Flying Dutchman records was my musical find of the month. I have a huge amount of gratitude for Bob Thiele, the head of the label, who is responsible for the release of albums such as T Bone Walker’s Every Day I Have the Blues, Otis Spann’s Sweet Giant of the Blues, Gil Scott-Heron’s iconic Pieces of Man (originally released on RCA then later by Flying Dutchman) and, of course, this month’s plat du jour, Super Black Blues. Super Black Blues features stellar performances by Blues pionners T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner and Otis Spann, each of whom I love independently. You can imagine what a joy it was for me to discover they had released an album together. Though only four tracks long, this album packs a punch and left a permanent mark.
Paris Blues 14:00
Here Am I Broken Hearted 3:45
Jot’s Blues 8:11
Blues Jam 10:56
The album opens with a 14 minute blues feast about the city near where I grew up, Paris. T-Bone opens with some solid sober vocals, backed by the fabulous piano playing of Otis Spann (listen to Sellin’ My Thing for him at his best). There is a notable confidence with the instrumentality throughout this album but especially clear here. There is an exceptional pace throughout which makes this long track seem shorter. Listen for example between the 5.40 mark to the 6.00 minute mark. The guitar and drums here are just breathtaking. This is evidently perfection in the arrangement of the track as a whole. Listen also at the 10.30 mark, where George Smith’s harmonica skills intertwined with the piano are just so beautiful to hear.
T-Bone Walker − vocals, guitar
Joe Turner − vocals
Otis Spann − vocals, piano
Ernie Watts − tenor saxophone
George “Harmonica” Smith − harmonica
Arthur Wright − guitar
Ron Brown − bass
Paul Humphrey – drums
Here Am I Broken Hearted is a relief in that it is under four minutes. This is a more traditional blues piece with subject matter fitting of the genre. The introduction of Ernie Watts on the saxophone at the beginning of this track is not inconsequential. The slower pace of this song does not make it any less impressive. Here you have a group of extremely talented musicians celebrating their craft and doing so remarkably. Listen to Ron Brown on bass here, his playing is superlative.
Jot’s Blues opens with some playful, lulling guitar work which pulls the listener straight into the trap of excellent bass and piano. Otis’ vocals are buttery smooth and piercing here. He is almost wailing throughout, stretching out the notes to intone his grief at his estranged spouse. The music picks up beautifully at 2.50, just listen to that piano and how the bass and drums are giving it space to flourish. There is an unspoken symbiosis of excellence here which I have seldom heard in blues albums. Near the 5.00 minute mark, Joe Turner comes in and sings beautifully in a manner reminiscent of Fats Waller’s That Ain’t Right. The recurring motif established by the drums and saxophone provide a beautiful support for the closing section of the track. This closing section has alternating vocals and is supported by a superb recurring motif on piano, with flourishes towards the end which prove exceedingly effective.
Blues Jam is, as it states on the proverbial tin, a lengthy jam session. The musicians here really come into their own and leave us with a splendid parting shot. The track opens with some stellar guitar, piano and bass. I mentioned the harmonica playing of Mr Smith earlier, it comes back with a vengeance here.
I woke up in the morning with the blues all around my bed
I didn’t have nobody to hold my aching head
The pacing and saxophone/ piano combination from 4.20 to 5.05 is a real toe tapping experience. This is blues jamming at its finest. Watch the picking up from 6.30. One can’t help but get up and dance. The quality of this music is unquestionable. I hark on about symbiosis and musicianship but it is truly stellar here. Jut listen to how it ends from 9.45 to 10.57. The floury and energy of it!
Overall, this album took me completely by surprise. Nick (neé Saint) had sent it to me some months prior but I did not remember or realise the significance of this album. It is only now that I have discovered it again by myself (with suitable scolding from Nick) that I realised how good this was. The breathtaking talent of Walker, Turner and Spann is visible and on spectacular form. The backing musicians and singularly talented and selected for their exceptional skill. This album is a sensational and strongly worded love letter to Black musicianship. It is overflowing with extraordinary talent which oozes out of every note.