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George Whitesell & His All Stars featuring Jill Watkins | Skat

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Blues: Jump Blues Jazz: Boogie-Woogie Moods: Featuring Saxophone
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by George Whitesell & His All Stars featuring Jill Watkins

George whitesell & His All Stars featuring Jill Watkins is keeping alive the tradition of the classic jump, swing, r&b and blues bands of the golden era from the late 40's through mid 60's when "show bands" with a female singer were the rage.
Genre: Blues: Jump Blues
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. The Chicken and the Hawk
2:52 $0.79
2. Tell Mama
2:34 $0.79
3. Hide and Seek
3:00 $0.79
4. Baby
3:04 $0.79
5. Fever
4:18 $0.79
6. I Wonder in Whose Arms
4:28 $0.79
7. Fannie Mae
3:04 $0.79
8. Oke She Moke She Pop
3:22 $0.79
9. Why Don't You Do Right?
4:56 $0.79
10. I'm Tore Down
2:51 $0.79
11. Scat
3:06 $0.79
12. I Want to Know
4:11 $0.79
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
As a child of the mid 50's I was drawn to the Rhythm and Blues music that was later to be called "Rock n Roll". I loved the sounds of Fats Domino, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, Roy Brown, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Johnny Otis and numerous others. It has always been my dream to put together a band and play the Jump, Swing, R&B and Blues music that I learned to love as a child.

After many years of performing everything from Country to Pop to Beatles, I finally knew the right musicians to put together my dream band. I was fortunate to meet Jill Watkins, who fronted her own band, and had the talent, personality and showmanship, to step into the spotlight with this great group of musicians.

George Whitesell & His All Stars featuring Jill Watkins made their debut on June 5, 2006, my 60th birthday.

On July 11, 2007 we released our first CD "Skat" on Circle 504 Records. The CD contains 12 classic songs that we feature in our live stage show.

The CD was produced by one of the undeniable great piano players from Chicago, Ken Saydak.

Ken Saydak has enjoyed a thirty-year career as a musician, writer, vocalist, and producer. His work as a pianist and organist on over fifty albums is well known in the national and international blues scene. His 2005 release It's My Soul, on Evidence Records follows his two previous CDs on the Delmark label, Love Without Trust and his solo debut Foolish Man. A co-producer of the two Rounder Records CDs with his 1990's American roots band, Big Shoulders, Big Shoulders and Nickel History, he continued his growth as a producer on both of his own Delmark CDs as well as the label's critically embraced 2000 release, Learned My Lesson, for Chicago blues singer Zora Young.
Ken's career as a performer has taken him to concert and festival stages on four continents, including tours and appearances in Israel, South Africa, France, and Switzerland. The list of artists who have enlisted his talents include Johnny Winter, Otis Rush, Willie Kent, Lonnie Brooks, John Primer, Mighty Joe Young, Billy Boy Arnold, Sam Lay, Dave Specter, James Wheeler, Tad Robinson, Lurrie Bell, Johnny B. Moore, and Karen Carroll.

Joining us on our recording is legendary guitarist Bob Margolin.

Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin is a Blues guitar player and vocalist, carrying on the deep Chicago Blues style and creating his original music today. From 1973-1980, Bob played guitar in the band of Chicago Blues legend Muddy Waters, touring worldwide and recording, and learning to play Muddy's powerful music directly from him. In 1980, Bob started his own band, and he's still on the road and recording. He won the W.C. Handy award for guitar in 2005, and was nominated again in 2006.

It was our pleasure to have Bob sit in on three songs on "Skat".

With our first CD under our belts just one year and a month since our first performance, George Whitesell and His All Stars are well on their way to being one of the most in demand bands in Colorado.

Ken Saydak explains:

I first heard George Whitesell and His All-Stars on a live CD that George had recorded at one of the new group's gigs. I really liked what I heard, but I was even more impressed when I saw the band live a few weeks later. Here was a band playing that exciting music that had been the bridge between big band swing and what would later be called rock 'n roll. It's a deceptively simple sound, but it takes a high level of musicianship to pull it off. This band certainly has that musicianship. With a skin-tight rhythm section and a horn trio that I would stack up against any that I have ever heard (even in the studios of Chicago), bandleader, guitarist and vocalist George Whitesell knows how this sound is made. He understands that this is an ensemble sound where the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. He has assembled a group that willingly checked their musical egos at the studio door and came in to work on a project that was everything that this music is intended to be: fun, fun and more fun. When you add singer Jill Watkins to the mix, what you get is a band that has breadth, style and class. George Whitesell and His All Stars is an entertainment juggernaut, and whether you listen to this, their first studio recording, or see their exciting stage show, I dare you to not smile.



