Collins and Joe "Guitar" Hughes back in the day, his crazy days in the bars of El Paso and Juarez with pal Long John Hunter, his salad days in Los Angeles recording for Syd Nathan and Specialty Records, or his long slide into addiction and homelessness.

But screw it, I have better memories than that.


More »

JW-Jones Is No Blues Nazi

JWJones1.jpg
Photo courtesy of JW-Jones
Going out of -- hell, just trying to get out of -- the box in blues is hard. Purists, traditionalists, blues nazis, or whatever you want to call them built the box and they are proud of the box. The box has its advantages: it's comfortable and doesn't require much thinking or adjustment, the comfort zone is there to cocoon in.

So who knows what traditionalists will make of JW-Jones, a brash young Canadian with a mostly-Texas blues bone who refuses to play by the rules. He plays two gigs in Houston this weekend, tonight at Shakespeare Pub and tomorrow at the Big Easy.

Blues Revue calls Jones "a fluid amalgam of T-Bone Walker's big, bright chords, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson's slashing leads, and Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown's jazzy sting." That's high praise indeed. For his part, Jones says it's nice to have the accolades, but his influences are fairly wide.


More »

Revisiting Johnny Winter's Hell-Raising Memoir

WinterMuddyBluesBros-0923.jpg
Photo courtesy of Kid Logic Media
Johnny Winter, third from left, with John Belushi, Muddy Waters and Dan Aykroyd
Raisin' Cain; The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter
By Mary Lou Sullivan
Backbeat Books, 384 pp., $24.99

As is the case when any musician dies, widespread interest in his or her career and catalog shoots up in the immediate aftermath. And that has certainly been the case with blazing blues singer/guitarist Johnny Winter, who passed away in July at the age of 70 while on the road in Switzerland.

Ironically, even outside of his demise, the profile of the Beaumont native and former Houstonian was on the rise with the release of a career-spanning box set (True to the Blues), a documentary (Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty) and a now-posthumous "comeback" record, Step Back.

So it's a good chance to look back at Raisin' Cain. First published in 2010, it was the culmination of a rocky road for author Sullivan. Based on scores of hours of first-person interviews Sullivan conducted with Winter -- along with his bandmates, his mother and brother Edgar, friends, lovers and others -- the book took more than two decades to produce. It didn't help that a former manager barred her from access to Winter halfway through the project, while his next one restored the relationship.


More »

Joe Bonamassa Is Feeling Different Shades of Blue

JoeB-0922.jpg
Photo by Rick Gould/Courtsey of Jensen Communications
If you were searching for Joe Bonamassa's new record Different Shades of Blue in an actual record store (remember those?), you'd likely find it in the "Blues" section. But like most of the work he's put out since 2000, the material is decidedly more rocking as well. Still, the 37-year-old singer/guitarist says he's fine with the term both on a professional and personal level.

"You've got to label me something, and that's fine. I don't think that 'blues' is a bad word at all!" Bonamassa says just prior to the record's release Tuesday and a fall tour, though one that sadly skips Houston. "I think all of my records can be in the rock section, but I don't mind being in the blues. There's a lot of good company there!"

Besides, Bonamassa thinks that national listening trends may have finally caught up with him.


More »

Sampling Joe Sample: 1976

free-wind-0917.jpg
The Crusaders' album Free as the Wind
If 1975 was a whirlwind year for Joe Sample, the Crusader who passed away last Friday, 1976 was a full-blown hurricane. The newer, funkier Crusaders were increasingly popular, so much so that United Artists began to repackage and reissue some of the early 1960s Jazz Crusaders tracks the group made for the Pacific Jazz label, but titling the reissues The Young Rabbits. There was also another reissue, Best of the Crusaders, a compilation of tracks recorded for Blue Thumb.

