Joe Williams: When Sunny Gets Blue


When Sunny Gets Blue


Joe Williams (vocals)


Ballad and Blues Master (Verve 511354-2)

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Joe Williams (vocals),

Norman Simmons (piano), Bob Badgley (bass), Gerryck King (drums)


Composed by Marvin Fisher & Jack Segal


Recorded: live at the Vine St. Bar & Grill, Hollywood, CA, May 7-8, 1987


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Joe Williams became primarily known as a rollicking blues shouter thanks to his illustrious 7-year stint with the Count Basie Orchestra, and his trademark "Every Day I Have the Blues." Lost upon many at that point was the fact that Joe was a rewarding balladeer as well. By the time the '80s rolled around, Williams had established his reputation as a superbly versatile jazz singer, but if anyone still needed a reminder, his two critically acclaimed CDs Every Night and Ballad and Blues Master both recorded in May 1987 at the Vine St. Bar & Grill, offered convincing, definitive proof. (The latter album won a Grammy award.)

                             Joe Williams by JC Jaress

"When Sunny Gets Blue" is not the most gracefully flowing of standard ballads, which makes the tune all the more challenging to pull off. Williams's silky timbre and articulate, warmhearted delivery grab you from the start. Taken at a slow tempo, the song allows full contemplation by both the audience and the vocalist, who sings it here in a tight, almost conversational range, with an occasional deep baritone note added for emphasis, such as on the last word of the phrase "memories will fade." His closing, tenderly held high note caps one of the best recorded versions of this standard. Pianist Simmons, always an exceptional vocal accompanist, provides profoundly complementary support to the then 69-year-old and still undiminished Joe Williams.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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