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It has to come as something of a surprise to see that on a rock record credited to a saxophonist it wasn’t this side, the instrumental, which connected with listeners as much as the vocal side which reached the Top Three on the national charts.

That’s quite a turnaround from the last few years when at times it seemed like you’d improve your chances for a hit in rock ‘n’ roll if you simply tied up the singer and threw them in the hall to let the tenor sax blow until the roof caved in.

Just because the tenor sax instrumental craze was slowing down however doesn’t mean that Ed Wiley was left to become an afterthought on his own record and here he gets his chance to make a case for his own skills… unencumbered by the lyrics and vocals of somebody else.


* * * In what may wind up being a disclaimer that I can take down at some point in the future, I do need to say that since this is another track not available on Spotify a lot of readers probably will turn to YouTube to hear this. But while there is an entry there under this name, it’s definitely not the record we’re reviewing, nor even by Ed Wiley, so don’t be misled. * * *

A Texas Tenor Relocates
The term Texas Tenor referred to the style of playing more than the location, though it got its start in the lusty blowing of Illinois Jacquet and Arnett Cobb in the early 1940’s, later carried on by other locally grown horn players such as Fathead Newman, Donald Wilkerson and King Curtis, and was characterized by a full-bodied, gritty and aggressive tone.

While it had its start in jazz, as evidenced by the résumés of its two originators, the shifting musical landscape meant that it immigrated to rock ‘n’ roll as soon as that style emerged in the late 1940’s as rock fully embraced the meatier sound these types of musicians specialized in.

Ed Wiley was a Texas Tenor by birth (Houston) as well as by his usual approach, which is why it was so unusual to hear him playing in a far more restrained, almost passive, way on Cry, Cry Baby, where even though he added a lot to the rather generic mournful ballad, there certainly wasn’t any indication to be found in his dreamy solo that he was part of a much bawdier movement among sax players.

Surely that means you think he’ll rectify that impression on Blues After Blues, a song conceived as an instrumental showcase for his prowess.

Well, think again, because like the top side this one falls squarely into the late night vibe suggested by the band name given to them by label.

After Hours Rhythm Anytime Of Day
Say you what you will about the concepts themselves, but these guys definitely seem to like throwing you for a loop when it comes to expectations.

On the other side Wiley’s sax was the first sound you heard before he receded to the background so that Teddy Reynolds could move to the forefront and take the lead with his singing, but on Blues After Blues it’s Reynolds, playing piano, who is the focal point as the record kicks off with a drowsy sort of pattern befitting the overall mood they seem enamored with.

His playing has a certain woozy charm to it but is rather choppy sounding, something which is accentuated because Reynolds never tries finding a melody or suitable groove to lock you in, choosing instead to sort of wander around like a restless dog constantly circling his chosen spot on the rug before finally laying down.

Wiley doesn’t appear until more than forty seconds in which makes you wonder why they just didn’t give the lead artist credit to Reynolds since he was clearly the more active figure on both sides of the record. Since he’ll also get releases on the label under his own name in short order they might’ve saved a little money by simply giving session fees to Wiley, not to mention maybe sparing the printer some time by keeping the credits the same for multiple records… oh well, too late to change it now I suppose.

Once Wiley comes in there’s no real change in the approach… he’s playing in the same lazy style, lagging behind the faint beat and holding back on delivering anything that could be even remotely be called insistent, urgent or declarative.

It’s not that he’s uninspired or incapable of coming across as more vibrant than this, it’s that they’re so intent on maintaining the image of it being 3 AM after the party ended and everyone has passed out, that there’s no cause for expressing any joy or excitement or even some mild anticipation for daybreak.

Truthfully if you gave them some berets and sunglasses to wear, tossed a bongo drummer too high from smoking weed to do more than twitch on the skins, you’d have a good beatnik scene brewing here. But as for a rock scene – even a laid back rock scene after the buzz has worn off – it’s awfully sluggish for our needs.

Sounds Faintly Heard On A Moonlit Night
I don’t mean to imply that Wiley can’t play nicely, or even that the atmosphere they conjure up isn’t authentic for this kind of pre-dawn setting… it is, so for achieving their goals you can give them a modicum of credit.

But though we can appreciate it to a degree, we’re conflicted over the prospect of doing more than just shrugging our collective shoulders with a half-smirk/half-smile nod of appreciation before moving on and quickly forgetting their efforts altogether.

Remember that Sittin’ In With Records is presumably trying to position themselves as a commercial force in another style of music and while this single sold well enough to do so, thanks to the reception to the other side, it didn’t exactly make a statement as to what kind of music they were intent on focusing on with these songs.

Yes, both that and Blues After Blues could conceivably fit into rock, but they could be acceptable in less-than-serious jazz circles as well, not to mention the lingering urban blues motif before it was deemed less authentic than the harsher Delta-derived sounds coming into vogue.

In other words, neither of these sides have a stylistic identity even if both adhere to a shared atmospheric identity. Furthermore, that both of these songs are similarly slow – almost lethargic – means that they weren’t offering up two distinct impressions of the artist they were trying to showcase.

These were mood music pieces before that term became widely used… competent enough to work in that setting, but hardly standing out in the process and with no chance to excite any audience enough to come back around for the next release of the label or the artist.

When The Sun Comes Up
All of which makes this a rather curious single. Not only does Wiley not get much chance to shine, but he doesn’t get any opportunity to show off his more robust playing which would open up far more opportunities for him in the music community than these milder examples of his work.

That being said though, while these types of songs generally aren’t celebrated much and won’t turn any heads, they DO have a role in the era at hand, even if that role is nothing more than serving as the backdrop to some shady dealings in the shadows after midnight.

Even there Blues After Blues isn’t titillating enough, menacing enough or intriguing enough to be noticed on its own. Your impressions of it as a record would almost certainly be determined as much by the environment you heard it in as the musical attributes contained within and that’s no way to ensure your viability as an artist going forward.

Well played, if not well judged, this is a song you can take or leave without much thought being given to your decision… something that’ll reasonably fit in the broader spectrum, but not one that will ever define it.


(Visit the Artist page of Ed Wiley Jr. for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)