2 CD Set – CD 1: 10 Songs; 60:01 Minutes; CD 2: 14 Songs; 60:19 Minutes
Styles: Blues Covers, Instrumentals, Soul-Influenced Blues, Swing, Saxophone Blues
For every music star who shines brilliantly on the national stage, there are countless other stars twinkling in their orbit. Consider Melvin Joseph Stanley, famous in the Washington, D.C. area. For more than fifty years, he blazed a trail in the fresh territory of big-band blues, until his passing in 2007. He backed such Sirius-like entertainers as Link Wray, Charlie Daniels, Roy Clark, Big Joe Turner, Bill Black’s Combo and Marvin Gaye. The premier DC club band The Saxtons, also known as the Saxons, provided musical camaraderie and support for Bobby Darin, the Drifters, Dion and the Belmonts, and Jackie Wilson. They also played regular double bills with country superstar Jimmy Dean. Joe Stanley may not be as famous as any of the previous artists mentioned – household names, names to drop – but, he is still a Legend on the saxophone.
EllerSoul Records has released a 2-CD overview of Stanley’s music and life, featuring over two hours of music and interviews. Most of the songs are instrumental blues and soul covers, but on some, such as “The Nearness of You”, Joe Stanley provides a sample of his heartfelt, if raw, vocal chops. His greatest talent, however, is making the “bendy sex whistle” (so says an Internet meme) tell stories. It “talks” to listeners, crooning sweet somethings in their ears and seducing them with sultry notes. This set is a must-have for every blues fan’s record collection, except for some poor editing on certain tracks. While the two interviews, arriving at the end of each CD, are informative, those who are hard of hearing might have trouble understanding Joe’s comments above all the crowd chatter and background noise. Today’s technology should have fixed that.
With Joe Stanley on the first CD are John Cocuzzi on organ, John Previti on bass, Joe Maher on drums, and Rudy Turner on guitar in track five. The second one features Stanley, Cocuzzi, Maher and Previti as well, while adding bassist Jeff Sarli, guitarist Ivan Appelrouth, drummer Frank Cocuzzi on track eleven, and Chris Watling on baritone sax for track two.
If there’s one song that possesses the quintessence of Joe Stanley’s style and work, it’s this:
CD 1, Track 01: “Blue Moon” – Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart originally composed this song for the movie Manhattan, and The Marcels and Ella Fitzgerald made it popular. They all sang it with the lyrics, but here Stanley lets his smoldering saxophone narrate. He also gives it a dance-friendly, big-band tempo. It’s rather fast compared to the traditional versions, but that’s more than okay. John Cocuzzi provides perky organ backup, and John Previti’s bass is understated yet smooth. Is this song blues, soul, or jazz? The answer is that it’s all three, and it’s magnificent.
For those who collect greatest-hits and retrospective albums, here is another soul/blues/jazz jewel to add to your collection. For those of you who have never heard of Joe Stanley, it’s time you got to know this Legend!