Friday, October 18, 2019

Johnny Griffin-Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis Quintet At Onkel Pö's Carnegie Hall

Johnny Griffin-Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis Quintet
At Onkel Pö's Carnegie Hall

Onkel Pö's Carnegie Hall was a Hamburg Germany music venue in the 1970s and 1980s that presented a wide variety of music. This CD by the quintet led by the two famous tenor saxophonists, Johnny Griffith and Eddie "Lockjaw' Davis is one of a number of releases of live recordings by such artists as Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, Albert Collins, James Booker, Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, Louis Hayes-Junior Cook Quintet, Louisiana Red, The New Woody Shaw Quintet, Esther Phillips and others.

The present album has the very dynamic saxophonists backed by the trio of Tete Montoliu on piano, Niels-Henning Ørsted-Pedersen on bass, and Art Taylor on drums. There is nothing fancy here, just a hard-swinging set of swing and bop standards with seven performances (roughly 100 minutes) spread across the two CDs, starting with Davis on cymbals and bass drum kicking off a rousing, relatively brief "C Jam Blues." Its a friendly battle as the two joust playing "On Green Dolphin Street," with Ørsted-Pedersen and Montoliu introducing the theme before the two jointly state the theme and take off, both playing robustly on this lengthy performance. Then there is a winsome rendition by Griffith of Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" with a lengthy, melodious piano solo and a tight bass solo. The first disc concludes with a spirited rendition of Monk's "In Walked Bud."

Lockjaw Davis is featured with some splendid ballad-playing "I Can't Started," opening the second disc followed by a lengthy, high-spirited "Stomping at the Savoy." The two blast off on the simple motive of Benny Green's "Funky Flute" with Griffith's high energy matched by his fellow tenor sax master with Taylor exploding with bombs in support as Montoliu once again demonstrating why he was so highly regarded. After Ørsted-Pedersen solos, Taylor's takes an explosive drum solo, before the horns ride it out. It concludes this excellent straight-ahead set by the two tenor sax giants.

I purchased this. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386) although I made minor stylistic changes. Here is a video of Johnny Griffin and Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis performing. Incidentally, a new CD by the two, "Ow! Live at the Penthouse,"is coming out on Black Friday, Novermber 29, 2019 on Reel to Real Recordings.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Antonio Adolfo Samba Jazz Alley

Antonio Adolfo
Samba Jazz Alley
AAM Music

Pianist and arranger Adolfo has been one of the more prominent artists who, influenced by bebop, soul, and West Coast Jazz trends, crafted a more rhythmically robust instrumental interpretation of the lithe and flirtatious bossa that became known as 'Samba Jazz.' The title refers to an obscure dead-end alley in the heart of Rio de Janeiro’s storied Copacabana neighborhood that served as a breeding ground for the city’s up-and-coming instrumentalists and singers during the heyday of bossa nova. Adolfo advises us that the alley was known as Bottles Alley' because "neighbors in taller buildings used to throw bottles down from their apartments to protest the loud music and boisterous conversations below." The alley "was like a cauldron of jazz, samba and bossa nova… ."

Recorded in Brazil, Adolfo has a core ensemble that features the three-horn frontline of trumpeter Jessé Sadoc, woodwind artist Marcelo Martins and trombonist Rafael Rocha, and a rhythm section of Adolfo guitarist Lula Galvão, bassist Jorge Helder, drummer Rafael Barata, and percussionist Dada Costa. There are guests on some songs. Of the nine selections, two are Adolfo compositions, and the remainder features his arrangements of classic bossa nova compositions.

The music is bright, breezy, and full of slow-burning heat starting with "Ceu E Mar (Sky and Sea)" with his clean, crisp, horn arrangements giving a fuller sound than the three horn line-up might suggest along with his deft piano. Martins is impressive in his fiery tenor sax solo, followed by Adolfo's lyrical playing and Helder's bass solo. "Hello, Herbie" is a tribute to the Herbie Hancock that is in part a contrafact of "Cantaloupe Island" and Jesse Sadoc's solo is incendiary, followed by Galvāo's fleet guitar. "So Por Amor (Just For Love)" from Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes opens with some precious piano, and this beautiful performance features Rocha's marvelous, romantic trombone solo. Edu Lobo's "Casa Forte" refers to a neighborhood in the northeastern Brazilian town of Recife.

