Salutes Bessie Smith album cover
Salutes Bessie Smith

Amina Claudine Myers

Leo Records

One of the AACM’s core tenets was its focus on composition; the members were expected to write and perform their own music rather than interpreting jazz standards. Pianist Amina Claudine Myers did that, but she also found interpretation to be extremely fertile creative territory, making her debut with an album of saxophonist Marion Brown’s compositions. This, her third album as a leader, features two of her own pieces — “The Blues (Straight to You)” and “African Blues” — and four written by Bessie Smith: “Wasted Life Blues,” “Dirty No-Gooder’s Blues,” “Jailhouse Blues,” and “It Makes My Love Come Down.” She’s joined by bassist Cecil McBee (whose deep bowed drones are extremely powerful accompaniment) and drummer Jimmy Lovelace, and the performances are both rollicking and precise; Myers’ piano playing is filled with gospel fervor which bleeds into her blues phrasing, and her singing, surprisingly gentle at times, puts the focus on Smith’s sharp and observational lyrics.

Phil Freeman

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