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Album Review

It is somehow fitting that a musician responsible for such gutsy, uncompromising music was born and raised in the Watts district of Los Angeles, CA. "Deacon" Big Jay McNeely helped establish rock & roll by hammering out a stream of jump records that were perfect for dancing and carousing purposes. Most of these tunes are grandstand blowouts, tempered with occasional slow and substantial essays in blue like "Deacon's Groove (Cool Blood)." Between the rips and roars it's interesting to examine the personnel involved in all of these dynamite recordings. John Anderson seems to have been McNeely's primary trumpeter, while the trombones were handled by either Earl Hines alumnus John "Streamline" Ewing or the mighty Britt Woodman, a musician greatly admired by Charles Mingus. The combination of Woodman's trombone and Jay's brother Bob McNeely's baritone sax is powerful, creating a vertigo effect during "The Deacon's Hop." Beginning with the Exclusive Records session of February 1949, Leonard "Tight" Hardiman was established as the drummer, with Charles McNiles socking the bongos on "Blow Big Jay" and the relatively laid-back "Tondelayo." Jimmy O'Brien plays exceptionally fine piano behind Clifford Blivens' blues shouting on "Midnight Dreams" and "Junie Flip." He is featured on "K & H Boogie" and adds spice to the mix throughout this exciting collection. Bassist Ted Shirley sings gruffly on "Roadhouse Boogie." McNeely's debut session for Aladdin Records provided him with greater exposure and apparently inspired him to blow hotter than ever, while his brother roared almost demonically behind him on the baritone. "Let's Split" sounds almost identical to the 1950 Johnny Otis hit "Turkey Hop." Its apparent sequel, "Real Crazy Cool," seems downright demented! Generally speaking, this is good time music that won't quit.


Born: 29 April 1927 in Watts, CA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

As one of the titans who made tenor sax the solo instrument of choice during rock's primordial era, Big Jay McNeely could peel the paper right off the walls with his sheets of squealing, honking horn riffs. His mighty tenor sax squawking and wailing with wild-eyed abandon, McNeely blew up a torrid R&B tornado from every conceivable position -- on his knees, on his back, even being wheeled down the street on an auto mechanic's "creeper" like a modern-day pied piper. Cecil McNeely and his older brother...
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1948-1950, Big Jay McNeely
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