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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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I Remember Bessie

Delmark DE 254



1. Baby Won't You Please Come Home

2. Alexander's Ragtime Band

3. You've Got To Give Me Some

4. Yonder Comes the Blues

5. Cake Walkin' Babies From Home

6. Back Water Blues

7. Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out

8. At A Georgia Camp Meeting

9. You've Been A Good Ole Wagon

10. Slow And Easy Man

11. Yellow Dog Blues

12. A Good Man Is Hard To Find

13. St. Louis Blues

14. Mayor Calling

15. After You've Gone

16. Cake Walkin' Babies From Home

17. Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good To You


Art Hodes was in Chicago in the 1920s, when artists like Louis Armstrong, James P. Johnson and Earl Hines were there. The twenties was also the time when Bessie Smith had some of her greatest successes that inspired Art Hodes and his love for the blues, which permeated his playing.

Bessie Smith often sang forcefully - even raucously - but this album is like a peaceful version of her work. Recorded in 1976 with crystal-clear sound, the album drifts along placidly like a stream and there are very few fast numbers. Cake Walkin' Babies is one of the exceptions and it is present on the album in two versions. The alternate version is one of five extra tracks (tracks 13 to 17) added to the LP's original dozen, although Mayor Calling is 19 seconds of conversation.

Art Hodes was already in his early seventies, and his playing has the relaxed maturity that is often found in people of that age. As I listened to the album, I was drawn into Hodes' pleasurable ease. He had a fine technique but doesn't show it off, instead playing with what seems like simple tranquillity, although it is continuously thoughtful. It is as if he is sitting alone at the piano in a club, reminiscing musically about Bessie Smith, without any of the anguish that Bessie sometimes expressed in her singing. Art's style is decorative without being either ostentatious or effete.

A beautiful album.

Tony Augarde

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