FEATURED ARTIST / S
Roosevelt Sykes Vol 10 12th July 1951 to 1957.
Roosevelt Sykes, vocal, piano, celeste.
With contributions by: Robert Nighthawk, guitar; Ransom Knowling, bass; Fred Below, drums;
Remo Beondi, violin; And others…
Genre; 1950s Chicago Blues, New Orleans Blues, Blues Piano.
Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith
Includes detailed discography.
As the fifties began, Roosevelt Sykes was recording for United, a Chicago independent owned by black businessman Leonard Allen. July 12 1951 was United Records’ first recording day, and Sykes was on hand, both to back J. T. Brown and Robert Nighthawk and to play the small group jump blues he’d been cutting for Victor in the forties. On his own session that day Robert Nighthawk seized the chance to play his gorgeous brand of slide guitar blues, but behind Sykes he displays his remarkable versatility, playing big, jazzy chords. All Sykes’ masters from this session were issued and they are all quite successful, with “Sax” Mallard and “Sax” Crowder producing fierce, preaching tones, or playing in more lyrical vein as required.
The August 1953 date was an unusual experiment, with the saxes replaced by Ramon “Remo” Biondi. Biondi was a staff violinist and guitarist at NBC, he arranged for United, led his own bands, had been on the jazz scene since the twenties (and recording since 1928) and was an occasional participant in blues sessions by Jimmy Reed and others. He fits in well in “Hot Boogie” - Sykes sounds pleased but surprised at the success of the combination as he cries “Saw that fiddle, man!”
“Toy Piano Blues”, on the other hand, stayed in the can for many years; it revives - probably in ignorance of the precedent - the fiddle and Celeste combination used by Henry Johnson’s Boys in 1927 and is perhaps the most extreme example of the feeling one gets from this session of musicians fooling around in the studio, trying out ideas to see if they work.
In 1954, Sykes moved to New Orleans, his base for the rest of his life. There he cut two remarkable sessions with members of the Dave Bartholomew Band, with a ferocious guitarist, reported to be either Ernest McLean or Walter Nelson. The Crescent City boys seem to have set out to imitate the blues coming out of “Sweet Old Chicago”, but the guitarist is frequently years ahead of his time, forecasting the piercing, a sound of the Chicago West Side. Earl Palmer’s drumming is well worth close attention, and the whole ensemble has that relaxed, unerring swing so characteristic of the best New Orleans R&B. On “Hush Oh Hush”, Sykes looks gracefully back to the “Forty Four Blues” that had been his debut recording in 1929.
His last record aimed at black listeners appeared on the Memphis House of Sound label. “Sputnik 2”, to which Sykes likens his “satellite baby”, was launched on 3 November 1957. The disc, with the fine guitar accompaniment of Joe Willie Wilkins' bleeping guitar, highlights what had been and would continue to be true all through a long career; that Roosevelt Sykes was a great singer and pianist, and a fluent and prolific songwriter. This volume is rounded out by two recordings by one Joe Evans who is almost certainly Sykes working under a nom de disque.
Note: Roosevelt Sykes complete recorded titles, including alternative takes, prior to 12th July 1951 can be found on Document DOCD-5038, DOCD-55116, DOCD-5117, DOCD-5118, DOCD-5119, DOCD-5120, DOCD-5121, DOCD-5122, DOCD-5525, DOCD-5662, BDCD-66041, BDCD-6048, BDCD-6049.