Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Jimmy Witherspoon – The Spoon Concerts (Fantasy, 1959)

Very few musicians combined the genres of blues and jazz as well as vocalist Jimmy Witherspoon. While he very rarely scatted, he had the presence and grace of a master jazz artist as well as the power to testify the blues as well as any leather-lunged juke joint belter. This is a mix of live material from the peak of his career, partly from the Monterey Jazz Festival and the rest from assorted live dates of the period. All of which find him in the company of some heavy hitters from the jazz world.

The concerts open with a round of introductions followed by Witherspoon swaggering through his own “Times Getting Tougher Than Tough” an up-tempo Joe Turner like which really starts to get the audience into the action. He follows this up with some classic older blues “How Long Blues,” “Corrina, Corrina” and “C.C. Rider” have been in the repertoire of every blues musician since the mid 30’s, but there’s nothing cliché about the performances, both the music and the singing are fresh and lush.

Other highlights include a blasting “Good Rocking Tonight” and R&B performance that made Witherspoon a favorite of Van Morrison (the two recorded together on a Morrison live album) among others. The standard “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” is an epic slow blues that really lets the band and the singer stretch out and explore the song in a wonderful performance. Any fan of blues or jazz singing would enjoy this album.

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