Contains 22 tracks.
Personnel: Little Brother Montgomery (vocals, piano); Irene Scruggs (vocals); Walter Vinson (guitar); Oliver Alcorn (clarinet, tenor saxophone); Ernest "Big" Crawford (baritone saxophone); Lee Collins (trumpet); Jerome Smith (drums).
Recording information: 1930-1954.
Most of Eurreal Little Brother Montgomery's early works were reissued during the 1970s on a gatefold double-LP that appeared with the RCA Bluebird series, an impressive effort that reintroduced music from the '30s and `40s by artists from Bluebird's jazz, blues, and country & western catalogs. When Montgomery's Bluebird two-fer dropped out of circulation, availability became rather dicey until the early '90s when Document brought out two CDs' worth of rare material from most of the labels he recorded for over a 24-year period beginning in September 1930. Volume two covers that exact time span, beginning with four Paramount recordings that featured his touring partner, St. Louis blues singer Irene Scruggs; the most invigorating of these is the brusquely paced "Must Get Mine in Front." As is the case with most Paramounts, especially those reissued by Document during their pre-remastering period, these tracks carry a fair amount of 78 rpm surface noise, as do tracks five and six, a pair of blues sung by one Minnie Hicks, which may have been recorded on the same day as the Scruggs session and were released on platters bearing the Broadway logo. Under no circumstances should anyone be alienated by the archaic audio quality of the first six titles on this album, because the rest of the disc is devoted to some of Montgomery's choicest performances on record. Tracks seven through eleven were recorded for Bluebird at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans, LA on October 16, 1936. Four of these feature the singing of Annie Turner, while "Goodbye, Good Luck to You" was delivered with gusto by Creole George Guesnon (1907-1968), a well-loved banjoist and guitarist whose strumming can be heard on dozens of early Crescent City jazz recordings. The really surprising portion of the package comes next: tracks 12 - 15 were recorded in Chicago in 1947 for the Century label by the Little Brother Montgomery Quintet, a traditional New Orleans jazz band with legendary trumpeter Lee Collins and seasoned clarinetist Oliver Alcorn doubling on the tenor sax. Rhythmic support was provided by string bassist Ernest Crawford and drummer Jerome Smith. The Caribbean-spiced "El Ritmo" is a beautiful example of old-styled Louisiana jazz built upon Latin American rhythms. It may have been directly influenced by Bunk Johnson and Sidney Bechet's "Porto Rico," which was recorded for Blue Note in 1945. Montgomery sings "Woman That I Love" and "Long Time Ago," sounding a lot like Cow Cow Davenport, who by 1947 had ceased making records. The rest of this compilation features Montgomery the soloist. Tracks 16 - 19 were recorded for Savoy in Chicago on April 19, 1949 and for some unaccountable reason were not issued to the public until much later. Tracks 20 - 24 come from a Windin' Ball LP recorded in Chicago on February 12, 1954. Montgomery sings the "Cow Cow Blues," acknowledging for once and for all Davenport's influence, and reinterprets his own early masterpieces, with the "Vicksburg" and "Crescent City Blues" standing out as glorious cornerstones of his personal repertoire. By reissuing virtually everything he recorded during the Great Depression and the decade following the Second World War, Document has provided the background for Montgomery's later, better-known recordings. Critics and piano blues lovers who found the first volume too thickly larded with vocal tracks should make a point of absorbing everything on the second half of volume two. ~ arwulf arwulf
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