Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mississippi Heat Sends Out A Warning Shot

Pierre Lacocque's Mississippi Heat have a new release on Delmark, Warning Shot, that will be welcomed by the band's fans and likely make new fans from listeners. Lacocque’s leadership along with his songwriting and marvelous harmonica playing (Charlie Musselwhite is quoted calling it tasty and brilliant) is joined by one of the most underrated vocalists in the blues, Inetta Visor; vocals and guitar from Michael Dotson; guitar from Giles Corey; bass from Brian Quinn; and a vocal from Kenny Smith who shares the drum chair with Andrew Thomas. Former band member Carl Weathersby is on guitar on a couple tracks, Neal O’Hara is on keyboards, Ruben Alvarez is on percussion and Sax Gordon handles the saxophones.

The opening Sweet Poison is an imaginative original, built upon the Elmore James broom dusting riff with Lacocque's fine harp riding over Dotson’s crisp slide playing. The band pushes the groove behind a superb vocal from Visor. Years ago she might have been described as a moaner as opposed to a  shouter, but her nuanced singing is thoroughly a delight. You get a sense of the vivacious quality of her performances listening to her, but the joy she has singing is evident when one sees Heat live (or on the band’s Live DVD “One Eye Open, Live at Rosa’s” on Delmark). Sweet Poison is followed by the rollicking “Alley Cat Boogie” with pumping piano from O’Hara and an exuberant vocal from Visor.

An original Come To Mama sports Caribbean rhythms (handled by Thomas) while Corey takes the guitar lead sounding like he’s playing through a Leslie amp. Gordon takes a tough tenor sax solo, while Lacocque’s solo suggests some of Walter Horton’s playing (thinking of Horton’s take La Cucaracha). More terrific harp along with Corey’s jazzy guitar is heard behind Visor’s moving singing on a reworking of a Ruth Brown recording, I Don’t Know. Dotson takes a capable vocal on Yeah Now Baby with its North Hills Country meets Muddy Waters rhythms.   

Birthday Song, is a funky, buoyant original that provides blues and soul revival bands with an alternative to the standard birthday song. Corey is in a Santana mode here with Gordon and Lacocque riffing in support. Dotson’s guitar lead on his bouncy rocker, Swingy Dingy Baby evokes the late Texas guitarist Cal Valentine. Too Sad To Wipe Way The Tears has a low-key backing with terrific Lacocque’s harp in a Sonny Boy Williamson II manner. Dotson’s restrained slide playing is exceptional. 

Set against a crisp shuffle groove and Gordon’s one-man sax section, the instrumental rendition of Your Cheating Heart  showcases Lacocque’s wonderful harp. Gordon takes a booting solo on this. A Part of Special a funky Visor original whose  backing vocal chorus, the horn arrangements (and a sax solo that would have King Curtis smiling) and a terrific vocal suggests some classic 70s Aretha Franklin (she is really good here). 

The terrific Warning Shot features tight ensemble playing (one of the things that Lacocque has always focused on with this band), excellent new original material, interpretations of songs that have not been recorded a zillion times, strong solos and the wonderful blues and soul vocals of Inetta Visor. 

I received my review copy from Delmark Records. For those near Washington DC, Mississippi Heat is at Madam's Organ on Friday October 17. Here is a video of Mississippi Heat performing.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Evergreen Class Jazz Band Plays Early Tunes

Delmark's latest releases include a re-release of Jump Records Early Tunes 1915-1932 by The Evergreen Classic Jazz Band. Originally issued in 1995, this CD has them rendering  interpretations of songs from the mid-nineteen teens until the early thirties. This Seattle ensemble is led by Tom Jacobus who plays brass bass (tuba) and string bass; and includes Craig Flory and Jake Powel on reeds; David Holo on cornet; David Loomis on trombones, kazoo and vocals; Dan Grinstead on piano; Al LaTourette on banjo; and Dale Roach on drums.

