The story of Jay “Hootie” McShann is legend. Born in 1916, he got his start as a youth tickling the ivories in the infamous wide-open Kansas City barrooms and ballrooms. His Jay McShann Orchestra cut its first record in 1941 featuring singer Walter Brown and a budding K.C. saxman named Charlie Parker. Through those earlier years, McShann was one of the formative influences in jazz, blues, and what became rock and roll.
In recent times, McShann has returned to the studio to cut two rollicking albums for Stony Plain. Now, with Goin’ to Kansas City , he is truly back home, recording in K.C. with a stellar band featuring none other than Duke Robillard as his worthy sideman.
Robillard has become a walking, talking encyclopedia of vintage swing, blues, and R&B guitar licks from his work with his own bands and as an accompanist for the likes of McShann and others, including the stellar 1989 album with Texas bluesman Zuzu Bollin. When it comes to hot jazz licks, Robillard’s the man.
Many of the tunes cut here are McShann originals, and they truly shine above the covers, such as Leiber and Stoller’s inevitable “Kansas City,” which is offered up twice. McShann’s own “Confessin’ the Blues” – a playful duet with singer Maria Muldaur – the good time “Fish Fry Boogie,” and other dusted-off oldies are alive with a sparkle that only 70 years in the business can produce.
This CD also includes a bonus interview with McShann telling his tale from the comfort of his own home. Both the music and the talk make this CD stand out. As B.B. King is quoted on the album’s back cover, “Jay McShann is one of the great ones. I think he’s the most underappreciated of all us bluesmen.”
This article originally appeared in VG‘s March ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.