Various ‘Roll ’em. 103 Rompin’ Boogie Woogie classics’ 4CD box set (Proper) 4/5

In the evolution of jazz piano boogie woogie, also known as blues and barrelhouse piano, is sometimes wrongly viewed as a brief interlude without any profound impact, the genre being challenged and finally usurped by the then bop revolution. However, as this extensive overview amply illustrates some of the all-time greats were interested in performing in the style and several made their reputations from it. The height of the boogie woogie craze peaked around 1935-1939 and a key number from this period is ‘Pinetop’s boogie woogie’ from Clarence ‘Pinetop’ Smith. Some of the classic and definitive interpretations are included here such as ‘Roll ’em Pete’ featuring a duet between Pete Johnson and vocalist Joe Turner while Albert Ammons displays his own innovative stylistic prowess on ‘Boogie woogie’ and elsewhere James P. Johnson makes an invaluable contribution. Arguably the greatest piano duettists were Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons and they combine beautifully on ‘Twos and Fews’. It is something of a erroneous stereotype that boogie woogie was all the same; it varied in style dependent on the speed and regularity. Later modern jazz pianists such as Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson would develop ideas for their own adapted styles. Blues pianists were not averse to the genre and Roosevelt Sykes and Champion Jack Dupree perform on ‘Cabbage Greens no.1’. Unquestionably boogie woogie was a technically thrilling rolling of rhythms and emotional climaxes with right handed riffs predominating and these all contributed to the genre’s popularity. Yet is was still flexible enough to attract jazz pianists such as the father of modern jazz, Earl Hines. It should be pointed out the tracks contained here are taken in large part from original vinyl and as such some surface noise is audible, but the sound quality is perfectly acceptable and allows the original recordings to breath and flow as they did first time round. The thirty page plus booklet provides useful information and the music covers the period 1928-1950. More of the classic piano albums of this generation need to be re-issued, beginning with Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith. Tim Stenhouse