As an idiom, boogie woogie seems an ideal candidate for sampler consumption. That’s a polite way of saying that for many listeners, a little tends to go a long way. Rhythmic and melodic protocols tend to follow relatively rigid parameters and most purveyors aren’t usually known for their ability to straddle other piano forms. That hasn’t stopped the good folks at Delmark from continuing to dust off classic sides by the leading lights of the style. This latest collection lives up to its title in surveying six in that celebratory fraternity, all now sadly long since deceased.
Provenance for the selected pieces ranges from a pair of late 30s Chicago sessions by “Cripple” Clarence Lofton, who makes up in enthusiasm what he might lack in digital dexterity, to a trio of later comeback dates by the likes of nearly-expired brand names Speckled Red and Henry Brown. Compiler Bob Koester wisely sequences with an ear toward diversity in the musicians’ methods of delivery as well. Meade "Lux" Lewis doubles on celeste to create a calliope effect on “Dollhouse Boogie” and threads in some mellifluous mouth-puckering on “Whistlin’ Blues”. Speckled Red sounds a little worse for wear on his four numbers and turns in a rushed rundown of his secretly salacious “Right String But the Wrong Yo-Yo”. He redeems himself on a galloping boogie-woogie that bears his name with shoot-from-the-hip verse-play straight out of the riverside barrelhouse.
“Boogie Woogie Prayer” ups the ante on the time-honored custom of the boogie duel by adding Pete Johnson to the popular pairing of Albert Ammons and Lewis. While a bit of a demolition derby, it’s still great fun hearing the three men try to not gum up the underlying rhythm with their fast dancing, crisscrossing fingers. Lewis ends the set with a sound-muffled sally through his own “Closing Time” that’s apposite in title, but otherwise a shade anticlimactic. Running time for the nineteen cuts clocks at a conservative 53-minutes and change, but in a setting such as this that relative brevity is arguably an asset.