The Crusaders themselves issued a live album, Live: Midnight Triangle, and one of their finest studio recordings, Free As the Wind, in 1976. But these efforts aside, Sample worked a string of sessions that kept him on the move both physically and musically. Following are his most notable sessions of 1976.


More »

Sampling Joe Sample: 1975

RIPJoe-0916.jpg
Photo by Marco Torres
Joe Sample at Texas Southern University in 2013
With the wild, platinum-selling commercial success of Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark in 1974, Joe Sample's studio-session career went into warp drive. Throughout the remainder of the decade, he would sprint from one important project to the next.

Sample's Crusaders dropped Those Southern Nights in early 1975 and Chain Reaction later in the year; before the year was over, they would open for the Rolling Stones. But in between Crusaders gigs and tours, Sample stayed busy with a broad array of sessions with other artists. His part in the success of Mitchell's Court and Spark and its megahit "Help Me" did not go unnoticed by other producers and artists. Following is only a partial list of the credits Sample, who passed away last Friday night at age 75, racked up during 1975 alone.


More »

RIP Joe Sample: Houston Music Icon Dies at 75

SampleTop-0913.jpg
Photo by Marco Torres
Joe Sample, the Houston native whose masterful keyboard playing made him a leading figure in the jazz fusion movement of the '60s and '70s and a top session musician in jazz, R&B and pop for several decades, passed away Friday night, according to his Facebook page. His family announced his death with the following message:

[Wife] Yolanda and his son Nicklas would like to thank all of you, his fans and friends, for your prayers and support during this trying time. Please know that Joe was aware and very appreciative of all of your prayers, comments, letters/cards and well wishes.

Sample was a graduate of Wheatley High School, where he and some classmates founded a group they called the Jazz Crusaders in the mid-'50s. They moved to Southern California in the early '60s and became one of the most popular and respected groups in jazz thanks to albums like Freedom Sound and Looking Ahead. In the '70s, as their sound incorporated more and more elements of funk and R&B, the group changed its name to the Crusaders. Sample also took plenty of jobs on the side, appearing on classic pop-rock albums such as Joni Mitchell's Court & Spark, Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On and Canned Heat's Up the Country. It was not easy work, he told the Houston Press in 2013:


More »

Even at 80, British Blues Legend John Mayall Is "Always on Tour"

JohnMayall.jpg
Photo by Jeff Fasano/Mark Pucci Media
John Mayall today
At 80 years old, the "Godfather of British Blues" has certainly earned the opportunity to relax. Or slow down. Or stop performing all over the world at all. But when asked as to what his plans are after his current tour, John Mayall seems perplexed, as if it signals the end of one thing and the conscious start of something different.

"Which tour? I tour year-round. I am always on tour," the singer/guitarist/harmonica player says matter-of-factly. "Always on tour. You've got to communicate and make the audience part of what you're doing. Then you know you've succeeded."

And Mayall is making no concessions to age in terms of how he approaches each show, be it a huge festival, small theater or intimate barn. His current jaunt finds him promoting his latest record, A Special Life (Sony/RED), 11 tracks of Mayall originals, a catalogue re-recording, a tune from his band, and covers of songs by Jimmy Rogers, Albert King, Sonny Landreth and Eddie Taylor.


More »

Latter-Day Bluesman Tommy Castro Introduces Us to The Devil You Know

TommyCastro.jpg
Photo by Lewis MacDonald/Courtesy of Alligator Records
Tommy Castro lets 'er rip live onstage.
If you had to find a CD by Tommy Castro, chances are you'd find one (or all) of them in the "Blues" section. But with his most recent release, The Devil You Know (Alligator Records), the 59-year-old California native who has been making records for 20 years consciously wanted to do something different.

"It's still blues-based, but I wanted a leaner sound, more guitar-driven and rocking. Something along the lines of the acts I listened to growing up like the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Traffic," he says.

"I wanted to get the feeling I had like when I was a kid and playing guitar with my friends," he adds. "And I wanted it to sound contemporary."


More »
Loading...