The brief notes on the back cover note that many of these performances were originally done by larger ensembles, but the Evergreen Classic Jazz Band (particularly Jacobus) have arrangements of these for the octet. This is a nicely performed traditional jazz album with an effort to evoke the sound and feel of such bands as Jimmy Noone, Erskine Tate, King Oliver and His Dixie Serenaders and Tiny Parham. There is plenty of spirit to be heard in the classicist approach they have starting with the exuberance of the opening Stomp Off, Let’s Go, to the swinging rendition of an early Bennie Moten recording Ding Ding Blues.

There is the twenties Oriental exoticism of Tiny Parham’s On the Bay of Old Bombay, with nice cornet from Holo, who may be overall the most consistent, and least dated sounding solicit here. The reeds of Flory and Powel are displayed to good effect on the lovely rendition of Jimmy Noone’s Apex Blues. The vocals on a King Oliver recording Got Everything are pretty corny (think about Rudy Vallee on a megaphone) but the plunger mute playing is solid. Loomis’ gutbucket trombone is a counterpoint to Powel’s soprano sax on Sidney Bechet’s Blues in the Air, which is followed by a lively performance of Fats Waller’s Minor Drag.

The rendition of the Joplin/Marshall Swipesy Cake Walk is in a classic ragtime orchestra vein (think about Joplin’s “Red Back Book’), while  Grinstead does a solo rendition of the Joe Jordan rag Nappy Lee. The novelty  Play Me a Frigid Air, has a dead pan vocal of the somewhat inane lyrics and followed by a strutting rendition of Stock Yards Strut. This was perhaps trumpeter Freddie Keppard’s most famous recording. It is played with stop time effects and a nice clarinet solo. Folks will know She’s Funny That Way from the classic Billie Holiday recording (He’s Funny …). The rendition here employs Jimmie Noone’s arrangement with  lovely playing although a forgettable vocal.

Other remakes include a lesser known Louis Armstrong Hot Five recording Put ‘Em Down Blues and a solid rendition of Duke Ellington’s Ring Dem Blues, although Powel’s bass sax solo sounds a bit awkward. This a pleasant traditional jazz recording with a number of vibrant performances. Those who enjoy this should check out the Delmark recordings of the youthful contemporary Chicago ensemble, The Fat Babies.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here is a 2014 performance of Stomp Off, Let’s Go.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Lucky Peterson - I’m Back Again

Blues Boulevard’s new Lucky Peterson album I’m Back Again is a release of music from the excellent DVD/CD set on BlackbirdMusic/ Soulfood by The Lucky Peterson Band Featuring Tamara Peterson Live At The 55 Arts Club. The eleven performances on this release are available on the DVDs and the CDs of the earlier set, but are limited to those that featured Lucky and not the others which featured Tamara. Lucky’s backing band included Shawn Kellerman on guitar, Tim Waites on bass and Raul Valdes on drums. It is a hard-rocking, tight band that did a fine job supporting Lucky (heard on organ as well as guitar).

I wrote, reviewing the DVD/CD set, “The material ranges from Lucky’s reworking of blues classics such as You Shook Me, I’m Ready, and Who’s Been Talking, along with Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s Ta’ Ta’ You. He takes out the slide for Dust My Broom, while getting really greasy on the B-3 on I’m Back Again, as well as Rico McFarland’s Giving Me The Blues. Listening to these performances again, my views haven’t changed.

Those having Live At The 55 Arts Club, will have no reason to buy this fine reissue, but others may want to get this strong sampling of Lucky Peterson (and his excellent band) today.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Lucky performing Who’s Been Talking, although from a different performance.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How Long How Long Blues

Today's blog is devoted to simply presenting a number of renditions of a song most associated with Leroy Carr, How Long, How Long Blues. This was a major hot for Carr and became one of the true blues classics.

First up is Carr's original recording

Second is Tampa Red although I wish we just had the music, not the video and audio of a 78 playing.

Ida Cox's How Long Daddy speaks about that southbound train. It predates Carr's recording. Cox was one of the early blues greatest talents.

Kokomo Arnold also did a terrific rendition of this

Let us not forget some superb instrumental piano renditions including Count Basie

And no instrumemntal rendition touches me as much as that by the great Jimmy Yancey.

