FEATURED ARTIST / S
Jimmy Yancey, piano solos, vocal.
Also, one track with Estella “Mama” Yancey, vocal, accompanied by Jimmy Yancey on harmonium.
Genres: Blues piano. Boogie-woogie piano.
Informative booklet notes by Konrad Nowakowski
Some have spoken of Yancey as “blues singer of the most touching accents” (Rudi Blesh) and in similar terms. Yancey’s few vocals, originally released on three different labels, are among the items on this CD.
Four pieces in all, one of them, the second Death Letter Blues, is an extended version of the earlier recording of the same song while it shares its first verse with both of the other titles. One of those has been named after that particular verse Cryin’ In My Sleep but is in its lyrics, with one exception, a shorter version of its counterpart I Love To Hear My Baby Call My Name. The exception is a reference to Jim Kanane’s, a place in Memphis which was famous before World War I.
Yancey’s way of putting the same ideas into different instrumental pieces has often been subject to comment and while it can be compared to his use of lyrics, his combinations of lyrics and music is equally notable. Not only East St. Louis Blues by Faber Smith, but also the second version of Yancey’s Death Letter Blues are sung to the accompaniment of How Long Blues and in 8 bars, without the repeated first line, whereas Yancey’s Death Letter Blues for Bluebird uses the 12 bar scheme and is accompanied, though in a different key, by a melody resembling the one to which Faber Smith had sung I Received A Letter and which was taken up again in the instrumental piece of that title. This is, in fact, the traditional melody of Four O’Clock Blues. Variations of this kind, based on few different elements, are one of the main devices of Yancey’s music.
Together with two of his vocals, which were released on the Bluebird label, Yancey added Yancey’s Bugle Call and 35th And Dearborn to his recordings during a second session for Victor. Only three days earlier — if discography can be trusted — he had been recorded privately at his home with some of the material that this session drew from. 35th And Dearborn had already had a close relative in Five O’Clock Blues recorded at the first Victor session. It is noteworthy in its use of two different contrasting themes: The theme of Bluebird’s Death Letter Blues replaces the main theme in Five O’Clock Blues.
His association with big recording companies was interrupted after the second Victor session and as it had been the case with Dan Qualey’s Solo Art label, Yancey was left to deal with small fan-owned labels — Phil Featheringill’s Session label and John Steiner’s Paramount — until Atlantic recorded him shortly before his death.
Discographical questions surround the Session recordings, regarding exact recording dates and what more and unissued takes were made. Important is the existence of two instrumental takes of How Long Blues one of them missing in some discographies but both included here. It must also be mentioned that Boodlin was issued twice (with liner notes drawing attention to “the same melody”) on SLP 238, once instead of Sweet Patootie which as a consequence of that error has not been available lately.