1936-1946 Alternate Takes Radio Performances & Unissued Home Recordings by Albert Ammons

Label: Document Records.
Release Date: 1997.
Recording Time: 67 minutes.
Release Info: Compilation, Studio & Live.
Recording Date: 1936 - 1946.

Styles: Boogie-Woogie, Piano Blues, Swing.

One of the giants of boogie-woogie piano, Albert Ammons' career was cut short by his untimely death in 1949 at the age of just 42. This Document CD compilation is a welcome addition to his legacy, as it collects rare and mostly previously unissued alternate takes, broadcasts and private home recordings. The first two tracks, "Nagasaki" and "Early Morning' Blues," feature Albert Ammons & His Rhythm Kings, with trumpeter Guy Kelly and alto saxophonist Dalbert Bright (who switches to clarinet for the latter song). A later of edition of the group features trumpeter Hot Lips Page, trombonist Vic Dickenson, tenor saxophonist Don Byas, drummer Sidney Cattlet and bassist Israel Crosby (the latter who took part in the earlier recordings), Dickenson takes solo honors on "Bottom Blues No. 2." Ammons guests with Benny Goodman & His Orchestra (with vocals by Johnny Mercer) for an upbeat (if watered down) take of "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie"; Meade "Lux" Lewis is announced as a second pianist, but is not audible. Of most interest to collectors will be the numerous solo tracks by Ammons, particularly "Whistlin' Blues," where he shows off his whistling ability. While the sound quality varies widely, as some of the privately recorded transcription discs show signs of wear, the rarity of this music and the detailed liner notes will make it an essential purchase for boogie-woogie fans. ~ Ken Dryden

DOCD-1008, Detailed discography.

Albert Ammons seems to be the pianist who attracts the largest number of boogie woogie fans, even today, 90 years after he was born in Chicago on March 1st, 1907. His playing had a special quality in a very personal way: his exuberant joy and endless power were counter pointed by a longing expression which gave it a blue quality all the way through. Albert's sound in general was sweeter than either Pete Johnson's or Meade Lux Lewis', his piano colleagues of the Boogie Woogie Trio. His untimely death on December 3rd, 1949, at the age of just 42, added a tragic aspect, too. By the time he passed, it was still the era of 78-rpm shellacs, and his chances to record were more limited than they would have been had he lived up to the time of Hi-Fi recording.

Items of unissued material by him are especially rare collector's stuff, and this Document Records CD contains a considerable number of such. Tracks include 2 alternative takes of the swing Nagasaki and blues-boogie Early Mornin' Blues. Ammon's showpiece Boogie Woogie Stomp uses melody lines in rows of thirds. In Boogie In C and Shout for Joy, a single note rumbling bass similar to Johnson's 'Blues On The Downbeat' or 'Death Ray Boogie' is played. Blue Blue Blues is built on a similar theme to 'Blues On My Mind'. Here we find beautiful, melodic, right hand work with some lyrical qualities and a romantic touch, complemented by nicely harmonised left hand figures in stride and rolling tenths boogie bases. For the last track on this CD, Rock of Gibraltar Blues, Albert Ammons is in the company of the original boss of the blues shouters, Big Joe Turner, with whom he had worked frequently before, especially in the combination with Pete Johnson. Joe's voice is rich and Albert plays some slowed down boogie.

Personnel: Albert Ammons - vocals, piano; Includes: Pete Johnson - piano, Joe Turner - vocals.

Credits: Albert Ammons - composer, piano, primary artist; Red Ballard - tuba; Noni Bernardi - assistant; Vernon Brown - tuba; Don Byas - guest artist, sax (tenor); Big Sid Catlett - drums; Jack Cooley - composer; Israel Crosby - sax (baritone); Vic Dickenson - tuba; Mort Dixon - composer; Ziggy Elman - trumpet; Stephen Foster - composer; Benny Goodman - clarinet, guest artist; Harry Goodman - sax (baritone); Irving Goodman - trumpet; Chris Griffin - trumpet; Jimmie Hoskins - drums; Jerry Jerome - sax (tenor); Guy Kelly - trumpet; Meade "Lux" Lewis - composer; Johnny Mercer - guest artist, saxophone; Hot Lips Page - guest artist, trumpet; Johnny Parth - compilation producer; Ike Perkins - guitar; Arthur Rollini - sax (tenor); Buddy Schutz - drums; Pinetop Smith - composer; Traditional - composer; Big Joe Turner - guest artist; Joe Turner - composer; Harry Warren - composer.

Tracks: 1) Nagasaki (alt. take); 2) Early Mornin’ Blues (alt. take); 3) Introduction; 4) Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie (Camel Caravan Broadcast); 5) Boogie In C (Chamber Music Society Of Lower Basin Street Broadcast); 6) Shout For Joy (Chamber Music Society Of Lower Basin Street Broadcast); 7) Boogie Woogie Stomp (Chamber Music Society Of Lower Basin Street Broadcast); 8) The Boogie Rocks # 2; 9) Funky Start Boogie; 10) Blue Blue Blues; 11) Bugle Boogie No. 2; 12) Reveille Boogie; 13) Blues In The Groove No. 2; 14) The Breaks No. 2; 15) Bottom Blues No. 2; 16) Whistlin’ Blues (Private Home Recording); 17) I Had To Move That Thing (Private Home Recording); 18) Dying Mother Blues – Part 1 (Private Home Recording); 19) Dying Mother Blues – Part 2 (Private Home Recording); 20) Swanee River Boogie (alt. take); 21) Swanee River Boogie (2nd alt. take); 22) I Don’t Want To See You (alt. take); 23) Rock Of Gibraltar Blues (alt. take).