Here you have a live recording that brings together two major giants of music; the king of Chicago Blues Muddy Waters, who was the initial catalyst for electrifying the blues (using electric guitar), and on the other hand one of the biggest names in jazz, Dizzie Gillespie, who gave us hundreds of standards and developed be-bop alongside Charlie Parker. How amazing is that?

Muddy Waters – King of Chicago Blues

Dizzy Gillespie – Ambassador of Jazz

 

The CD features no liner notes and no credits; however Muddy introduces the band on the record. This one is from his final band, featuring Bob Margolin and Guitar Junior on guitar, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith on drums, Jerry Portnoy on harp, Pinetop Perkins on piano, and Calvin Jones on bass. The setlist is very close to other performances of this era, so I would say this performance is somewhere around 1975-1979.

 

Unfortunately, this album is not what you think it is and the title is very misleading; the added name of the trumpeter is to increase sales and poor marketing as Dizzy actually appears on only one song in full and plays a few notes on another.

 

The sound quality is also abysmal; it sort of sounds like a bootleg; Guitar Junior’s guitar is WAY low in the mix and some of the sounds are uneven; either too boomy or too muddy.

 

Now that we have the negatives out of the way let’s breakdown the album song by song:

1- Nicest Blues – After a short straight instrumental blues shuffle, the band takes a break and plays an instrumental version of Buddy Guy’s Mary Had a Little Lamb; full of energy and the rhythms are spot on. It’s a shame that the extended guitar solo cannot be heard from the shoddy mixing.

2- Harmonica Rockin’ – A short harmonica showcase for Jerry Portnoy; here Muddy enters the stage and says hello to the crowd. Jerry is a highly skilled harp player and he was one of the main players in this band.

 

3- Done Broke Down – The classic Muddy song from 1972, originally called ‘Can’t Get No Grindin’. This version is more laidback and Muddy delivers a smooth performance; the shuffle alongside the piano licks gets your head bouncing.

 

4- Baby Rock n’ Roll – The classic from Muddy’s comeback album Hard Again, which was originally called ‘Blues Had a Baby and They Called It Rock n’ Roll’. This straight ahead shuffle features Muddy calling out famous blues stars like Memphis Slim, James Cotton and others. It reminds us that the blues led to the rock revolution. Extended solos all around.

 

5- So Long – Another classic that’s actually called ‘Honey Bee’; whoever wrote the title heard the opening line as ‘so long’ when it’s actually ‘sail on’. The first slow blues on the album, featuring Muddy signature slide guitar, and finally Dizzy shows up! Near the end of the song Dizzy starts messing around on the trumpet. His full performance is on the next song.

6- Kansas City – The old standard. After the crowd applause, Muddy introduces Dizzy and the band starts. This is another 12-bar shuffle, and Dizzy plays sporadically throughout until he gets an extended solo for four rounds. He plays with various pitches, from soft and mellow to aggressive and piercing in others. Remember, he is a jazz player so his choice of notes over a standard 12-bar was interesting to say the least; as he stays away blues conventions.

 

7- Luther’s Blues – Another error! The song is actually called ‘Everything is Gonna Be Alright’. This is a shout out to Luther ‘Guitar’ Junior where he sings lead vocals after Muddy introduces the band, and he calls himself Muddy ‘Mississippi’ Waters, a throwback to his hometown back down south.

 

8- Got My Mojo Workin’ – The great classic comes to life with high energy performances from the whole band; this song is a Muddy staple and it’s rhumba feel just rocks you and this would have been a great album closer with this great all out banger.

 

9- Portnoy’s Blues – From another night, since Jerry introduces Muddy to the stage – pretty much your standard shuffle with Muddy playing along with the band.

 

10- Hoochie Coochie Man – Another blues staple; the call and response track is very laidback unlike the usual high-octane versions. No solos taken.

 

11- Baby Please Don’t Go Muddy plays the opening lick to this classic with a lot more energy than the last track, and hopes his baby doesn’t go down to New Orleans. Jerry is the star performer here.

12- Key Little Highway – Another mistype; the song is called ‘Key to the Highway’ which was originally by blues great Big Bill Broonzy, who Muddy recorded a whole album of cover songs as a tribute to. This instrumental version is so mellow and it has that midnight blues feel.

 

So now that we took a journey through the album, I’ll summarize my opinions:

 

Pros:

+ Laidback performances shows the bands’ prowess with the blues.

+ Muddy’s vocal performance is killer.

+ Lots of extended solos.

+ Dizzy’s guest appearance.

+ Nice choice of classic songs.

 

Cons:

– Bad sound quality.

– Nearly all song titles are mislabeled from their original names.

– Misleading album title as Dizzy appears on one and a half songs only.

– Instrumentals drag a bit.


Overall, if you want a good live Muddy Waters album from the same era, I recommend “Muddy ‘Mississippi’ Waters – Live” which also won a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album, as this album suffers from bad sound quality and is a more laidback in performance as a whole. 

Written by: Ali Sleeq
Edited by: NJ Bakr

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