Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Blues Legends in Europe

Memphis Slim is one of the great artists of the blues-jazz genre. His piano style is unmistakable, somewhere along the lines of Pinetop Perkins, with only an imperceptible pause between chords separating the two musicians. This footage, from an untitled German TV show, dates from about 1964, and features Memphis Slim on piano, where he belongs, with fellow musicians Matt Murphy on guitar, Bill Stepney on drums, and Sonny Boy Williamson on harmonica.

Memphis Slim was one of the first of the American blues artists to see the value in performing in Europe; which he eventually made his home; appearing on German, French and English TV specials devoted to American Blues. These shows really helped to propel the revival in blues music that had already begun with the so-called “British Invasion” of the 1960’s, when white America was hearing rhythm and blues being beamed back at them from the myriad of English bands, all of whom had been mining the music of black American artists for several years already.
Some of the finest blues recordings of the era were made in Europe, where the African-American artist didn’t have to worry about the Jim Crow laws of the American South. Those restrictions kept them from eating and sleeping properly on the road at home, while in Europe they were free to pursue their passion with vigor. And the results of this relaxed atmosphere; in which they were treated as fellow travelers on the road of life; were sessions like this one, where they felt free to play their standard numbers with abandon. This freedom even allowed them to push the envelope a bit further, experimenting with new sounds and redefining blues and jazz, eventually culminating in a jazz-blues fusion.

A remarkable piece of film courtesy of You Tube, this video represents the entire TV performance. Ideally, you will be able to view it all at once, as it was intended to be. But even if you only listen to a few songs at a time, this performance has definitely stood the test of time.

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