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The Incomparable Blind John Davis

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Album Review

Blind John Davis was one of the architects of the Chicago blues sound through his piano work in the 1930s and 1940s with such artists as Sonny Boy Williamson and Big Bill Broonzy, but he remained little known in the U.S., so most of the recordings from the twilight of his career were made in Europe. This pleasant set, which features vocals and piano from Davis, with Rob Langereis on acoustic bass and Louis Debij on drums, is typical of his later recordings. There's enough of a Chicago feel here to give these tracks an edge, but Davis is really most at home doing a sort of lounge blues, with hints of jazz thrown in, and his easy, comfortable manner makes it all seem as natural as breathing. Among the highlights here are his version of the old chestnut "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate," where he sounds a bit like Randy Newman doing a guest shot at the corner piano bar. "Boogie Woogie on Saint Louis Blues" is exactly that, a juked-up take of the W.C. Handy classic, while a rendition of Erskine Hawkins' "After Hours" shows Davis' jazz chops. The rhythm section gives Davis plenty of room, and the relaxed, back porch feel of these sessions plays to Davis' strengths.


Born: 07 December 1913 in Hattiesburg, MS

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '70s, '80s

Versatility was integral to the musical mindset of John Davis. Although he was world-renowned as a blues pianist, he was proud of his innate ability to play ragtime, a little jazz, even a schmaltzy Tin Pan Alley ditty or two. And he did it all for more than half a century. Born in Mississippi, Davis was in reality a Chicagoan, having moved there before the age of three. He lost his eyesight after stepping on a nail when he was nine, but that didn't stop him from learning the 88s as a teen. That way,...
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