City Lights
"B.B. King And His Orchestra"
Acrobat Music

Blues Wax 8
Reader Rating 8

Sparkling B.B. King, (12/31/08) This previously released album was recorded in Cannes, France, in 1983 and finds B.B. King in a particularly spirited and fiery mood. What makes this CD so special for me is the fact that the horns are led by the late, great trumpet player Calvin Owens; more about that later.

King and company are quite creative and are definitely in a jazzy mode here, in fact Mr. King does not even sing until nearly the midway segment of this cool recording. The instrumental highlights include the Calvin Owens-penned "B.B.'s Tune," which flows into "Why I Sing the Blues" where King doesn't sing, but he just plays his butt off, which is fine by me! The vocal performances equally match the band's sharp prowess, as King vocally wails on his longtime regulars "Everyday I Have the Blues," the sentimental "Guess Who," "Caldonia," and a particularly funky "The Thrill Is Gone." One complaint is the fact that Acrobat Music does not identify musicians on this recording, which is simply a shame.

This is not King at his youthful best, but this performance does capture a unique era of the King of the Blues, as you can feel how the magnificent charts of the very underrated maestro, Calvin Owens, push King and his entire band. I would have loved to have heard or eventually hear a live version of "True Blue," which if you are not familiar with Owens' album of the same name you should, as King flies above Mr. Owens' very impressive charts. Seek out True Blue on Owens' Sawdust Alley label, just the "True Blue" track by itself is more than worth the price of purchase!

If you're like me, being a longtime King fan, this recording will be a welcome addition to your collection. Additionally, if you are a Calvin Owens fan, this disc exemplifies what a great a bandleader and soloist Owens was. King and Owens definitely had that magic going on between them and hearing them together one more time makes this recording sweet for me and I suspect for you, too. Enjoy

Bob Putignano: