Tag Archives: Albert King

Concord Gives Evans, King and Davis The Respect They Deserve

10 Apr

All three of these collections are worth your time. How can you go wrong with Miles Davis? Or the legendary pianist Bill Evans. Or the mighty Albert King? These 2-CD sets include many of the well known recordings. There are also many more obscure tracks for your discovery and enjoyment.

Miles Davis was obviously a Jazz giant, but his most commercially successful LPs were recorded for Columbia Records. Albert King’s searing blue guitar and powerhouse vocal attack became the blueprint for a couple of artists named Clapton and Vaughan. Yes, those guys! Bill Evans’ piano mastery has always been a bit more off the beaten path. Yet those in the know will tell you how influential he was — and continues to be to this day. We encourage you to seek out these excellent compilations and make them a part of your collection. You’ll be a better person for it.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Concord Music Group has assembled three new titles in its ongoing Definitive series, one of which marks the series’ initial foray into CMG’s vast blues catalog. The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige; The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy; and The Definitive Albert King on Stax span a total of 60 years and include the music of two monumental figures in jazz and an equally influential figure in the blues. Each of the two-CD collections were released on April 5, 2011.

The two dozen tracks of The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige follow the creative evolution of the most revered trumpeter in the annals of jazz. Spanning the first half of the 1950s, the collection captures Miles at the beginning of his breakthrough to mainstream appeal, according to the liner notes by music journalist and historian Ashley Kahn.

“The purpose of this collection is to deliver a full, definitive overview of that very special period in Miles’s career,” says Kahn. “Its focus covers the nearly six-year period when the trumpeter was signed exclusively to Prestige. Disc 1 offers the best of his 1951 to ’56 sessions primarily as a leader of various ad hoc all-star ensembles. Disc 2 provides a generous sampling of Miles the bandleader, in ’55 and ’56, at the helm of one of the most groundbreaking groups of the day.”

The collection also chronicles Miles’s dramatic artistic growth over a relatively short time, says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the collection. “The years between 1951 and 1956 are not a huge amount of time, but the development by Miles—as a musician and as a bandleader—is pretty astonishing in this period,” says Phillips. “This culminates in what ended up being one of the most legendary groups in jazz, the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring John Coltrane.”

The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy tracks more than two decades of recordings by a highly influential figure in jazz piano. “It would be difficult to think of a major jazz pianist emerging after 1960 who did not take Bill Evans as a model,” says jazz journalist Doug Ramsey, who wrote the liner notes for the 25-song collection that begins in the mid-1950s and ends in 1977. “Indeed, many seasoned pianists who preceded Evans altered their styles after hearing him.”

What’s more, “Evans had a profound effect on how musicians play jazz and how listeners hear it,” says Ramsey. “He is so much a part of the jazz atmosphere that many musicians — regardless of instrument—who came of age in the 21st century are not conscious that his concepts helped form them.”

The collection also gives proper attention on the second disc to Evans’s Fantasy-era recordings of the mid-1970s, says Phillips, who also produced the Evans collection. “Because the Riverside sessions are so acclaimed and so legendary, the Fantasy tracks are often overshadowed,” he says. “But in listening to this collection, you realize that Evans was still creating some amazing recordings throughout the Fantasy period with some high- caliber musicians, like Eddie Gomez, Kenny Burrell, Lee Konitz, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, and Philly Joe Jones.”

The Definitive Albert King on Stax follows 15 years worth of recordings—from 1961 to 1975, plus a final track from 1984—by a bluesman who’d spent the early part of his career playing to an African-American fan base in the roadhouses and theaters of the chitlin’ circuit. But by the latter half of the 1960s, the genre “was now attracting the rapt interest of young white listeners, their sensibilities opened wide by the muscular, in-your- face blues rock of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and Jimi Hendrix,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl in his liner notes for the collection. “These new converts were gravitating to the best the idiom had to offer. No single blues guitarist made a more stunning impact during that tumultuous timeframe than Albert King.”

“For as paradoxical as it might sound, you could make the case that Albert King was a cheery blues guy,” says Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Albert King collection. “He had that wry smile, and he often smoked a pipe. He was always well dressed and dapper. He was genuinely interested in putting on a show for his audience, and that sensibility comes through on these tracks.”

Dahl suggests that the years between 1966 and 1975 were a “Golden Decade” for King. “He was with Stax that entire time,” he says, “right up to the Memphis label’s unfortunate demise, cutting one enduring blues classic after another as he scaled the charts over and over again. In the process, King deeply influenced countless up-and-coming blues axemen, even though the ringing licks he coaxed out of his futuristic Gibson Flying V were all but impossible to accurately recreate.”

www.concordmusicgroup.com

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STAX unveils “Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan in Session” CD/DVD Package

27 Oct

While there is no denying the immeasurable debt that modern blues and rock musicians owe to T-Bone Walker, the first bluesman to plug a guitar into an amplifier, and to B.B. King, who added sustained feedback and more to Walker’s innovations, Albert King was clearly the most influential blues guitar stylist from the mid-1960s on. Born April 25, 1923, Albert had begun his career as B.B. King disciple and, for a time, even claimed to be B.B.’s brother. (Both men were born in Indianola, Mississippi.)

