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Mr. Blues - The Best of Wynonie Harris

Wynonie Harris

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Album Review

This is a first-rate survey of Wynonie Harris' early career, starting with mid-'40s dates backed up by Johnny Otis and Illinois Jacquet's band and covering his career up to dates with his own band at the outset of the 1950s. Listening to this body of 18 songs, one hears the evolution of jump blues to full-blown R&B (and the birth of rock & roll — though that wouldn't be obvious or relevant for a few years to come) between 1945 and 1948 in Harris' work. And while this CD is an education for the uninitiated, as well as a pleasure for anybody (and a great party record), it isn't quite as well organized as it could be — the programming misses chronological order, just enough to keep the serious listener jumping a bit back and forward between sessions and personnel. "Here Comes the Blues," cut at Harris' second round of sessions, leads off the compilation in an uncharacteristically slow mode before the singer finds his more familiar tempo — the jumping "Wynonie's Blues," featuring Jacquet, John Brown, and Arthur Dennis on tenor, alto, and baritone sax, respectively (plus Russell Jacquet on trumpet), throws the tempo into a higher gear, and the Otis-accompanied two-part "Around the Clock" dials back the beat but makes up for it with some suggestive lyrics. From 1948, however, with "Good Rocking Tonight," there was no turning back on the rhythm. And with the advent of recording tape around that same time, the accompaniments only stand out better — Simeon Hatch's piano on "Baby, Shame on You" and Cat Anderson, Frank Culley, and Hal Singer on trumpet, alto, and tenor get showcased pretty well, as far forward as Harris' voice. And the playing and the singing only get better as the decade closes out with "Sittin' on It All the Time" — by 1950, with "Mr. Blues Is Coming to Town," Harris was ripping the envelope with his singing and his songs. The transfers are clean and bright, and the whole CD is a keeper from start to finish.


Born: 24 August 1915 in Omaha, NE

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s

No blues shouter embodied the rollicking good times that he sang of quite like raucous shouter Wynonie Harris. "Mr. Blues," as he was not-so-humbly known, joyously related risque tales of sex, booze, and endless parties in his trademark raspy...
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