A year before he died, Jimmy Yancey did this with Mama Yancey singing wonderfully

Carr' song was a favorite of blues shouters like Jimmy Rushing, Jimmy Witherspoon and Big Joe Turner. Here is the Boss of the Blues singing it from the essential album The Boss of the Blues Sings Kansas City Jazz.

Other singer-pianists have done including Memphis Slim and Champion Jack Dupree. I have included Dupree's rendition from 1945.

It has been a song that jazz performers have interpreted such as Coleman Hawkins. There is a superb duet performance by Archie Shepp and pianist Horace Parlan on the terrific album Trouble in Mind. Here is Coleman Hawkins.

Among recent blues renditions, I consider the best to be from pianist Butch Thompson and guitarist Pat Donohue. Here is Thompson channeling Jimmy Yancey as I close this blog post.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Cookers Time and Time Again

Of course it is simplistic to describe The Cookers as an band of Hard Bop All Stars, but certainly the music here has its roots in the over 250 years of aggregate experience its members have. With one exception, Donald Harrison replacing Craig Handy on alto sax, the group’s line-up remains the same with Billy Harper on tenor sax, Dr. Eddie Henderson and David Weiss on trumpet; George Cables on piano, Cecil McBee on bass and Billy Hart on drums. The members of The Cookers have experience playing with some of the greatest jazz artists of the past half century including Art Pepper, Dexter Gordon, Lee Morgan, Herbie Hancock, Charles Lloyd, Max Roach, and Art Blakey. Additionally, every member is a leader of their own right as well as being notable composers and players.

Motema Music has issued their fourth CD, Time and Time Again and the album brings forth some vintage compositions such as Billy Harper’s Sir Galahad which was from his 1973 debut album Capra Black, while Cecil McBee contributes two new compositions. Other compositions are from the pens of Cables, Weiss and Hart for a program of music whose vitality is convincing proof that band’s name is deserved on the nine performances heard here

The tone is set with the opening Sir Galahad which opens with some very robust playing from Hart, followed by Weiss, Harrison and Cables. McBee’s original blues Slippin’ and Slidin’ provides a chance for the members to show the continual relevance of the blues with Harper, Weiss and McBee showcased with fine work. Cables Double Or Nothing is another burner with Harrison and Weiss shining before Hart explodes in his solo. It is followed by Cables tribute to the late Mulgrew Miller, Farewell Mulgrew with Weiss’ providing the horns arrangement whose ensemble playing sets the atmosphere for Cables playing being stately and moving. Harper again displays just how riveting a tenor saxophonist he is on Weiss Three Fall followed by the composer’s hot trumpet and terrific support from the rhythm section.

The title track, a Harper original is built upon a bass ostinato from McBee and includes more stirring playing from Harper, Henderson and Cables along with the superb rhythm section. The mix of strong compositions, solid ensemble playing with the superb rhythm section and the mix of technical mastery, passion, imagination and inventiveness make Time and Time Again another outstanding recording by The Cookers.

I received my review copy from a publicist.  Here is a video related to Sir Galahad and the album.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Corey Harris - Fulton Blues

Corey Harris’ Fulton Blues, originally issued by Corey, has been reissued with a couple of bonus tracks added on Blues Boulevard Records. As noted on his Corey’s website, “Fulton is a community in Richmond, VA that is older than the city itself. From its docks on the James River, the first African captives were marched to the city’s slave market to be sold into bondage. This Black town on the east end of the city endured for more than 300 years until its land was seized and the families living there were forcibly evicted in the name of greed masquerading as progress.”

Fulton Blues presented some new and classic blues songs and “the fourteen songs on the album range from love, loss and longing to celebration, tragedy and triumph.” In addition to Corey Harris vocals, guitar and banjo, others on this recording include Chris ‘Peanut’ Whitley on keyboards; Gordon ‘Saxman’ Jones on saxophones and horn arrangements; Jason “Brother’ Morgan on bass; Ken ‘Trini Jo’ Joseph on drums, Hook Herrera on harmonica and Joshua Achalam on percussion.

