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CHUCK JACKSON'S BIG BLUES BAND A Cup Of Joe Linus 270147 (2012)

Black Roots

Kansas City blues shouter Big Joe Turner once said that his take on boogie woogie came out of the fact that 'Everybody was singing slow blues when I was young, and I thought I'd put a beat to it and sing it up tempo'. Simple as that! He never looked back and became the link between boogie woogie, swing, jump blues and rock & roll. And over a quarter of a century after Joe's passing, Canadian Lifetime Achievment award winner blues shouter Chuck Jackson does a pretty good job in resurrecting the big man's forte.

Chuck has the baritone range to interpret Big Joe's material with gusto and brings with him The Big Bad Blues Band, with a mighty horn section that sticks closely to the original arrangements. But such was the longevity of BJT's career - including his rebirth in the 50's and his later popularity in the rock & roll era - that there's the on going problem of what to leave out. Most obviously there's no 'Honey Hush', 'Flip Flop & Fly', 'TV Mama', 'Chicken & The Hawk or indeed 'Shake Rattle & Roll', but Chuck still provides good examples of Turners' pre and post war style.

Naturally enough, the focus is mainly on the Atlantic years and career breakers like 'Sweet Sixteen', on which Chuck soars above a stirring horn arrangement and Curley Bridges' piano fills. 'Lipstick Powder & Paint' sets the standard, all brushed strokes, jumping horns and honking sax from Downchild's Pat Carey, with Chuck in his element. The band are at their best on the jump piece 'Rebecca' and Chuck gets great support again from Curley on the piano led 'Boogie Woogie Country Girl'.

You can pick mostly any example of Turner work on this album and you realise 'A Cup Of Joe' covers all Big Joe's styles with genuine enthusiasm and application. Chuck also has the ability to change his vocal attack to bring meaning and nuance to the kind of songs that demand exactly that. On 'Honey Dripper', his most adventurous effort, he extends his legato confidently, pushing his range slightly beyond Joe's original phrasing and providing evidence enough of a performer and band at ease with the material they love.

Much like Roomful of Blues, Chuck Jackson's Big Bad Blues Band plays the music of an era with real style and conviction. On 'Crawdad Hole' they find the perfect equilibrium of swing and essential interplay as Chuck's celebratory vocal style is carried forward by the swinging horn section and supple rhythm section. 'A Cup Of Joe' is both a timely celebration of Joe Turner and an outstanding big band record.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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