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Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Prelude To The Blues - Bill Doggett


Blue Prelude

Prelude To The Blues
Bill Doggett And His Combo
Produced by Ernie Altschuler 
Cover Art: Bill Shields
Columbia Records STEREO CS 8742

From the back cover: The large room is nearly dark. All but one of the lights have been extinguished. Bill Doggett, seated at his Hammond organ, converses in low, earnest tones with his combo, arranged in a semi-circle around him.

"Remember the feeling," he says quietly to the men. Then, more to himself that to them: "It's Billie Holiday... Let's go." Bill and the group slide into a muddy, throbbing yet easy-going Don't Explain. At its finish, the men look very pleased with themselves. Bill smiles.

A fragment of an evening Chez Doggett? Bill's Bistro? The Cafe Blue? All of these – and none. Although the scene just described was actually part of the Prelude To The Blues recording session at Columbia Records' Studio A, Bill and his men somehow succeeded in transforming the usual surgically aseptic appearance of a recording audio into a reasonable semblance of an natter-hours could, when the paying customers have left and the musicians are playing for themselves. (Between takes, in fact, one member of the combo was sufficiently overcome by the indigo moodiness of th music and the studios intimate atmosphere to express some dissatisfaction toilet the inevitable incompleteness of it all: "where are the chicks?" No answer, only a few sympathizing chuckles.)

The results of th studio-made, mood-inducing atmosphere (album producer Ernie Altschuler's inspiration) are captured in splendid fashion in Prelude To The Blues (the title and three of the tunes are Bill's inspiration). Of the collection's first side, Bill comments: "It's lazy, swinging blues all the way – soul melodic." Customarily a modest man, he states the case plainly and fairly for his version of When It's Sleepy Time Down South when he remarks that "it could be remembered for years."

The other tunes that share the side are no less fine in Bill's versions. He and his combo (joined throughout this album by the relaxed, unhurried guitar of Bill Butler and the suave, thoughtful sax of Cliff Davis) are heard to particular advantage in Count Basie's Blue And Sentimental, Gordon Jenkin's classic Blue Prelude and Bill's own All Souls Blues.

A swinging Careless Love sets the livelier tempo for Side Two. Bill and the group rekindle the fire between Harold Arlen's scorch, torch The Man That Got Away. Another effective Doggett original, Soda Pop, is followed by Benny Nelson's tenor sax featured in Ham Fat, a Nelson composition. Opus D (Doggett) is a medium-tempo blues, and the concluding St. Louis Blues remains W. C. Handy's masterpiece, though newly clothed in Bill's Elegantly casual raiment.

Don't Explain
When It's Sleepy Time Down South
Born To Lose
Blue And Sentimental
Blue Prelude
All Souls Blues
Careless Love
The Man That Got Away
Soda Pop
Ham Fat
Opus D
St. Louis Blues

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