Rock 'n Roll Gumbo [Sunnyside]

by: Professor Longhair

This delightful Professor Longhair album has almost slipped through the cracks more times than a skinny feather in the wind. Recorded in April 1974 in Bogalusa, LA (Professor Longhair's birthplace) just days after his house had burned to the ground, the sessions feature Longhair on piano and vocals, longtime friend Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown on guitar and violin, Julius Farmer on bass, and the Professor's longtime percussion team, drummer Sheba and conga player Alfred "Uganda" Roberts. Producer Philippe Rault coaxed a bright, lively sound from these musicians and the resulting album, Rock 'n Roll Gumbo, which features 12 of the 14 tracks cut in the two days, was easily one of Longhair's best. Initially, it was only released in Europe, and only saw a limited and local release in the U.S. when Warren Hildebrand's Mardi Gras Records put it out in 1978. Still virtually unheard by all but a lucky few, producer Rault revisited the album in 1985 for George Winston's Dancing Cat label, reinserting the two songs that had been left off the initial release, the infectious as sugar "Rum and Coke" and the marvelous "Mardi Gras in New Orleans," on which tenor saxophonist Jerry Jumonville and trumpeter Steve Madaio were brought in to overdub horns some ten years after the original sessions. The two additional songs made the album even better, and it is this augmented version that Sunnyside has now released in 2006. "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" is now the lead track, and it sets the fun, celebratory tone of the whole sequence, which grooves and swings in classic Professor Longhair gumbo style from start to finish, driven in part by the funky, deadened drum sound Rault got from Sheba and Roberts. This is simply a classic Professor Longhair album, and longtime fans and newcomers alike will find it completely irresistible. ~ Steve Leggett

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