Album Reviews

Professor Longhair: Live In Chicago (Orleans Records)

liveinchicago

Professor Longhair
Live In Chicago
Orleans Records

Blues is a music best experienced live, and that’s especially true of New Orleans jazz—where the joyous melodies are often tempered with flamboyant musicians whose antics make an essential part of the experience of New Orleans jazz. No finer musician exemplified this than pianist Henry “Roy” Byrd, better known as Professor Longhair, one of the greatest blues pianists to ever come out of the city.

The recently discovered set that constitutes Live In Chicago comes from a February 1976 performance at the Chicago Folk Festival, and captures the Professor in fine form. Though it’s a brief set—seven songs in less than thirty minutes—nevertheless it’s a scorching set, split between instrumentals and vocals. The singing’s fun—his vocals are so passionate that you can feel his naughtiness in “Got My Mojo Working” and his revelry in “Mardi Gras In New Orleans.” Of course, his big hit, “Big Chief,” is a definite highlight, delighting with potent piano licks, his whistling, and his humorous lyrics.

All in all, his performance reeks of the bayou, and it’s hard to imagine a listener not enjoying what he has to offer. But it ends way too fast, and that’s the only flaw to be had with this wonderful little find. Still, Live In Chicago is an exciting document of an artist and a time long passed, a delicious plate of New Orleans’ finest. 

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