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Grit-Gittin Feelin by Harold Ousley

Paul Serrano’s liner notes to the 71 year old Chicago saxophonist Harold Ousley’s debut disc tell of an early gig playing with the Heine Bros. Carnival in Champaign, IL. On stage from 9 am to 1 am daily, Ousley & Co. played an astounding 25 shows per day, a mind (and lip!) numbing pace if ever there was one. If that doesn’t give the gruff tenor player journeyman cred, I don’t know what would. Ousley went on to play with blues men Sunnyland Slim and Roosevelt Sykes as well as with jazz legends like Dinah Washington and Lionel Hampton, but it’s that early carnie life that sticks in the mind. In his sweet and mellow, blues drenched tone, you can still hear echoes of that muscular young player who kept playing and playing for the love of the music.

This disc isn’t as "grit-gittin’" as the title suggests - there’s no B-3 chicken shack jive, no blues shouting, honk n’ sputter marathon solos just solid slippery soulful playing with a bottom heavy tone reminiscent of seventies-era Dexter Gordon. Ousley enlists a crack team of Chicago jazz veterans - pianist Jodie Christian, bassist John Whitfield, drummer Robert Shy and trumpet king Art Hoyle - to create a neo-bop "Walkin’" style groove from first to last. The one cut with Hoyle - Ousley’s saucy samba "El Senioree" - makes you long for more head-to-head contact. Hoyle contributes a fat-lipped Doc Cheatham-meets-Roy Eldridge solo to compliment the leader. The four originals and five standards - including a tongue-in-cheek turn on the Osmonds’ (yes, Donny & Co.) "Go Away Little Girl" and a heavy-on-the-reed, lost love rendition of "Lush Life" - play like a single wavering groove. From the opening standard "Without a Song" through Ousley’s "Fever" inspired "A Troubled Soul" this is a sweet, soulful discovery of another in Chicago’s tough tenor family.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Harold Ousley
  • CD Title: Grit-Gittin Feelin
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2000
  • Record Label: Delmark
  • Musicians: Harold Ousley (tenor sax), Jodie Christian (piano), John Whitfield (bass), Robert Shy (drums) and Art Hoyle (trumpet, "El Senioree")
  • Rating: Five Stars
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