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  Listen Up! 3/5/04 Listen Up!

Friday, Mar. 5

Memphis Slim, “Memphis Slim, U.S.A.,” Candid Records. For the most part, this is a 1961 session wherein the blues raconteur and pianist Memphis Slim runs through a good chunk of his repertoire, the songs that came to mind that afternoon. As such, it’s relaxed entertainment, rather than a fixed recording for a larger audience. Which is not to say an audience can’t enjoy this music. Slim’s piano playing is dynamically rich, delicate at times, and pounding when necessary. His vocals are strong, too, but just as capable of dropping down to just above a whisper to make a point. They just don’t make records like this anymore, documents of an artist at work without any attempt to be outside the moment.

Woody Shaw, “Rosewood,” Columbia Legacy. This reissue of Shaw’s 1977 major label debut came out about five years ago, and it sounds just lovely, except for the part that I don’t care much for the music. I mean, Shaw was a distinctive trumpeter, and he’s got Joe Henderson wailing away on sax, and the compositions are never less than interesting and occasionally beautiful, but this record simply doesn’t connect for me. Part of the problem is that 70s rhythm section style, the one that pulls Latin and Brazilian and rock influences together, and slinks rather than swings. One track at a time won’t bother you, but hearing this whole record became something of a chore.

--Steve Pick

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