This is the first recording I have heard Harris in a urban blues setting as on the opening Crying Blues, a lyric of lonesomeness with Saxman Jones providing simple horn riffs in support. It sounds like he may be playing two saxophones at the same time which may account for the somewhat simplistic horn arrangements. The solo Underground sounds like a blues about the underground railroad with its allusions to the devil being out on in the broad daylight and how the devil broke up the family. With its simple backing that evokes the late Ali Farka Toure, and Harris’ performance here is similarly mesmerizing. A solo original, Black Woman Blues, exhibits a John Lee Hooker-North Mississippi Hills groove.

While Harris is known is best known for his adaptation of delta styled blues, the title track is a start lyric about the now gone community set against a adept Piedmont finger style accompaniment with Herrera adding support. Herrera is also present on Harris’ moving rendition of Skip James’ classic Devil Got My Woman. Harris’ banjo feature, Black Rag is a lively number with lyrics suggestive of Blind Willie McTell’s Kill It Kid Rag, and also sports a nice saxophone break. An insistent R&B styled rendition of Catfish Blues, has strong sax playing. It is followed by a delightful cover of Blind Blake’s That Will Happen No More, and then Lynch Blues with an accompaniment that evokes Cherry Ball Blues, but stark lyrics that open “What do I see hangin’ beneath the tree …” Harris’ deep singing, his repeated guitar riffs and Herrera’s harmonica make for a deeply moving performance.

The original release of Fulton Blues closed with the full band on an instrumental Fat Duck’s Groove, that allowed Harris to display his electric guitar playing with his crisp and clean fretwork. A couple of live performances are bonus tracks that were not included on the original release. Both Better Way and Esta Loco reflect Caribbean influences on Harris, ska on the former and latin on the latter. These are pleasant performances, if not having quite the gravitas of the rest of this CD. Fulton Blues is an impressive recording that illustrates Corey Harris’ ability to revive and invigorate older blues songs and styles. 

I received my copy from the publicist or the record company. I had purchased a copy of the original release. Here is Crying Blues from Fulton Blues.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Nighthawks 444

It has been a couple of years since The Nighthawks had a new recordings and EllerSoul has just issued 444. This is the second CD since drummer Mark Stutso joined original Nighthawk, Mark Wenner (harmonica), Paul Bell (guitar) and Johnny Castle (bass) and is a nice mix of blues and real rock and roll that continues the band’s four decades plus musical journey.

The music is a mix of originals and forgotten musical gems such as The Du Droppers Walk That Walk that kicks this disc off on a rocking groove followed by a solid rendition of the Tracy Nelson-Gary Nicholson Living the Blues that showcases Wenner’s formidable harmonica playing along with the crisp instrumental and vocal backing. Castle wrote 444 A.M. which provided the album with its title with Bell adding some rockabilly touches on his solo (reminiscent of Castle’s one-time employer, Bill Kirchen) on a bit of kick-ass rock and roll. Stutso takes the vocal on the impressive bluesy reworking of You’re Gone, a bluegrass original borrowed from Stutso’s brother-in-law.

Wenner’s Honky Tonk Queen comes off as a cross of early seventies Rolling Stones and honky tonk country followed by the hot rockabilly reworking of Got a Lot of Livin’ from Elvis’ movie Lovin’ You. In contrast the rendition of Crawfish, from the film, King Creole, has a swampy feel. Castle sings High Snakes, a moody lament of lost love, that he co-wrote with Bill Kirchen. Stutso provides a forceful vocal on a Gary Nicholson’s Nothin’ But The Blues. Wenner does a straight cover of the Muddy Waters classic, Louisiana Blues, before the album closes with Castle’s lovely country-folk number Roadside Cross that closes this recording on a different musical tenor.

444 is more of a roots recording with country and rock influences mixed with the band’s blues foundations. Solidly played and performed, the appeal of 444 will extend beyond the band’s existing fans to those who love American roots music.

I purchased this as well as subsequently received a review copy from a publicist.  Here is a video of them in performance doing a couple songs from the recording.