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Mississippi Amersterdam

| August 29, 2006 | 1 Comment

Big Bill Broonzy: Amsterdam Live Concerts 1953 (Munich) is a double-CD package of musical and historical significance. The recordings capture Chicago via Mississippi legend Big Bill Broonzy in an intimate setting before appreciative crowds at the Ons Huis (Our House) club on February 26th and 28th, 1953. The liner notes provide a glimpse of Broonzy’s life in Amsterdam and his personal ties to the city. While he was on tour in 1955, he met a woman named Pim van Isveldt; they fell in love and had a son named Michael who still lives there.

Broonzy was on tour in Europe when the Amsterdam Jazz Society and Hans Rooduijn of Le Canard Foundation arranged these concerts. Sound engineer Louis van Gasteren was approached by Rooduijn to record the concerts, with no stated purpose in mind. In his liner notes, van Gasteren (who went on to become one of the most respected filmmakers in Europe) writes that apart from Broonzy’s concert fee paid by Rooduijn, he offered him two bottles of Dutch “oude jenever” (old gin), to make the recordings. Broonzy didn’t ask what he was going to do with them, and van Gasteren didn’t seem to know. He remained in possession of the tapes and tried unsuccessfully to release them between 1953 and 2004. Cees Schrama, then A&R manager of Polydor Records in Holland, first heard of the recordings in 1973. Moving to Polygram in the mid ’80s, Schrama attempted to interest major labels in the project, without success. Because he was concerned about sound quality, he had the recordings transcribed onto videotapes and in 2005 met with Job Zomer of Munich Records. Zomer had attempted to negotiate with van Gasteren in the ’60s and was eager to begin working on the project.

Although the material on Amsterdam Live Concerts set has been released previously on various labels throughout the years, and although some of the stories Broonzy interjects between songs have been told in his excellent out-of-print autobiography, Big Bill Blues (with Yannick Bruynoghe), this package is engaging, nevertheless. The sound quality is excellent, bringing an immediacy to the performance and capturing Broonzy’s expressive tenor, rhythmic guitar playing, warmth, and humor. Folk and blues anthems, “Black, Brown And White,” “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad,” “John Henry,” “Good Night Irene,” Bessie Smith’s “Back-Water Blues” (timely both then and now), and “Trouble In Mind” are featured along with syncopated stomps and rags. Broonzy has fun with the pop standard “Glory Of Love”: On Disc One he plays it as a blues song, but on Disc Two he switches gears jazzing it up, sounding very much like Dean Martin! Broonzy even sounds a little tipsy on Disc Two, singing “John Henry” twice, and rambling between tunes. Could it be the result of imbibing too much “oude jenever”?

Broonzy enjoyed playing any style that caught his fancy. He started his musical life in Mississippi as a fiddler in a hokum jazz band and switched to guitar in 1920 when he moved to Chicago, becoming a major force in shaping pre-war Chicago jump blues. “I’m a blues player,” he tells the audience on the final cut of Disc Two, “but I just like to play things that people love to hear, if I can play it, I just love to play it. I don’t know what it is, it don’t make any difference to me, I love music – bop or jazz – what’s the name of it is. If it sound all right in here, it’s all right with me.”

REISSUE: More vintage Chicago blues finds it way onto CD with the release of Magic Slim & The Teardrops/Joe Carter with Sunnyland Slim: That Ain’t Right (Delmark), the seventh recording of a 10-part series produced by legendary A&R man Ralph Bass in 1977. Unreleased in the States, Bass sold the master tapes to British label Red Lightnin’, which released it with the colorful title I Don’t Give A Damn If Whites Bought It. Devastating, raw sides by Magic Slim & The Teardrops feature brothers Nick and Douglas Holt on bass and drums, and Coleman Pettis Jr. (Daddy Rabbit) on rhythm guitar. Strong sides by “unsung hero” Carter, a blues shouter and slide guitarist who played in the style of Elmore James, include the venerable Slim on piano, Lacy Gibson on guitar, and Aces drummer Fred Below, who lightens up the proceedings somewhat with a jazzy vocal on “Route 66.” This is a good’un.

NEWS: Buddy Guy celebrated his 70th birthday on a steamy Tuesday night in August with a packed house at Legends (actual birthday is July 30). Buddy took the stage to welcome the crowd during Brother John‘s set and launched into “My Time After A While” and the Muddy Waters’ standard “She’s 19 Years Old.” He marveled at the fact he’d reached 70 due to the rough-and-tumble existence he encountered when he first came to Chicago 49 years ago. Guy acknowledged Masaki Rush, Otis Rush‘s wife (who brought birthday wishes from Otis and family) and paid tribute to Otis, who is recuperating from a minor stroke. Otis was the first musician to let Guy onstage when he came to Chicago (even Junior Wells, Guy joked, who became his musical partner, wouldn’t do that). Koko Taylor was in the house, sitting in the VIP section, as were Jimmy Burns and Wayne Baker Brooks. It was a night of continuous music, as Big James Montgomery, Matthew Skoller, Nick Moss, and others jammed in tribute to Guy.

– Beverly Zeldin-Palmer

Category: Monthly, Sweet Home

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  1. Paul Cooper says:

    Dear Beverly Zeldin-Palmer

    Please contact me, thank you.

    Paul

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