Interview: Big Jay McNeely (Part 1) - JazzWax

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July 30, 2009


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James Comer

I saw / met Big Jay in Phoenix in the 80's duckwalking on the bar at a Blues Club with the Rocket 88's and thought it one of the best acts I'd ever seen! Later in New York I met Big Jay again at Tramps blowin' up a storm with Big Joe Houston! Big Jay should definetly be in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!! James Comer

Andy - bigbuzzard

I play sax, and have been heavily influenced by both Big J's musical style, and his showmanship/theatricality. Anyone who ever saw the Honkin' Hep Cats will recognise the debt we owed to him. In our early days, some of us went on a pilgrimage to watch him play at a club in Reading, UK - to a lamentably small audience. Also on the bill that night were King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys. This would have been around 1987-8.

He was a star. He had a pick up rhythm section that could have done with a pick up themselves. We shouted for him to play 3-D, and he did. It's a simple 'Rhythm Changes' that modulates around the circle of 5ths - first 1 Vth, then 2x Vths, then 3, etc. The band got hopelessly lost, but he just kept on blowin'.

I hear he's coming to the UK this year - I hope to see him again.

Andy Williamson

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a three-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award, including 2018.
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