"Tristeza De Nos Dois" is a gorgeous bossa ballad and features the harmonicas of Mauricio Einhorn, one of the composers of this number and a legendary player, and Gabriel Grossi, a current harmonica sensation. The weaving of the two harmonica's is engrossing and adds to the charm here. Two Jobim numbers round out this album, "Passarim (Little Bird)" with Martin's marvelous soprano sax solo, and a performance of the celebrated "Corcovado" with the spotlight on Adolfo's deft piano, Sadoc's mellifluous flugelhorn and Martin's alto flute. These splendid performances close another superb recording from this Brazilian jazz master.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386), although I made minor stylistic changes. Here is "Ceu E Mar" from "Samba Jazz Alley."

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Nick Moss Band Feat. Dennis Gruenling Lucky Guy!

The Nick Moss Band Feat. Dennis Gruenling
Lucky Guy!
Alligator Records

About the previous album by The Nick Moss Band, "The High Cost of Low Living," I observed that "there is strong and varied material (including choice songs to cover), very good singing, and excellent playing. This is also wonderfully recorded, resulting in a superb straight-no-chaser Chicago blues recording." Now, guitarist and vocalist Moss, along with harmonica wizard and vocalist Dennis Gruenling, return with this new disc. Others in the band include Taylor Streif on keyboards and background vocals; Rodrigo Mantovani on bass and background vocals; and Patrick Seals on drums and background vocals. Kid Andersen adds rhythm guitar to several tracks as well as baritone guitar and mandolin, and Mighty Mike Welch plays lead guitar on one track. The album was co-produced by Moss and Andersen and recorded and mixed by Andersen at Greaseland Studios. 13 of the 14 tracks are originals with Moss having written 11 and Gruenling two.

Moss plays and sings with considerable authority, although 'occasionally' his diction can come off as a little mush-mouthed (in the manner of Junior Well and Carey Bell) as on the rocking paean to his hometown "312 Blood" where Moss celebrates his hometown of Chicago. Streif takes a two-fisted solo, while Gruenling wails on his break before Moss adds to the instrumental fire. Johnny O'Neal Johnson's "Ugly Woman" shows the wit Moss's performance can bring. It is one of the tracks with uncredited horns with Gruenling riffing behind the vocal, and Streif takes a rollicking solo. The title track is an upbeat shuffle with scintillating guitar and a solid vocal before Gruenling's soaring sax-like harp solo. Moss' own solo shows how much of the Chicago blues guitar tradition he has absorbed in developing his superb attack.

Moss' "Sanctified, Holy And Hateful," set to the melodic theme of "Half Ain't Been Told," is a stellar slow blues about the hypocrisy of certain evangelicals with a terrific vocal, Gruenling's robust chromatic harp playing and Moss playing with so much passion here. Gruenling shows himself to be a capable vocalist on his hot shuffle, "Movin' On My Way," with Moss and Kid Andersen taking crisp solos and trading fours with Gruenling's swooping horn-like harp taking this performance out. Moss follows this up with the relaxed, mellow feel of "Tell Me There's Nothing Wrong," with Gruenling taking a tasty solo in a Sonny Boy Williamson vein followed by Moss' shattering solo. "Me and My Friends" is set to a groove that evokes Phillip Walker and Jimmy McCracklin ("Steppin' Up In Class") with horns adding to the atmosphere here. "Simple Minded" had Andersen on mandolin, and the performance brings back memories of the late Johnny Young with Gruenling playing in a Walter Horton manner and Streif hinting at Otis Spann.

"Hot Zucchini" is an instrumental in the vein of Booker T & the MGs with greasy Hammond B-3 from Streif, stinging guitar from Moss and riffing horns. Another instrumental, "Cutting the Monkey's Tail," provides space for Gruenling and Moss to shine. The concluding track, "The Comet," is an atmospheric Muddy Waters styled blues that is a tribute to the late Mike Ledbetter with whom both Moss and Monster Mike Welch had played. The two duet with Welch taking the lead (and soloing in accompanying Moss' vocal. While the contributions of Moss, Grueling and Streif have been spotlighted, one cannot ignore the first-rate backing provided by Mantovani and Seals. This is one terrific band, and given the authority and imagination that Moss, Gruenling, and Streif play with, blues fans are in luck with the fabulous "Lucky Guy!"

