Joe Sullivan: Gin Mill Blues


Gin Mill Blues


Joe Sullivan (piano)


Joe Sullivan: 1933-1941 (Classics 821)

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Joe Sullivan (piano).

Recorded: New York, September 26, 1933


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Joe Sullivan was a powerful pianist associated with the other great white Chicago jazz players of his era. Like Waller's "Numb Fumblin'," "Gin Mill Blues" just saunters along without trying too hard. (There are plenty of trills here, too, including one in double thirds!) Especially charming is the ending, with a chromatic flourish wistfully resolving to a soft simple triad in the high register.

In Ross MacDonald's The Moving Target (1950), private eye Lew Archer gets hung up on this track while failing to successfully interrogate his suspect Betty Fraley:

But hot piano wasn't my dish, and I'd picked the wrong words or overdone my praise. The bitterness of her mouth spread to her eyes and voice. "I don't believe you. Name one."

"It's been a long time."

"Did you like my 'Gin Mill Blues?'"

"I did," I said in relief. "You do it better than Sullivan."

"You're a liar, Lew. I never recorded that number. Why would you want to make me talk too much?"

"I like your music."

"Yeah. You're probably tone-deaf." She looked intently into my face. "You could be a cop, you know. You're not the type, but there's something about the way you look at things, wanting them but not liking them. You've got cop's eyes - they want to see people hurt."

"Gin Mill Blues" is right: Sullivan, like too many of the other pianists on this list, sadly died of alcoholism. It was an occupational hazard, since standing the working pianist rounds at a convivial gathering is only the right thing to do.

Reviewer: Ethan Iverson

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