AVID Roots here presents two classic Champion Jack Dupree albums plus, including original LP liner notes on a finely re-mastered and low priced double CD. 'Blues From The Gutter' and 'Champion Jack's Natural & Soulful Blues' from 1958 and 1959 respectively are complimented by a host of Singles from the 1940's and 50's, many of which are finding their way onto CD for the very first time courtesy of AVID! We kick things off with Jack's first two albums, 'Blues From The Gutter' recorded in New York in 1958 and considered by many to be his finest work to that point and perhaps his finest work ever! We follow this with an album dear to British blues enthusiasts hearts and recorded in 1959 in London using such stalwart British bluesmen as Alexis Korner and Jack Fallon……'Champion Jack's Natural & Soulful Blues'. Concluding side one and onto side two we have a selection of Jack's singles recorded in the 40's and 50's for such diverse labels as Continental, Red Robin, King and Groove & Vik. Unlike many bluesmen born around the early 1900's Champion Jack Dupree went on to have a very long and full life, travelling extensively around Europe and recording for many different labels as witnessed on this fine double CD. He finally settled in Germany where he died in 1992 having recorded over 40 albums!
From his emergence in the mid-Eighties to the present, pianist Cyrus Chestnut has declared himself a committed stylist completely infatuated with his instrument and the art he’s sworn allegiance to, jazz. Chestnut has consistently shown himself an improviser of rare ingenuity and grace, yet what most distinguishes him from other gifted pianists of our era may be the sheer pleasure that radiates from all that he plays. While the characteristic cheer that Chestnut displays on "Natural Essence" can be attributed to his undiminished vigor and attentiveness, the presence of his notable cohorts also contributes to the leader’s focus. With the dynamic Lenny White on drums and the redoubtable Buster Williams on bass Cyrus & company breathe new life and vitality into that most venerable of jazz ensemble formats, the piano trio.
When it came time for Motown to package its Commodores catalog for the CD market, they paired up the albums into a series of two-fers, one of the more suitable pairings being Natural High/Midnight Magic. These back to back albums, from 1978 and 1979 respectively, flow together well. Neither is one of the group's best overall albums, but each has a good share of hits that add up to a satisfying albeit spotty sum, one that includes a pair of gigantic hits, "Three Times a Lady" and "Still." These two crossover hits are both quiet piano ballads sung by Lionel Richie, who had made such songs his stock-in-trade by this point, delivering one or two on every successive Commodores album, to generally greater and greater (and broader) success each go round.
With the exception of 1964's Folk, Blues & Beyond, this is Graham's finest non-compilation album. It's also his most fully arranged and rock-influenced effort, with backing by a meaty ensemble featuring Danny Thompson (of Pentangle) on bass and British blues stalwarts Jon Hiseman and Dick Heckstall-Smith (Graham Bond, Colosseum) on drums and sax respectively. Even Graham's singing sounds better than usual. Graham offers some decent blues, but more interesting are his frequent excursions into raga folk-rock of sorts, especially on "Blue Raga" (learned from Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan). The raga-jazz interpretation of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," which moves from meditative opening drones into a freewheeling explosion of modal folk-rock is one of the highlights of Graham's career on record and one of the best expressions of his ability to make a standard his own.