By the time Albert signed with Stax Records in 1966, however, he had developed a highly personal guitar style marked by economical, rhythmically propulsive single-note lines and a razor-sharp tone produced by picking with his left thumb while bending wildly with his right fingers on the strings of a right-handed Flying V guitar turned upside down and tuned to an open E minor chord. His ground-breaking, soul-imbued recordings for the Memphis record company from 1966 to 1973 defined the state of modern blues during that period and had a vast impact on guitar players on both sides of the Atlantic. Not only did Albert’s signature style alter the approaches of such already established blues guitarists as Otis Rush and Albert Collins, but it had a tremendous impact on younger players like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, and particularly Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Stevie was born (October 3, 1954) and raised in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, the same part of town in which T-Bone had grown up decades earlier. Stevie idolized Albert. Even before he was in his teens, Stevie had been captivated by the Mississippi guitar masher’s torrid tone, incisive phrasing, even the rocket-like shape of Albert’s instrument. The boy had other musical heroes–most notably older brother Jimmie Vaughan, as well as Lonnie Mack and Jimi Hendrix–but it was Albert’s influence that would remain the most pervasive throughout Stevie’s career.

One of 13 children, Albert was raised by his mother in Forrest City, Arkansas. His first “guitar” consisted of a wire nailed to the wall of his house; he picked it with a bottle. Later, he bought an acoustic guitar for $1.25 and eventually graduated to an electric model purchased for $125 at a pawnshop in Little Rock. After practicing for a few years, he began sitting in around Osceola, Arkansas with a group called Yancey’s Band. “They learned me my chords and what key was what,” Albert recalled 1983. “I didn’t know but two or three songs.”

Driving a bulldozer during the day, Albert soon formed his own band, the In the Groove Boys. “I learned ’em those three songs that I knew,” he explained with a chuckle, “and we’d play ’em fast, slow, and medium, but we got over.”

After singing gospel with the Harmony Kings in South Bend, Indiana and playing drums for Jimmy Reed in Gary, Albert made his first record, “Bad Luck Blues,” for the Parrot label in Chicago in 1953. The title proved prophetic, however, and he returned to Osceola for a while, then settled in East St. Louis, Illinois, where he began recording for Bobbin in 1959. He scored his first national hit, “Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong,” two years later on the Cincinnati-based King label.

Albert didn’t return to the charts until 1966, when his Stax recording of “Laundromat Blues” became one of that year’s biggest blues hits. The innovative melding of Albert’s dry, husky baritone voice and incendiary lead guitar with the Memphis firm’s crack rhythm and horn sections brought blues into the soul era. His seminal Stax singles, which also included “Crosscut Saw” and “Born Under a Bad Sign,” were initially bought primarily by African Americans. With the introduction of “underground” FM radio in 1967, Albert began attracting white listeners—who had been primed by Eric Clapton’s incorporation of Albert’s licks and even entire solos into his popular sides with Cream—in increasingly large numbers. His 1968 debut at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium solidified his crossover following. “People had been waiting to hear me play a long time before I even showed my face out there,” recalled Albert, who remained until his death one of the few blues artists to consistently attract substantial numbers of both black and white fans.

At the In Session taping, 60-year-old Albert ruled over the proceedings like a benevolent father, retaining control while allowing his 29-year-old guest loads of solo space in which to display his awesome command of the electric guitar. Stevie avoided flaunting his prowess, however, and instead delivered some of the most deliciously restrained playing of his career, laying back when his mentor dictated, turning up the heat only when Albert deemed it appropriate. The interplay between the two blues masters is uncannily empathetic, and Albert’s fans will find special pleasure in hearing him play rhythm parts at such length. At one point between tunes, Albert complained about problems with his guitar strings, then told Stevie, “I’m about ready to turn it over to you…. I’ve got to sit back and watch you.”

Albert was, in a sense, passing the torch to Stevie. The following month, in January 1984, Albert and his band traveled to Fantasy Records in Berkeley, California to record I’m in a Phone Booth, Baby. It would be his final album. He never did retire from the road, however, and continued touring until his death from a massive heart attack in Memphis on December 21, 1992. Albert was 69 and had enjoyed a full life in the blues.

Stevie wasn’t as fortunate. At the height of his career, on August 27, 1990, he was killed in a helicopter crash at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin. He was 35.

In Session is the only known recording of Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan performing together. Its long-overdue commercial release stands as a fitting tribute to the genius of two of the greatest musicians ever to have played the blues on electric guitar.

Albert King died December 21, 1992.

Concord Re-Issues Albert & Stevie Ray

4 Jul

STX-31423-02

I must admit I missed this one the first time around. Sorry I did because it contains some very tasty licks from Misters King and Vaughn. Albert is obviously in control yet seems willing to share the spotlight with the young upstart. The conversation between tracks is not exactly riveting, but it is revealing. However it’s the inspired guitar work that makes this collection worthwhile.

I have never been a big fan of live recordings. The sound is usually muddy and the playing often uninspired. Neither is the case here. Pick up on this CD and you’ll be rewarded with some first rate blues jams and a slice of musical history to boot. What more can you expect for a mere $13.98? 

In Session is the only known recording of Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan performing together. The 2009 remaster presented by Stax Records stands as a fitting tribute to the genius of two of the greatest musicians ever to have played the blues on electric guitar.

– from the liner notes by Lee Hildebrand

Anyone who’s witnessed a much anticipated jam session only to be disappointed–with each participant deferring to the other, the end result being that neither ever got out of first gear–will welcome this pairing of two giants of blues guitar. Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan obviously shared a mutual admiration, but it simply wasn’t in either one’s makeup to: a) be intimidated or b) take a backseat to anyone. Not without kicking up a little dust.

– from the liner notes by Dan Forte

Albert King–electric guitar, vocal
Stevie Ray Vaughan–electric guitar, vocal (on Track 3 only)
Tony Llorens–piano, organ
Gus Thornton–bass
Michael Llorens–drums

Recorded December 6, 1983.

AlbertKing

Albert says “Get Yo Copy Today!” @ http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/In-Session-STX-31423-02/