COMPLETE SIDES 1941-1950 (2CD)
If ever there is a man who fully deserves to be recognized as The King Of Chicago Blues Piano, it is Big Maceo. Born in rural Georgia in 1905, he picked up his piano technique from relatives and local players and by the time he and his family migrated to Detroit in 1924 he was in demand to play at gin joints, nightclubs and house parties. He seems to have had little ambition until his move to Chicago in 1941 where Big Bill Broonzy immediately recognised his talent and introduced him to Lester Melrose of Bluebird Records.
Melrose teamed him up with ace guitarist Tampa Red and together they came up with a terrific debut recording Worried Life Blues. Up to then, jazz based piano players had mocked blues pianists naïve style but Maceo, who played with a tough traditional technique, set them back on their heels. Big Maceo had a right hand that simply shimmered - beating out aggressive, energetic chords and exuberant runs while his thundering and surprisingly intricate bass patterns were more powerful (probably due to his being left-handed) than anything anyone had heard before. Add his marvellously warm smoky vocals and imaginative song writing and you've got a man who made blues music that must rank amongst the most intriguing and innovative ever made.
This fabulous 2CD set covers his entire works both as leader and as accompanist to Tampa Red and includes some of the finest ever moments in blues music. Songs like Worried Life Blues, Country Jail Blues, Maceo's 32-20, Won't Be A Fool No More and the immortal Chicago Breakdown defined Chicago piano blues and have gone down as classics over the years and his influence shines in the music of Otis Spann, Johnny Jones, Eddie Gray and the countless other blues pianists who revere him and still perform his songs.
Get this and let the fulsome full-fat notes of Big Maceo Merriweather's Worried Life Blues, Texas Blues and Ramblin' Mind Blues tumble out of the speakers and send shivers down your spine. I can't recommend his music enough!
Review Date: October 2011