Monday, March 02, 2015

King Curtis - 7 Classic Albums

King Curtis was a saxman whose styles ranged from rhythm'n'blues, soul, funk, blues, rock'n'roll and
jazz and this collection puts together seven full albums showing off the range of his work, all stemming from the years 1959 through 1961.

Opening with his 1959 record, Have Tenor Sax, Will Blow, we get plenty of early r'n'r/r'n'b styles, from the Bo Diddley-inspired "Midnight Ramble" to the strollin' "The Shake", some cool guitar/sax interplay on "Jay Walk", "Lil' Brother" and "Peter Gunn", real wailin' on "Snake Eyes", and several others before closing with a live "Birth of the Blues", which has touchstones in various popular numbers, making you think you've heard it before whether you have or not, and then "Chili", a slightly ethnic number.

The album Azure follows, which a bit more of a, mellower, exotica feel, though, weirdly, the CD itself shows completely different titles than the track listing on the back cover, so I'm not sure what tunes I'm actually listening to! Strings appear here and there, as do (mostly) wordless vocalizations, adding to the exotica vibe. (I see that the cover listing is correct as he gets into covers like "Misty" and "When I Fall in Love".)

Disc two includes his Soul Meeting album, which blends jazz with a soulful twist on numbers like "Soul Meeting", "Lazy Soul", "Do You Have Soul Now" (to make sure that you get the record title connection, I guess!) along with traditionals like "What Is This Thing Called Love" and the appropriately titled blues tune, "Jeep's Blues".

The record Trouble in Mind starts with the bluesy title cut, and continues in this vein throughout. Besides Curtis' stellar sax-blowin', there's some exceptional guitar work on this one, as well, by Al Casey and Mac Pierce. Curtis sings throughout this one and more than does justice to numbers like "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out, "Bad, Bad Whiskey", "I Have to Worry", and "Woke Up in the Morning".

Going back to a funkier, r'n'r side, we get "Night Train" and the Old Gold album on disc three. "Honky Tonk" sounds damn close to Bill Doggett's original - even the guitar solo - and Curtis' honkin' sax rules here. "Fever" gets a cool reading, "Tuxedo Junction" swings'n'wails, sweet Hammond B3 highlights "Lean Baby" and a good portion of this record, you can just picture the teens doing "The Hucklebuck", Curtis gets to let loose and really blow on "Soft". There's a few other goodies before a groovin', sultry "Harlem Nocture" finishes that record.

Music For Dancing The Twist is another bandwagon-jumping LP, though Curtis gives it some hep style. "Jersey Bounce" is indeed, bouncey, Curtis sings "Twistin' Time" (you can kinda guess already how it sounds just from the title), "Honeysuckle Rose" has more yakety sax, he's back on vocals for his take on "Peppermint Twist" and "The Arthur Murray Twist". By the sound of the music, I don't know if they're "Stompin' at the Savoy", but definitely jumpin'n'jivin', in a somewhat cheesy way, and then several more standards necessary for any "twist" album - the one that started it all, "The Twist", "12th Street Twist", and "Let's Twist Again". I guess they wanted to change it up before concluding, since the last two are "Alright, Okay You Win" and the twist-influenced dance number "The Fly".

For the final disc, we get his Soul Battle album (with Oliver Nelson and Jimmy Forrest), where he goes back to a jazz feel, and can stretch out and do some creative and innovative playing. "Anacruses" is a particular stand-out with its hep, staccato lines, as is the sax battle in "Perdido". While there is good stuff throughout this comp, this disc might be my favorite of the bunch.

Really good collection of practically a day's worth of music for a very reasonable, discounted price. This shows the versatility of this man and his playing.