Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lonnie Johnson with Elmer Snowden - Blues, Ballads and Jumpin' Jive

I've been a big fan of the blues/jazz stylings of Lonnie Johnson since I first heard his playing. This man's fluid
playing influenced greats such as T-Bone Walker, B.B.King, Lowell Fulson and many others. I was not familiar with Johnson's long-time friend, Elmer Snowden, although he led bands that included jazz masters like Count Basie, Fats Waller and plenty more. These two had recorded 33 years previously on Blues and Ballads and picked up where they left off on this 1960 release. Snowden's acoustic guitar countered Johnson's jazzy electric and the men trade roles, riffs and licks on instrumentals and Johnson-led vocal numbers.

Opening with Lester Young's jumpin' "Lester Leaps In", backed by bassist Wendell Marshall, the duo sets things bouncin' with this free-wheeling and fun take on a classic. They slow things down to highlight Johnson's wonderful voice on "Blue and All Alone", a sweet jazzy, blues number, and then bop-up instrumental versions of "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "C-Jam Blues" - Snowden's acoustic takes the lead on these instrumentals and he doesn't waste a moment in showing off his dexterity and taste. Why he isn't better known is a shame and a sin, as he certainly gives the incredible Johnson a run for his money here!

The two chat about the songs, making it sound like they were just playing these off the cuff, though I would assume that it was a little more planned out than that, but who knows - these cats were professionals! Lonnie pulls out an original. "New Orleans Blues", where his guitar interacts with the vocal melody as Snowden comps behind him. The two trade off licks effortlessly in "Careless Love", the only time they do so on this disc, proving how they could read and work off of each other. There are two takes of the vocal "Stormy Weather" and then another jumper in the instro "I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None O'This Jelly Roll" before the proceedings are all wrapped up with a take on "Birth of the Blues".

This is one of those CDs that will hit ya right away if you dig jazzy blues and amazing guitar playing. Dig it the most, man!