New Delmark Releases
Review by Willard Manus

Delmark, the Chicago-based record company (and mail-order house), has been busy lately. Delmark specializes in blues, but it always manages to surprise with unexpected releases that can't easily be found elsewhere.

A case in point is LOW DOWN PAPA, featuring Clarence "Jelly" Johnson playing transcribed nickelodeon piano rolls from the 1920s. Johnson is largely unknown today, but ninety years ago he was one of Chicago's most illustrious jazzmen. Not only did he record piano rolls for Capitol, he backed up such blues singers as Lizzie Miles, Edna Hicks and Monette Moore. LOW DOWN PAPA features Johnson on 20 solo classics, some of which he wrote himself. Delmark has enhanced the originals, making for a fresh, vital sound.

Delmark has also issued albums by Ernest Dawkins and Jason Adasiewicz, leaders of Chicago's avant-garde jazz movement. The latter, a vibraphonist, teamed up with Nat McBride, bass, and Mike Reed, drums, on SUN ROOMS. Adasiewicz wrote five of CD's eight tunes himself; the result is intensely personal, always challenging, cutting-edge jazz.

The same can be said for Ernest Dawkins's recent CD, THE PRAIRIE PROPHET. In putting together his fifth CD for Delmark, Dawkins called on his longtime band, New Horizons Ensemble, and recorded seven tunes with it, all of which are original compositions. Hawkins has been playing freeform music since 1978, music that combines jazz with classical, hard-bop and African funk (and more). If 21st-century jazz is your thing, Dawkins is your man. THE PRAIRIE PROPHET is dedicated to the late Fred Anderson.

Delmark returns to its pure blues roots with LOVE YOU FROM THE TOP, which features James Kinds, called the "best new blues voice in Chicago" by Living Blues Magazine back in 1977.

Kinds never managed to make a national reputation for himself. In 1993, he relocated to Dubuque, Iowa but kept playing the blues, so well that he was inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame. Now Delmark has given him national exposure with LOVE YOU FROM THE TOP, on which Kinds sings fifteen songs of his own, backed up by four superlative musicians. Let's hope it will be a break-out disc for this much-deserving artist. or