Muddy Waters - guitar, vocals; Luther "Georgia Boy" Johnson - guitar; James "Pee Wee" Madison - guitar; Otis Spann - piano; Paul Oscher - harmonica; Sonny Wimberly - bass; S.P. Leary - drums
Shortly before the annual Newport Festivals in 1968, festival director George Wein helped stage another landmark event billed as "The Roots of Jazz," as part of the first year's programming at the Hampton Jazz Festival at the Hampton Institute in Virginia. Brilliantly conceived on both a musical and an educational level, this remarkable program featured the ominous Delta blues of Skip James, the church influenced gospel leanings of the Staple Singers, the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, the electrified city blues of the Muddy Waters Blues Band, stride pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith, and was capped off with an appearance by the seminal jazz legend, Earl "Fatha" Hines. Recently discovered in the vast Newport Festival Network archive, the master recordings from that memorable evening not only capture these performances in remarkable quality, but also convey a musical evolution in a most enjoyable way. Presented here is the fourth sequence that evening featuring the Muddy Waters Blues Band, which concluded the first half of the program and was followed by a brief intermission.
By this point the program had covered considerable ground beginning with the ominous Delta blues of Skip James to the church and blues influenced Staple Singers to the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band. The next set represented is the amplified city blues of Muddy Waters, with one of his most revered bands in tow. Over the course of the 1950s, Waters had revolutionized and revitalized the Chicago blues scene. His prowess on electric guitar, slide technique, commanding vocals, and his evocative songwriting introduced a big city feel into his unique brand of Delta blues. These innovations had a profound effect on nearly every blues artist that followed. Indeed, over the course of the next two decades, Waters served to mentor and launch many prominent musicians, many of whom became bandleaders in the years to come. As a bandleader himself, Waters established the ensemble sound and style of Chicago electric blues. This format (electric guitar/piano/bass/drums) served as a basic blueprint for rock music in the 1960s and beyond.
Waters cut an astounding stream of blues standards over the years and several of the songs that established him as a focal point of electric blues are here, including signature numbers like the set opening "Hoochie Coochie Man" and the set closing "Got My Mojo Workin." However, the most impressive material is sandwiched in between, with high-energy readings of "Long Distance Call," "Trouble No More," "Blow Wind Blow," and a smoldering "She's Nineteen Years Old." All of these numbers are played with passion, and it's not difficult to understand why so many consider this band among Waters' finest ever. Each of these musicians is worthy of individual attention, which makes this performance all the more enjoyable. This recording will be of particular interest to the countless fans and disciples of pianist Otis Spann, who plays exceptionally and forcefully throughout this set, as well as for drummer S.P. Leary who, by the nature of the recording, is well represented. However, it is Muddy Waters who simply commands ones attention, and this performance finds him near the peak of his powers.