Fats & Friends: Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles
(1986; Time Life, 2007)

It doesn't get better than this. On this DVD, filmed live at the Storyville Night Club in the Heart of New Orleans, legendary rock 'n' roll piano players Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles perform individually, then jam together with backup players including Ron Wood on guitar, Steve Jordan on drums and musical producer Ron Schaffer.

Way back in the 1950s, I was very bored with popular music until Fats Domino burst on the scene. We all heard something on the radio we'd not heard before as Fats sang, "I got my thrill on Blueberry Hill." Music would never be the same, and Fats went on to win many gold records. (His gold records were stolen in the disastrous New Orleans flood, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I was relieved when I saw Fats on the evening news, no longer a young man, rescued from his home in a rowboat. He was always a favorite of mine.)

On the new Fats & Friends remastered DVD, the performers remain forever young. Fats is backed up by a large section of trumpets, guitars and saxophones, as was very popular in the '50s. The songs are "The Fat Man," "Walking to New Orleans," "Blueberry Hill," "Shake Rattle & Roll," "CC Rider" and "Sentimental Journey." While performing, Fats' joy in performing is apparent. He is resplendent in his cream-colored suit, red tie and diamond rings. His face and his whole body are expressive as he plays and sings as no one else ever has.

In contrast to Fats' laidback style, two lean, mean and hard-driving musicians -- Jerry Lee Lewis on piano and Ron Wood on guitar -- play with high intensity. Their performance is electrifying as they play "I Am What I Am," "Great Balls of Fire" and "A Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On." By now the whole nightclub is rocking with people dancing, clapping and cheering. Made me wish I had been there.

Next, Ray Charles plays "I've Got a Woman" and "Drown in My Tears" with Paul Shaffer, Ron Wood (of Rolling Stones fame) and an All-Star Band. He embellishes these songs with sheer genius. But the best part is yet to come as all three piano players jam together along with their bands.

The three pianists play their versions of "Jambalaya" and an uptempo version of "Swanee River."

It's a rare event and their pleasure in jamming with each other is spontaneous and joyful. Each plays in his distinct style and together they create a terrific synergy. The three with their bands bring the evening to a rousing conclusion -- a hot night to remember in New Orleans.

review by
Barbara Spring

29 September 2007

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