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Forty years ago, New Orleans blues pianist, Professor Longhair, played an electrifying set at the University of Chicago Folk Festival, which was also broadcast on WFMT-FM Chicago. Remastered from the original analog tapes by Orleans Records label runner, Carlo Ditta, and guitarist on the performance, Billy Gregory, that long lost live document finally sees the light of day,
Call it boogie-woogie, r&b or whatever you like, Live in Chicago embodies rock’n‘roll. Backed by guitarists Gregory and Will Harvey, bassist Julius Farmer and Earl Gordon on drums, “Fess” fully emerges as the full powerhouse of his mythology. They open with “Doin’ It,” a rollicking instrumental number that warms them up for an exuberant rendition of one of his more popular tunes, the Earl King-penned “Big Chief.” Things slow down only a tad for “Every Day I Have the Blues,” featuring some absolutely astounding lead guitar from Gregory, before the Professor’s piano takes on a life of its own on “Mess Around.” “Mardi Gras in New Orleans,” which Longhair first recorded in 1949 with his band, The Shuffling Hungarians, shuffles with smiling confidence, while an explosive, rave-up version of “Got My Mojo Working” shows the band at their finest. It ends with “Fess’s Boogie,” another instrumental to cool down from the energy of the previous songs.
Professor Longhair influenced everyone from Fats Domino to Allen Toussaint to Dr. John. Hearing this it’s not hard to imagine why.
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