Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown – Just Got Lucky (1973)

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NICK DERISO: The story goes: Someone asked Fats Waller what jazz is. His reply? “If you don’t know, don’t mess with it.”

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown messed with it on “Just Got Lucky,” and with fine results. In fact, it seemed his string-bending solos found themselves most at home in the straight-ahead surroundings that made up the last third of this largely lost set of recordings.

Made in France, long before Brown moved to Slidell, Louisiana (where he would live until passing just after Katrina), “Just Got Lucky” was later issued stateside by Evidence. It began with a set of old-school blues sessions that recalled Gate’s 1950s records — as opposed to those final Alligator Records releases, when Brown dove headlong in the local joys of zydeco.

In fact, the first three cuts were familar from Gate’s early classic recordings on the Peacock label. He received able backing, too, from Kansas City’s legendary swing-blues pianist Jay McShann.

Later, a soulful multi-piece horn section (led by hard-blowing tenorman Hal “Cornbread” Singer and trombonist Al Grey, the old Brown sideman) added a Louis Jordan-feeling one-two punch to cuts like “Here Am I.”

On the final few tunes, actually recorded in 1977, things really began to swing. Brown finished on a jazzy flourish, with pianist Lloyd Glenn tickling the ivories and Milt “The Judge” Hinton doing some delicious walking bass lines.

From the opening cut, “Just Got Lucky” was frisky and elbows-out. But the record found its true voice over those last cuts — songs for those who like their blues a little brassy, and their jazz a little greasy.

By the way, on “Someday,” Brown took a moment to rosin up his bow, and you got a taste of where Gate would eventually go on his last few albums for Alligator.

You might not have guessed, though, just how celebrated Brown would become at his second instrument: On these 1970s sides, his fiddle playing — and it was never a “violin” with Gate, let me tell you — was still a touch too mannered.

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