Lonnie Johnson: Mr. Blues Walks


Mr. Blues Walks


Lonnie Johnson (guitar, vocals)


Stompin' At The Penny (Columbia-Legacy CK 57829)

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Lonnie Johnson (guitar, vocals),

Charles Gall (cornet), Jim McHarg (bass), unspecified other members of Jim McHarg’s Metro Stompers of Toronto


Composed by Lonnie Johnson


Recorded: live in Toronto, Canada, November 1965


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

In 1965, 71-year-old Lonnie Johnson was invited to Toronto to play with a good traditional jazz band in a popular club called The Penny Farthing. They wondered whether the old man could keep up. But it was the young upstarts who had to summon all they had to play at Lonnie's level.

This album was recorded after the band, with Johnson, had become a big Toronto-area hit at the club. This track, like Johnson's "Don't' Ever Love," beautifully demonstrates the blues foundation of jazz, and shows Johnson's capacity for masterful singing later in his career.

The track opens with an excellent, bluesy overture, with characteristic Lonnie Johnson figures and riffs on electric guitar. His lyrics, in classic blues form, artfully tell a real blues story in a powerful and engaging way. "When the town is fast asleep, Mr. Blues be gettin' 'round; (repeat;) every time he knocks on somebody's door, he leaves them with a mournful sound." The lyrics are perfectly punctuated by some fine cornet work. These are blues lyrics, but the music is jazz. As author Stanley Crouch put it, "In jazz, sorrow rhythmically transforms itself into joy, which is perhaps the point of the music: joy earned or arrived at through performance, through creation." The sheer feeling one is left with after listening to this track is exactly that.

Reviewer: Dean Alger

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