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Frog (DGF82)

27 tracks from Little Brother Montgomery, Champion Jack Dupree, Roosevelt Sykes, Memphis Slim and  Speckled Red recorded in 1960 & 1961 by Francis W Smith at Trumpet’s Farm in Sussex.

A new CD from Frog Records and a bit of a departure for them in that their usual terrain is resurrecting early jazz and blues recordings from the 1920s and 1930s. Not that there are any complaints emanating from around these parts as this brings to our attention a host of privately made and previously unissued recordings of American blues pianists in the UK in the early 1960s.

This CD has been issued now to accompany a book being issued on the life and work of Francis Wilford-Smith, of interest to us here as a one-time significant presence in the collectors’ market relating to blues records, especially piano blues. The notes to this CD offer up tempting extracts from the book inasfar as they relate to the featured artists encompassed in these 27 tracks -  all recorded by the (then little-known) visiting American bluesmen he be-friended and hosted at his farm-house. Quickly recognising that having such great musicians in his house, and their playing on his own piano, a tape recorder to capture for posterity their talents quickly became a necessity.

And capture them he did, each playing relaxed and informal sides never intended for any other purpose than to pass the time pleasantly. As blues was at this time barely a commercial proposition, Smith certainly did not make these for any other purpose than for his own archive and enjoyment. But, this far into the future, we can only commend him for his foresight as it allows us the chance to enjoy some of our favourite blues pianists in a new and otherwise unexpected context.

And, just as remarkably, given the primitive recording equipment Smith no doubt used, the sound quality here is uniformly excellent. Something we have, of course, tended to take for granted from Frog releases but it is worth congratulating them again nonetheless.

Review Date: April 2016

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