JJ 01/63: Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated – R & B From The Marquee

Sixty years ago, for Derrick Stewart-Baxter, white British blues singers faced the incurable handicap of not being black and American. First published in Jazz Journal January 1963

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It is really very difficult to know just what to write about this record. Within its limitations it is quite interesting, but I fear that all those concerned are battl­ing against impossible odds. Blues are the music of the American Negro – they belong to him and him only. Many white musicians have mastered the art of instrumental blues playing, but when it comes to singing, the white race has not produced a major artist. Some such as Jack Teagarden and the late Mildred Bailey have given us some fine jazz-blues, and this only because they have adapted the material rather than ape the Negro.

Our own Ottilie Patterson has produced some acceptable versions of well known blues, but, and here is the point, at best these are only first class imitations, for they can be little else in view of the conditions under which the British artist is born. Let us face it, there is something a trifle odd in hear­ing an Irish girl (in the case of Ottilie) or English boy assuming a deep southern accent while trying to sing authentic blues! It just doesn’t work.

I do believe that Alexis Korner and company love and understand their idiom, and that they have the urge to sing as they do is highly creditable, for if they can con­vert a few to the real thing, then they have my full support. If then, one accepts the aforementioned limitations, this LP reaches a high standard. Cyril Davis plays a really good mouth harp and he seems to have mastered this diffi­cult instrument from the blues angle. His singing is another matter, stemming strongly as it does from Muddy Waters. Long John Baldry, the other singer, has been influenced greatly by Sonny Boy Williamson number one, and he is the better singer – his “How Long Blues” is quite effective.

The instrumentals, while not being world beaters, are in the correct idiom. Graham Burbridge is a tower of strength, but Dick Heckstall-Smith sounds out of place. A very gallant failure.

Discography
(a) Gotta Move; (b) Rain Is Such A Lonesome Sound; (c) I Got My Brand On You; (a) Spooky But Nice; (c) Keep Your Hands Off; (c) I Wanna Put A Tiger In Your Tank (17 min) – (c) I Got My Mojo Working; (a) Finkle’s Cafe; (c) Hoochie Koochie; (a) Down Town; (b) How Long, How Long Blues; (b) I Thought I Hear The Train Whistle Blow (17 min)
(a) Alexis Korner (g); Graham Burbidge (d); Keith Scott (p); Dick Heckstall-Smith (ten); Cyril Davis (harm); Spike Heatley (bs).
(b) Long John Baldry (vo) acc. by the above.
(c) Cyril Davis (vo & harm) acc. by above.
(Ace of Clubs, ACL 1130 12inLP 21s. 6d.)