Magazine article IAJRC Journal

New Orleans Piano Players

Magazine article IAJRC Journal

New Orleans Piano Players

Article excerpt

Cousin Joe and Alton Purnell

New Orleans Piano Players

Jazz Crusade (JCCD 3091)

Cousin Joe (Pleasant Joseph) and Alton Purnell (piano - vocal)

Down And Out Man/Hogwash Junction Function/ I've Got News For You/Mess Around/Hotel Loneliness/ She Ain't Such-A-Much/Chicken A La Blues/Too Late To Turn Back Now/Touch Me/Thank You, Pretty Baby/Goodnight Sweetheart/Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You?/Have You Seen My Kitty?/Impromptu Blues/Lady Be Good/Stagger Lee/ Who's Sorry Now?/St. Louis Blues/Alberta/Alton's Boogie/After Hours TT: 72:00

This disc is divided between two roughly contemporary but very different New Orleans pianists. Cousin Joe (aka Pleasant Joseph and Smilin' Joe) had a long career as an entertainer, primarily in the deep South. Alton Purnell toured the world with the George Lewis band and spent almost as much of his life living outside of New Orleans as he did in it.

Cousin Joe was of the old school of honky-tonk piano players and urban blues singers whose career went through several metamorphoses, including dancer (at the Gypsy Tea Room in New Orleans), band singer (with Kid Rena and Joe Robichaux), rhythm and blues singer (making several recordings in the 1940's and 50's with Sidney Bechet, Earl Bostic and Dave Bartholomew) and finally blues pianist and composer. It is the last incarnation on display on these recordings made during a solo engagement at London's Pizza Express in 1978.

Joe's repertoire ranges here from originals such as Down and Out Man (which he claims to have composed the night before) to Louis Jordan's Hogwash Junction Function and Brook Benton's Hotel Loneliness. Perhaps the best of the covers is Touch Me - known more for its country interpretations, courtesy of Buck Owens, Faron Young and Willie Nelson. He finishes his set with Goodnight Sweetheart which I thought was going to be the Ray Noble theme, but which instead turned out to be the 1954 doo-wop tune, Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight, made famous by the Spaniels. His own She Ain't Such-a-Much is perhaps the best of the lot here, with the traditional lyrics "wouldn't give a blind sow an acorn/wouldn't give a crippled crab a crutch" being the refrain of the song. The piano playing is elemental at best, with most of his figures sounding like variations on Avery Parrish's After Hours, a popular tune with New Orleans pianists, but his vocal delivery is virtuosic within the style. Clearly he had logged a lot of time in front of an audience and knew how to program his sets and work the crowd. …

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