Jesse James is a mysterious figure who supposedly made his only four recordings in a penitentiary. Some have disputed this as fantasy, but the fact remains that no other pianist from this time reported any recollection of him. Along with this mystery is the enigma of his voice and piano playing, both of which are exceptionally distinctive. A prominent feature of James’s playing are the use of clusters: ‘white-key’ in Lonesome Day Blues and chromatic in Southern Casey Jones. In these numbers his playing and singing are at once forceful and touching.
Jesse James’s four recordings appear on Piano Blues Vol. 1 from Document Records.