“This is a fine set showcasing the power of Mahalia’s vocals” par Blues & Rhythm

This is the second volume in Frémeaux series within a series’ containing the recordings Mahalia made for the Television Enterprise Corporation (TEC)  between mid-June and early July 1961. “Part one” was reviewed in B&R 317 and the context and details of these sessions were given there. Mahalia is accompanied by her long-time pianist Mildred Falls with less frequent musical accompaniment courtesy of organists Edward C. Robinson, and Louise Overall Weaver-Smothers, plus jazzman Barney Kessel (sounding very like Big Bill Broonzy in some places) and a West Coast jazz section of Red Mitchell on bass and Shelly Manne on drums. The repertoire for this set – based on the official order of the films rather than chronological order – consists mainly of grandiose hymns, allowing Mahalia to show the full majesty of her vocal delivery, though I confess I do prefer the spirituals such as “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” and, surprisingly perhaps, “When The Saints Go Marching In”. I was expecting a hackneyed version of the latter but Mahalia turns in a performance well worth listening to, “Somebody Touched Me” finds Ms. Falls almost approaching boogie-woogie in her driving accompaniment and Barney Kessel showing off his blues licks. This is a fine set showcasing the power of Mahalia’s vocals. Certainly those who have followed the series so far will have to have it, and they may well find it more satisfying than some of Mahalia’s commercial recordings from around this time – but get its immediate predecessor first if you haven’t already done so.