I received my review copy from Alligator. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386) although I made minor stylistic changes. Here is a recent performance by Nick Moss with Dennis Gruenling.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Getz at The Gate: The Stan Getz Quartet Live at the Village Gate, Nov. 26, 1961

The Stan Getz Quartet
Getz at The Gate: The Stan Getz Quartet Live at the Village Gate, Nov. 26, 1961
Verve Records

A revelation many are calling this release of two sets from a 1961 Greenwich Village engagement by Stan Getz at the famed New York Jazz Club. Earlier that year, Getz had returned from three years in Europe and recorded earlier that year his famed album, "Focus," which merged Eddie Sauter's compositions for strings and Getz's spontaneous improvisations. Upon returning to the United States, Getz contacted bassist Scott LaFaro who agreed to join Getz if he could put together the rhythm section and recruited Steve Kuhn, who had been with John Coltrane, on piano and drummer Pete LaRoca, who would be replaced by Roy Haynes.

In the booklet accompanying this release, Bob Blumenthal notes "It took a while for the quartet to gain popular traction, but it worked fairly steadily. (Again, hindsight is deceptive. While LaFaro made important recordings with Ornette Coleman and Bill Evans in this period, most of his performing time was spent with Getz.) Many of these gigs were on double bills opposite the man who had dethroned Getz in the music polls, John Coltrane." The group developed quickly, and Blumenthal observes they apparently were in exceptional form at the July 3 Newport Jazz Festival. LaFaro died in a car crash on July 6 and replaced by bassist John Neve.

Blumenthal's essay provides more of the details about Getz's group and some recordings before the present archival one. This release documents two sets from the fourth and final night of a triple-bill at the Village Gate that also included Chris Connor and Les McCann (those who have seen reproductions of New York City newspaper ads from the time will be familiar with these multiple billings that had several major acts at one time. I remember going to see Otis Rush at the Gate in 1978, and Hugh Masekela was also on the bill. The press release for this notes that these performances were "professionally recorded, possibly for eventual release, but was soon forgotten and the tape languished in the vaults for almost 58 years." We are indeed fortunate that the tape was apparently not in the Universal Music vaults that suffered fires several years ago as disclosed in recent New York Times accounts.

As Blumenthal observes, there is plenty of toughness and fire in much of Getz's playing in contrast to his image as the epitome of 'cool jazz." This is immediately evident in the bursts of notes in "It's Alright With Me," which might contrast with the more legato, feathering playing that some might think about Getz's music. But this is 1961, and the music of Coltrane and Rollins is at the fore. Haynes' fiery playing, including a short solo and trading fours as well as Kuhn's use of block chords here and elsewhere, make for fascinating listening. On Gigi Gryce's "Wildwood," with its nice relaxed tempo, Getz displays a bit more of a feathery tone, although his playing also has more toughness, and his tonal dynamics match his creativity here. His ballad playing is exquisite as on "When the Sun Comes Out" and "Stella By Starlight." He tears up Sonny Rollin's "Airegin," one of the numbers which have parts where Kuhn lays out, and it becomes almost a duet with Haynes, although Neves keeps a steady pulse. There also is a nice relaxed "Blues" and the brisk "It's You Or No One," with some sterling piano. The rhythm section is featured on "Impressions" that Getz introduces as "So What."

The two lengthiest tracks close out this double disk set. Monk's "52nd Street Theme" provides some lengthy and imaginative playing by the leader and has Haynes' longest solo on this recording. It is followed by an encore in which Getz is heard noodling on "The Breeze and I" and "How High the Moon," after which someone urges him to play the blues. This urging leads to a rendition of Lester Young's "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid," taken at a slower than usual tempo.  It capped an excellent evening from the Stan Getz Quartet, but this group disbanded by year's end. In 1962, Getz began his collaboration with guitarist Charlie Byrd, and in February, they recorded the hit album "Jazz Samba" which took his playing in another direction. The music on "Getz at the Gate" indicates a course that Getz might have made if he had not gone the Bossa Nova route. Based on the music on this invaluable historical document, it would have been as musically productive and satisfying in its own way.

