In the 1960s, San Francisco’s KQED produced an innovative thirty-minute jazz program hosted by local music critic, Ralph J. Gleason. The "Jazz Casual" shows featured a variety of well-known musicians. Koch Jazz has reprised these recordings using two thirty-minute sets, including interviews by Mr. Gleason.
This "Jazz Casual" edition initially focuses on a 1962 session featuring blues vocalist Jimmy Witherspoon. The first song, "Times Getting Tough," is a strong whiff of urban pathos that say "Money’s getting’ cheaper, prices are getting’ steeper and times gettin’ tougher than tough, things getting’ rougher than rough." In the same vein, the next piece performed is the classic "Tain’t Nobody Business." This rendition features the incredibly gutsy soul playing of saxophonist Ben Webster that works well with Witherspoon’s singing. Webster completely takes over in Strayhorn’s "Chelsea Bridge," a melancholic, edgy tune of long shadows and memories.
The second session features another 1962 performance by another blues musician. But, Jimmy Rushing’s performance is markedly different. It doesn’t so much address urban alienation as it recalls a much earlier, small town time and place. Although the session was performed without an audience in a television studio, it sounds like a swampy after midnight romp in a wooden planked bar for inebriated patrons clutching their ill-gotten liquor. It features Rushing alone on piano that is raw and voice smoky, especially on the classic "How Long Blues." After each song you can almost imagine the applause and clinking of oily glasses.
These performances of hard living are timeless (although for repeated listening one might want to program out the interviews). It is an absolute tragedy that shows like uniquely, San Francisco-produced "Jazz Casual" has been displaced by commercialized, homogenized shows of drivel.