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Monday, May 8, 2017

Champion Jack Dupree: Champion Of The Blues


1) I Had A Dream; 2) Roll Me Over Roll Me Slow; 3) Reminiscin' With Champion Jack Dupree; 4) That's All Right; 5) Daybreak Stomp; 6) House Rent Party; 7) Snaps Drink Woman; 8) One Sweet Letter From You; 9) New Vicksburg Blues; 10) When Things Go Wrong; 11) Johnson Street Boogie Woogie; 12) Misery Blues.

This next album founds the Champion in Copenhagen, where, so it seems, he feels himself right at home: at least, on ʽRoll Me Over Roll Me Slowʼ he acknowledges that fact with pleasure and gratitude to all the good Danish people who feel so hospitable towards an exotic blues piano player from the faraway swamps of Louisiana. The recording session was produced by local jazz and blues enthusiast Karl Emil Knudsen, who had recently launched his own blues label (Story­ville) and seemed all too happy to make Dupree into one of his permanent clients. And this time, there is no Alexis Korner around: all twelve songs feature Champion Jack Dupree solo, with the strict warning that "the percussive sounds heard on several of the tracks are made by stomping of Champion Jack's feet". So there! The album was still picked up by Atlantic overseas — at least, Atlantic pressings of it do exist — but essentially, this stabilizes the Champ's status for a long, long time as one of America's most reliable exports to Europe.

Music-wise, of course, there is not much to discuss in such a setting. Since it is unlikely to expect the Champion to get influenced by Thelonious Monk or John Cage, most of the attention will be drawn to his behavior behind the keyboards — for instance, nostalgizing about the good old days with his deceased blues pals and explaining why he prefers piano over guitar, illustrating it with little flourishes (ʽReminiscin'ʼ), or getting adjusted to the new realities of his life in Denmark with songs like ʽSnaps Drinking Womanʼ, an old jump blues with new lyrics quickly re-written to fit the circumstances. Overall, it's just another predictable mix of regular slow blues, uptempo jump blues, and boogie woogie — ʽJohnson Street Boogie Woogieʼ is fun, but does not work all that well without a supporting band. I guess Danish audiences loved it all, though, and the Champ was happy to oblige, putting on one-man vaudeville shows like ʽHouse Rent Partyʼ, a simple illustra­tion of the menu served at a modest house party deep down in Louisiana. Still, even if you keep your expectations to a bare minimum, it is pretty damn hard to put Champion Of The Blues in the class of «satisfactory entertainment», unless you put yourself in the shoes of a young Danish blues lover in 1961 who has just miraculously discovered the real thing playing in his local bar.

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