I received a download to review from a publicist. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386) although I made minor stylistic changes. Here is "Yesterday's Gardenias" from "Getz at the Gate."

Monday, October 14, 2019

Big Jack Reynolds That's a Good Way To Get To Heaven

Big Jack Reynolds
That's a Good Way To Get To Heaven
Third Street Cigar Records

"That's a Good Way To Get To Heaven" is a CD/DVD dedicated to the music of Big Jack Reynolds, who passed away a little over twenty-five years ago. The CD provides twenty songs displaying Big Jack Reynold's deep down-home blues style, while the DVD has a documentary about him as seen by the musicians who played with him or were his contemporaries. It also has as extras, his only television performances, and an interview with him.

This CD/DVD set is a wonderful labor of love for one Marshall "Big Jack" Reynolds. The details of his life are provided in the booklet that accompanies this release (including a moving poem from Joel Lipman that was written when he passed away). Reynolds was born in Albany, Georgia, in 1921, who grew up surrounded by country blues. Having relatives in Ohio and Michigan, he often visited them with his family. Johnson eventually moved north, becoming part of the vibrant Detroit blues scene that produced the likes of John Lee Hooker, Eddie Burns, Eddie Kirkland, Washboard Willie, Calvin Frazier, and others and recorded for Fortune and other labels including Hi-Q and Mah's. By the late 1960s, he was spending increasing time in Toledo and by the 1970s made Toledo his permanent home. In Toledo, he played with other groups, including playing drums with the Griswolds. Reynolds, in fact, recorded with the Griswolds for the Blue Suit. In the mid-eighties, he hooked up with the band, the Haircuts that included guitarist Larry Gold who produced the CD, John Newmark on bass, John Rockwood on harmonica, and Marc Cary on drums. With the Haircuts, Big Jack recorded some 45s that are included on the CD.

But also around this time, his health began to decline with diabetic and liver issues, leading him to need dialysis with friends like John Rockwood, taking him to get his dialysis treatments. Another friend was John Henry, a financial services company CEO, owner of Third Street Cigar, and a die-hard blues fan who championed Big Jack's music and when Big Jack passed away December 29, 1993, and no next of kin could be located. John Henry and another fan Paul Croy paid for Big Jack's funeral service and cremation, and when Third Street Cigar opened, John Henry placed the urn with Reynolds' remains a Rockwood photograph, and a guitar in a dedicated memorial spot. It was at this store where the plans that led to this memorial began.

If I could find any fault with the documentary, it might be the shortness of actual performance clips incorporated in it; the two songs are included as extras on the DVD. His life, his music, his influences (a prime dose of Jimmy Reed) and what he meant to those who knew him are given life through the recollections of photographer Rockwood, Gold, Newmark and the other members of the Haircuts, as well as other members of the Detroit and Toledo blues scenes who knew him. He could be a rascal and a hard band leader (telling the drummer he was messing up), but he wanted his music played right, And when he got the blues played right, it could be quite moving and real.

By itself, the DVD would be worth the price, but the CD with 20 solid down-home blues performances from various sources. There are solid covers of Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do," "Go On To School," and "Shame, Shame, Shame" along with the swamp blues of Slim Harpo's "Scratch My Back." Even when the backing gets the tempo a tad too brisk as on the cover of "Help Me," or "Walk On Up (But Keep That Red Dress On)" (set to the melody of "Fannie Mae"), or the shuffle "Poor Boy," Reynolds sings authoritatively while his harp playing goes far beyond being merely a Jimmy Reed copy. On "Poor Boy," Larry Gold plays some excellent guitar.

On "Mean Old People," he sings about going back South with his country blues guitar adding to the flavor of the performance. "Hot Potato" is a hardy, funky instrumental with him on guitar, while "Gonna Love Somebody" is his heartfelt reworking of a Muddy Waters number with just his harmonica. "Going Down Slow" was recorded in 1963 for Fortune Records and shows what a robust singer he was then. "Made It Up In Your Mind," with the drummer laying down a mambo groove, finds Big Jack's vocal suggesting New Orleans Snooks Eaglin. It is followed by the shuffle "I Had a Little Dog," with some greasy organ in the backing as he sings about pitching a boogie-woogie. There is also a vibrant rendition of Muddy Waters' "She Moves Me" with just vocal and harmonica.

