Blues Masters Vol. 13: New York City Blues

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While my listening tastes run heavily to the lowdown-dirty blues, I also have a certain appreciation for jazz. That’s basically what I found on Blues Masters, Vol. 13: New York City Blues, which, coupled with some back-to-back listening with old Chess recordings, brings into sharp focus the differences between Chicago and NYC blues. This might be blues, but it’s far on the jazz end of the blues spectrum. It’s all glitz and glam, cigarettes in holders and tuxedo-clad martinis rather than butts off the floor and drunken late-night barroom brawls — nice change of pace for me, y’know.

Highlights? The the wacky-witty clarinet and horn section of Ellington’s “Happy Go Lucky Local,” the easy groove of Lionel Hampton’s Hamp’s Boogie Woogie, Erskine Hawkins’ gorgeous horn-driven blues “John Henry” and the jazzy Johnny Hodges piece Castle Rock, not to mention the irresistible “Every Day” by Kansas City’s the Count Basie Orchestra with Joe Williams.

The influence of NYC on the development of jazz and show music, especially as opposed to rock, never seems clearer than in this collection. Listen to this alongside the Blues Masters series Memphis Blues or Postwar Chicago Blues, and I think you’ll get what I’m talking about: This is big, grand, sweeping orchestral blues of the type that, basically, rock would eschew for most of a couple decades.

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