Now that we’re reaching the end of yet another glorious year, you should get geared up for all the Best Of ’04 lists. To balance things out a little, I’ve compiled a list of jazz, blues and soul albums that were definitely not recorded this year.
1. Pilgrim Travelers, Look Up! – This is an amazing blend of doo-wop, soul and early rhythm and blues. What’s really strange is that all the songs are about Jesus but sound as if they’re about broken hearts or getting it on.
2. Oscar Aleman, Swing Guitar Masterpieces – This is a collection of extremely hard to find albums (I’ve tried). If anyone ever had a chance at matching Django’s speed and tone it was Aleman. Plus, he had one hell of a voice. Check out his rendition of "Russian Lullaby" if you don’t believe me.
3. Sidney Bechet, Grand Master of Soprano Saxophone and Clarinet – Bechet had the ability to make his music talk and cry. This recording is great because there are a lot of slower tunes on it and gives him the chance to really put the hurt on.
4. Duke Ellington, Anatomy of a Murder – I think I chose this album because of the variety involved in it. There’s danger, safety, mystery, suspense, calmness and so much more.
5. Sun Ra, Sound of Joy – The title says it all. This album is joyful and upbeat and is smart enough to make you hear harmony in a new way. If you’re not into his avant stuff, or even if you are, pick this one up.
6. Wynonie Harris, Good Rocking Tonight – When he was popular in the late ’40s, he was called a blues shouter. I think we would have just called him rock ‘n’ roll, but the term hadn’t really been coined yet. All of these songs deal with drinking, women, or both – perfect for the holidays.
7. Mississippi John Hurt, Today – To call John Hurt simply a blues musician would be inaccurate. I’ve always like how tender and sweet he seemed. His life was difficult and he picked cotton and worked on farms for much of it, but his songs are relaxed and good-natured. He wasn’t famous until the time when he was about 74 years old, which is so cool.
8. Blind Willie Johnson, Praise God I’m Satisfied – Johnson was blinded by his step mom at a young age when she purposely threw lye in his face. His voice is filled with gravel and is harsher than anyone’s I can think of, but he plays slide guitar like an angel.
9. Otis Redding, Love Man – It’s so difficult to name my favorite Otis Redding album because so many of my favorite songs are on different ones. Love Man was recorded with Booker T and the MGs as the backing band and they really lay down the groove that Redding knows to follow.
10. Etta James, At Last! – I’ve made it to the end of my list and can’t help but feel I’ve left so much out. Anyway, I chose this album over some others I love because of the title track. We’ve all heard it a million times I’m sure, but it still gets to me.