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Rockin' This House: Chicago Blues Piano 1946-1953, CD A

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Album Review

Once again the U.K.'s JSP reissue label offers a massive chunk of historical material in a low-priced four-CD compilation, this time culled from the heart of the postwar Chicago blues scene. Memphis Slim, who first blew in from Arkansas and Tennessee in 1937, is heard on 64 tracks recorded between 1946 and 1954. This is the fundamental core of Slim's postwar period. Bolstered by a series of upright bassists (Willie Dixon plays and sings on one of the dates), the occasional drummer, and a regular stable of tenor and alto saxophonists, the pianist sings about interpersonal relationships, working, partying, and hitting the road. This is rough-and-tumble entertainment. Slim's early Chicago background as a tough-as-nails landlord and peddler of bootleg liquor is tangibly present. While his powerful voice is an essential ingredient, the instrumentals are fascinating. "Jumping Bean" taps into New Orleans rhumba territory and even contains a quote from the Xavier Cugat hit "Brazil." One dozen sides by the great Roosevelt Sykes add considerable ballast to an already hefty compliation. The fourth disc features pianist Eddie Boyd, a bittersweet to bitchy pianist and singer who cut his teeth working with Johnny Shines and Sonny Boy Williamson. Boyd's inclusion in this four-CD box makes it one hell of a dose of unfiltered, undiluted Chicago blues.


Born: 03 September 1915 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

An amazingly prolific artist who brought a brisk air of urban sophistication to his frequently stunning presentation, John "Peter" Chatman -- better known as Memphis Slim -- assuredly ranks with the greatest blues pianists of all time. He was smart enough to take Big Bill Broonzy's early advice about developing a style to call his own to heart, instead of imitating that of his idol, Roosevelt Sykes. Soon enough, other 88s pounders were copying Slim rather than the other way around; his thundering...
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