JIMMY "T99" NELSON
Jimmy Nelson, a California protege of Big Joe Turner, was 32 when his "T99 Blues" became a No. 1 R&B single in 1951. He never had another hit, but he continued to record, perform and compose. His songs were recorded by everyone from Bullmoose Jackson to Charlie Musselwhite. Now, 54 years later, the 86-year-old Nelson has released his third album in six years, "The Legend." His buttery tenor is in surprisingly good shape and so is his sense of humor. The result is a disc as enjoyable for its new music as for its back story.
Like Nelson's recent outings for Bullseye and Nettie Marie, "The Legend" was produced by trombonist Carl Querfurth with instrumental support from fellow members of the Roomful of Blues alumni association, including guitarist Duke Robillard, pianist Matt McCabe and saxophonist Doug James. The horn and rhythm sections provide the finger-snapping swing of early '50s jump blues, and Nelson cruises through the groove with radiant self-assurance.
The album includes welcome remakes of Louis Jordan's "Run Joe," Willie Dixon's "Help Me" and Doc Pomus's "Still in Love," as well as a rewrite of Fats Domino's "Sick and Tired." But Nelson's own never-before-recorded compositions hold their own in this heady company, whether it's his philosophical look at life's disasters, "The Devil's Sending Up a Blessing to You," or his tribute to married sex, "One Step at a Time."
-- Geoffrey Himes
Appearing Friday and Saturday at the Crystal City Jazz Festival.