to write a review

Dan DeMuth

Great first effort!
It is apt that the title track originated with Canned Heat back in 1970, as canned heat is what emanates from this album. George was proud as a new papa (and rightly so) at the recent CD release party at the Coffee Exchange in Colorado Springs. An added touch was the live internet broadcast on A World Of Blues with host “Chophouse”, at which time George reiterated the focus is not to be a band that plays covers, but to hopefully introduce a new audience to the music so seminal to the current blues scene. It’s been about a year since George put this group together for their first foray into the largely untapped world of what is basically original jump R & B. A major proponent of this music was of course Big Joe Turner and the All Stars have mined three gems from his early fifties efforts – The Chicken and The Hawk, Hide & Seek and Oke She Moke She Pop. Just as Turner was backed by a combination of jazzmen and blues players on much of his prolific output not surprisingly this is what we hear with the All Stars. The horn section - comprised of Chris Wojtecki on Bari and Kenny Johnston and Brad Eastin on Tenor – are known primarily for their jazz efforts with various groups. The well phased alternating styles of the two Tenors throughout, offset by the unctuous and sometimes honking Bari keep the wheels greased. The other side of the aisle – the rhythm section that drives this bus – is probably more rooted in the blues idiom. Drummer Dave Deason, bassist Santi Guarnera and jumpin’ John Stillwagen on keyboards (showcased on “I Wonder” and “Oke”) can swing gently or provide frenetic kinetics when needed. Leader Whitesell has of course been associated with blues bands for years, but this man do know his rock n’ roll. And what of vocalist Jill Watkins? She has a great range, doesn’t require mannerisms or vocal tricks and is at ease with what she does. She revisits two Peggy Lee standards which demonstrate her versatility, the ultimate male putdown Why Don’t You Do Right? And the smoky, sultry Fever. But again, these are not covers; in fact her version of the latter might be closer to the original by Little Willie John. Jill purrs (or growls) her best on Tell Mama, of which I’ve heard Etta James do in person and Jill doesn’t need to take a back seat here. Ken Saydak, blues pianist and protagonist extraordinaire, produced the CD and backs Jill on the raucous I’m Tore Down. Also guesting on three cuts is steady rollin’ Bob Margolin. He’s there on two rockers, Little Richard’s Baby , Buster Brown’s Fannie Mae and the 1960 Sugar Pie DeSanto hit I Want To Know, Ms DeSanto coincidentally being a cousin of Etta James.

So where do we go from here? This group has certainly raised the bar for other local groups, especially for a first release. Whitesell is generous in his praise of the band’s teamwork and the arranging talents of Brad Eastin. Recorded and produced locally at Green Mountain studios, the mix and sound quality are excellent. In the liner notes Saydak pays tribute to the band, “….I would stack up against any I have ever heard (even in the studios of Chicago).” There is a ton of this type of music to plumb as some of the better efforts were never well known - appearing on obscure labels without budgets for national promotion or distribution, something that raises the question of where this
release could go with that luxury. One thing is for sure, if this album can’t get your mojo workin’ you might as well hang it up, dry it out and give it to the Salvation Army.

Brian Elliott

Whitesell and his group can put a feather in their caps for this one.
George Whitesell has been a mainstay on the Colorado Blues scene for quite some time. His dedication to the blues as a musical art form has been reflected in both performance and recordings. “All Stars” is appropriate as George has assembled a stellar lineup of musicians. “Skat” reflects a true professionalism on the part of all the musicians involved in this project and it rivals nationally released material. The band presents a fully rounded sound throughout the entire recording. It is very apparent that these artists not only know how to play but have a solid feeling for the way Blues should be played—with feeling! Whitesell provides some great guitar work and handles some of the vocals. A powerful horn section of two tenors and a baritone sax help by delivering well-rounded drive and punch missing on many contemporary recordings. John Stilwagen is a great keyboard player showing great perfection as an artist. A solid bottom end is prevalent throughout as well, and Jill Watkins’ prowess as a vocalist is exceptional—she truly is a diva, showing that she really knows how to sing Blues. She brings new vision to her performance on these recordings.
Ken Saydak—musician, writer, singer and producer—has been a major part of the Chicago Blues scene for years, having worked with such notables as Lonnie Brooks and Johnny Winter as well as many other notable Blues Musicians. Ken was brought in as producer for the project. Saydak also has his own fine releases as an artist. His experience and understanding of the way the Blues should be played and heard---along with Whitesell and the band’s vision---help take this recording to a higher plateau. Saydak also sat down at the piano for a guest spot on one track. Guest artist Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin also lends his guitar prowess on three tracks.

The songs performed on this fine recording are all covers of well know (and not so well known) material originally recorded by some top-notch Blues and R&B artists. This in no way means the band is imitating the original recordings. Rather, they present fresh, new and exciting arrangements with a unique approach to already existing songs.

“Skat” is well layered and features exemplary musicianship and extremely high production content: Whitesell and his group can put a feather in their caps for this one.

a five star recording. These recordings show that Blues, swing and R&B can still be presented in an authentic and exciting way and are not dead or vague covers like so many of the releases that turn up these days. The overall professionalism on this release definitely make it a fine recording and one that can be listened to and enjoyed for a very long time. Whitesell and his group can put a feather in their caps for this one.

