Jay McShann is 83 years old and
walks with a cane, but his playing is timeless. Still Jumpin’ the
Blues showcases the venerable pianist with Duke Robillard’s current
band, which includes ex-Roomful of Blues saxman Doug James and Marty
Richards, one of the swingingest drummers in the business. Together
they deliver a luscious 45-minute set that features the sultry voice
of Maria Muldaur on "Backwater Blues" (a Bessie Smith chestnut
that McShann says he first heard in 1928) and the vampish "Come
on Over to My House."
Robillard plays a weepy lap steel
guitar on "Hootie’s K.C. Christmas Prayer," which, oddly enough,
has nothing to do with Christmas. And on "Backwater Blues"
he replicates some of the fine fingerwork of Al Casey, Fats Waller’s
long-time guitarist who recorded with McShann in the ’60s and ’70s.
Everybody joins in on "She’s
Got It," a risqué sing-along that’s built around the lines
"She got it / She needs it / She sits right on it / She just won’t
give it away / Anybody get it, they sure will have to pay."
McShann, a pillar of Kansas City’s
legendary jazz community of the ’30s and ’40s, is in top form — never
missing a note, never taking on more than he can handle. And Robillard’s
playing is, as always, both flawless and reverential.
The CD closes with a 17-minute-plus
interview with McShann (it’s preceded by a two-minute pause so you can
change discs if you don’t want to hear it) in which he tells how he
got the nickname "Hootie" and recalls his barroom travels
with Art Tatum and his dealings with Charlie Parker. The interview closes
with McShann knocking out a priceless, "live"-in-the-living-room
version of "Ain’t Nobody’s Business."
Still Jumpin’ the Blues is
a wonderful CD. And, like its Stony Plain predecessor, Hootie’s Jumpin’
Blues, both it and McShann are real treasures.
— Dave Ranney