One won't claim Big Jack Reynolds was one the iconic blues giants, but this reissue establishes that he was a more than capable with his robust, deep singing and excellent, idiomatic harmonica and guitar. The result is a highly recommended blues reissue that, with the documentary, provides a marvelous memorial to this Big blues artist who was a mainstay of the Toledo blue scene.

I am not sure where I got this but likely from Third Cigar Store Records. Here is a video that was associated with the premiere of the documentary about Big Jack Reynolds.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Take Five With Nat King Cole

This year makes the centennial of Nat 'King' Cole, one of the most talented jazz pianists and vocalists who later became a vocal superstar. Here are five choice examples of Mr. Cole's incomparable artistry. First up is his rendition of what has become a standrad, "Route 66."

Then there is "Hit The Jive Jack," with some exquisite guitar from Oscar Moore.

The first two elections have him with his imcomparable trio. The next performance is from the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert where he anchored a band that included Illinios Jacquwt on tenro saxophone and Les Paul on guitar. While Jacquet is the star, Cole is superb in this jam context.

There are many possibilities for later recordings when the emphasis shifted to his vocal stylings. I have picked "Mona Lisa."

There were so many other possible choices including "Unforgettable, "Smile," "The Ballad of Cat Ballou," and "Stardust." I have chosen one of the most famous holiday songs, "The Christmas Song."

I initially decided to do the short Take 5 playlists on the 5th of the month. I have decided to try to do this on most Saturdays. Hope you enjoy this.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Jason Ricci & the Bad Kind My Chops Are Rolling!!

Jason Ricci & the Bad Kind
My Chops Are Rolling!!
EllerSoul Records

I am not sure if Jason Ricci is considered the Bad Boy of the Blues, but he brings a punk attitude along with his harmonica virtuosity to this new release. He is accompanied by his high energy band of John Lisi on guitar and dobro, Andy Kurz on bass, and John Perkins on drums. Kaitlin Dibble adds guest vocals. Most of the songs are originals from Ricci or Lisi.

While if some of the songs might not fit a traditional notion of blues, they are not heavily rocked out, and there is an understated quality in the performance of some songs such as "Break in the Rain," on which Ricci showcases not only his harp chops but his original, imaginative soloing. Lisi's dobro work is also quite evident here. "Don't Badger the Witness," a more traditional blues structure opens with Ricci's full-toned harmonica sports of gravelly vocal, and one wonders if the theme of not badgering the witness arose from his own experiences. Lisi's guitar, with his use of vibrato and tremolo, adds to the performance's atmosphere. The next track, "F_ck the Falcons (Who Dat Nation)," is a celebration of the New Orleans Saints and profanity-filled lambasting of NFL officiating and the NFL Commissioner set to a hot second-line groove with Slats Klug playing accordion and Lisi laying down a memorable solo. The final track "Who Dat Nation" is a radio-friendly version of this.

"Going to California" is a fascinating instrumental that shows how Ricci is not simply a technical virtuoso, but able to spin a jazz-inflected, soulful solo on the chromatic harmonica before Lisi enters with a contrasting high-energy electrified slide solo. It is followed by Kaitlin Dibble's endearing singing on the Barbara Lynn classic, "If You Should Lose Me," with Ricci's accompaniment and solo full of magic. The title track is a funky slice of music as, in what is almost a throwaway vocal, he celebrates his chops rolling and plays some astonishing harp licks against Lisi's funky guitar as the rhythm gets down with the groove.

"The Way I Hurt Myself" is a fabulous slow straight-forward blues performance with an intense vocal, some terrific blues guitar, and an excellent showcase of Ricci's use of tonal and volume dynamics in his pull-out-all-the-stops, three o'clock in the morning solo. It is followed by the energetic rockabilly-styled "Think It Over." Jason Ricci's chops are indeed rolling on a fascinating blend of blues and roots that showcases a broad and engaging musical personality with a tight, driving band.

I received my review copy from EllerSoul Records. Here is Jason Ricci performing this year with Joe Krown, John  Fohl and others at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans.