Monday, August 24, 2009

Legendary 'Juke Jumpers' reunion in Fort Worth - by Michael Price

From: Wm Wms @ Big D 60's Yahoo Group

Juke Jumpers' R&B reunion set for Keys Lounge

The Juke Jumpers
No time like the present to contemplate a festive Labor Day weekend: The most festive of signature festivities for Fort Worth looks to be a reunion performance of the Juke Jumpers at a refurbished Keys Lounge. The date is Sept. 5; the time, 9:30 p.m. A standing-room crowd seems likely.

The convergence is significant — a ensemble as immediate as it is historically important, formed originally to help preserve authentically Texan styles of music, in a hitherto low-profile club that has done a great deal to advance Fort Worth's blues heritage. Both the Juke Jumpers and Keys Lounge date from the 1970s, although their names are not often mentioned in the same breath.

But the Keys' new owners, working musicians Danny Ross and Bobby Counts, have undertaken since June to bring in higher-profile artists in addition to the hometown dependables, while branching into such offshoots of the blues as the Saenz family's Latin Express, jazzy pop outfits such as Vintage Vibe and the Tom Petty tribute-band known as Petty Theft.

The blues, after all, is as much an attitude as it is a musical idiom — and such an awareness stands to transform Keys Lounge, 5677 Westcreek, into a destination of popular interest beyond its neighborhood boundaries.

The Juke Jumpers started in 1977 as a partnership of Jim Colegrove and Sumter Bruton — an effort to combine rhythm-and-blues, straight-ahead blues, jump-blues, rockabilly and bayou-country swamp boogie in a setting that would champion tradition over any trend-following appeal. In the process of preservation and re-interpretation, the band blazed trails that have lasted.

The Jukes' name, incidentally, comes from "juke joint," as in a rowdy establishment that deals in music among other diversions. Same root-word origin as jukebox, and of course Little Walter Jacobs' watershed recording of "Juke" (1952) bears mentioning here.

A prolific recording career began in 1978 with an album called Panther City Blues. Personnel had stabilized and begun expanding by this time, with Colegrove moving from bass to guitar — an ideal pairing of Colegrove's visceral technique with Bruton's more astringent six-string style. A now-familiar lineup including bassist Jim Milan and drummer Mike Bartula, among others, grew to include such additional mainstays as saxophonist Johnny Reno and pianist Craig Simecheck. By 1980, the Jukes had begun touring, first regionally and at length internationally. Along the way, the band helped to revive the careers of such pioneering R&B artists as Zuzu Bollin and Goree Carter.

A 1985 breakup led to a resurgence the following year, distinguished by a long-running connection with Fort Worth's J&J Blues Bar, the addition of a full-blown sax section and the occasional flirtation with Hollywood — notably in a starring picture for Ann-Margret called A Tiger's Tale. Additional resourceful adjustments during the 1990s kept things jumping until a more lasting breakup in 1994. The inevitable string of reunions began in 1997 — marking the various anniversaries of its origin, its landmark albums and various breakthrough engagements. The Jukes have reinforced the in-person reunions with various CD-album reissues and a new series of recording sessions.

Nowadays, most of the members of the Juke Jumpers perform as a matter of routine in their own respective groups. Jim Colegrove performs with a roots-music trailblazing outfit called Lost Country, and Sumter Bruton and I have kept our Swingmasters Revue in business since the 1990s.

Time for some new phases or reinvention, then: Keys Lounge has repositioned itself in a bid to become a venue quite like some of the nightspots that first nurtured the Juke Jumpers — Robert Ealey's New Bluebird Nite Club of the 1980s, for example, or the lamented Caravan of Dreams in its initial heyday as an incubator for the indigenous-music scene.

The Juke Jumpers, meanwhile, need no regimented system of reinvention. The artists generate new material as spontaneously as they breathe, anyhow, while holding fast to their original common ground of inspiration. Just give 'em a good juke in which to jump — and watch the sparks fly.

On the Web: www.thecoolgroove. com. The Juke Jumpers' recordings can be found at Record Town, 3025 S. University Drive.

Michael H. Price's 2006 book, Daynce of the Peckerwoods: The Badlands of Texas Music (Music Mentor Books), chronicles much of the period that gave rise to the Juke Jumpers, among other seminal bands. Contact: mprice@bizpress. net

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My then 17 old son Chris Purvis sat in with the Juke Jumpers on his sax that reunion in 2009. Did you see him? I have a great photo from the show with him playing toe to toe with Johnny Reno, but I would love to see a video of it if someone out there has one.