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Maurice King on record

Rare sessions showcase a bandleader's talent


Published 7/21/2004

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Maurice King’s arrangements were dynamic, audacious works that played a significant role in establishing the Flame as a major entertainment spot. King bemoaned the fact that his Flame Show Bar band was never given a chance to record some of their better and jazzier material, although the band did record with Johnny Ray and LaVern Baker.

King did cut three sessions for Columbia and Okeh under his own name in the early 1950s. These sessions display the R&B side of his band very effectively. With their heavy backbeats, these are examples of early rock ’n’ roll.

"Make Love To Me" is a souped-up and swinging arrangement of the early jazz standard "Tin Roof Blues" with the interestingly named Putney Nails taking vocal honors (Maurice would chuckle any time I brought his name up, but wouldn’t otherwise comment). The band really swings and King’s arrangement also features hot baritone work from Thomas "Stringbeans" Bowles.

"Nightfall" features King’s soulful and elegiac alto sax work, and his empathy with the classic alto masters of the 1930s (Willie Smith, Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges) is apparent.

King also arranged numbers for pianist Todd Rhodes’ fine jump band, including the excellent "Prelude In C# Minor," and many numbers for Detroit chanteuse Kitty Stevenson (mother of Motown’s songwriter-producer Mickey Stevenson), including "Make It Right" and "It Ain’t Right," both of which she recorded with Todd Rhodes.

King’s work with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm isn’t currently in print. The excellent self-titled video documentary of the band is also out of print.

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