Fresh Air's jazz critic reviews a new CD box set, Boogie Woogie and Blues Piano, featuring remastered recordings from such greats as Chicago's Jimmy Yancy, Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson and more — all solo or in small ensembles.
Songwriter and pianist Charles Brown. He turned 75 this year. Recently he was one of the recipients of the Heritage Fellowship Award given by the National Endowment for the Arts for excellence in the traditional arts. Charles Brown is one of the most original artists in blues history. He's credited with creating an expressive style of blues that blended rough Texas blues with the soft glamour of Hollywood. This approach was dubbed "Club Blues." Between 1946 and 1952, Brown recorded 20 hits, nine on his own, the rest as part of Johnny Moore's Blazers.
Shortly after Ray Charles endured a family tragedy, he started to go blind. His mother feared for his future, but Charles was able to make a career in music. Rock historian Ed Ward describes how Charles, who was steeped in the tradition of Nat King Cole, developed his own unique voice.