Colorado Blues Society
Brian Elliott

Tom Hyslop, Blues Review—The World’s Blues Magazine

Colorado’s George Whitesell & His All Stars Featuring Jill Watkins turn a jump blues configuration to good advantage --- especially on the smoking title track to Skat (Circle 504 Records 0701) --- balancing Whitesell’s guitar with frequent solo’s from saxists Brad Eastin, Kenny Johnston, and Chris Wojtecki, and rounding out the sound with John Stilwagen’s strong piano. Covering “Fannie Mae” and drawing on lesser-known tunes from the likes of Little Richard was a smart move. Whitesell is no match for Big Joe turner on three covers from his catalog, but Watkins acquits herself admirably on “Fever”, “Why Don’t you Do Right?” and “Tell Mama”. Bob Margolin contributes wonderfully wobbly slide guitar to Sugar Pie Desanto’s “I Want To Know”.

Rob Leilrian

Great, great job. Very impressive.
Get ready for the most accomplished horn-dominated jump blues/R&B band on the Colorado blues scene, as 60-year old George Whitesell & His All Stars featuring Jill Watkins take you back to those glorious days of the traveling rhythm and blues circuit tours that were all the rage in the late‘40s and early‘50s. This is R&B-influenced jump and party blues of the highest order, as Whitesell (weaned on the likes of Big Joe Turner, Little Richard, Roy Brown, Johnny Otis, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and others) put together this ensemble of Colorado’s finest blues and jazz musicians including, Chris Wojtecki on Bari, Kenny Johnston and Brad Eastin on Tenor sax, Dave Deason on drums, Santi Guarnera on bass and jumpin' John Stillwagen handling the keys. Produced by well-known Chicago Blues pianist Ken Saydak, Skat contains 12 classics that features one of the finest horn and rhythm sections that I’ve heard in quite some time and they’re white hot throughout this fine album.

Whitesell’s an accomplished singer who can pull off classics like Big Joe Turner’s “The Chicken and the Hawk,” “Hide and Seek,” and “Oke She Moke She Pop” with absolute conviction and ease. Check out his scat singing on the title track. This accomplished veteran knows how to deliver the goods. Featured vocalist Jill Watkins reveals herself to be an exceptional singer, sassy and sly but with a welcome tendency toward restraint. She's also got a keen eye for songs, investing the old Peggy Lee standard "Why Don’t You Do Right" with enough relish to make it sound fresh and turning Little Willie John’s “Fever” into a sultry, after hours delight. From the rollicking boogie-woogie of Little Richard’s "Baby” and Chas & Dave’s “I Wonder In Whose Arms”(featuring a great piano solo from Stillwagen) to Buster Brown’s "Fannie Mae,” and a brilliant cover of Freddy King’s I’m Tore Down” that ironically finds Watkins tearing it up, this is an unpretentious, timeless-sounding set. Whitesell displays some fine guitar work throughout and his short succinct solos stab between the horns and vocals. Former Muddy Waters Band guitarist Bob Margolin guests on three cuts, “Baby,” “Fannie Mae” and the 1960 Sugar Pie DeSanto hit “I Want To Know,” displaying a refreshing side to his playing, and he’s in top form here.

Overall, Skat is a disc with enough exciting moments to interest blues and jazz fans alike. It’s creative, fun, and thoroughly entertaining. Longtime R&B and jump blues fans will gobble this up. The music is accessible, jumping, and swinging with passion and precision throughout. Don’t miss it.

Rob Lehrian/Supporting the Blues

Dan Wilging-dirty Linen # 136 June/July 2008

Overall, cool stuff!
God bless those hipster jive cats Roomful of Blues, but contrary to what some trendy mindsets may think, they don’t have a monopoly on swing/jump blues. Though George Whitesell may not as famous as his Beantown contemporaries, from the sounds of it, he has a pretty fair franchise out Rocky Mountain way. Most of this record is a real shack shaker-zippity-split tempos, boppin’, honkin’ saxes and rompin’ keyboards with several songs recalling the ghost of Big Joe turner. On three numbers, legendary blues guitarist/guest Bob Margolin adds a little gas to an already stoked fire with some greasy, raw riffs. As a vocalist, Whitesell not only sounds gritty and rightfully out of his mind, he also draws the listener into various story lines like “ I Wonder in Whose Arms” that make the listener wonder if the overly smug protagonist has really moved on. While co-vocalist Jill Watkins’ calling card is in her natural hair-parting pipes, her versatility shines best on the sultry “Why Don’t You Do Right.”
Here, she starts off uncharacteristically soft, tosses in a little chilly vibrato and gradually builds to a stunning anxiety-ridden finish. The song selection is clever, not just another rehash of standards and overly familiar covers but stuff that’s a little more under the floorboards. Overall, cool stuff.
Dan Wilging