Downhearted Blues: Live at the Cookery
Alberta Hunter played the shows that comprise this album at the age of 82. It capped a career that began in the 1920s, where Hunter was a vanguard in the blues movement along with Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. By 1977, she had outlasted them all. She was flourishing in a well-deserved comeback when she performed a six-week engagement that spawned this album.
Not that you could tell her age by listening. From the poignant version of “Georgia On My Mind” to the self-evident “I’m Havin’ a Good Time,” she sounds as she always did, full of confidence and swagger, a classic blues singer. Her early days were marked with a few “adult blues,” and when you hear her romp through “You Can’t Tell the Difference After Dark” or “Handy Man,” it will make you blush. Backed by pianist Gerald Cook and bassist Jimmy Lewis, Hunter’s original composition “Downhearted Blues” or the standard “I Got Rhythm” come alive with her impeccable vocal style, a voice developed during the rough and rowdy days of King Oliver & His Creole Jazz Band with Louis Armstrong in 1920’s Chicago.
This is music to get loose to, to drink a bit and unwind, and Alberta Hunter never forgot she was an entertainer. And as Downhearted Blues: Live at the Cookery attests, she never did it better.