Friday, September 18, 2020

Rah! Rah! The Claire Daly Quartet

Rah! Rah!
The Claire Daly Quartet
Ride Symbol Records

Claire Daly's new album, "Rah! Rah!," is a salute to one of her main musical inspirations, Rahsaan Roland Kirk. She was a student at Berklee College of Music when she first saw Kirk at Boston's Jazz Workshop. She saw him at a performance after Kirk had suffered a stroke. Still, she was overwhelmed that despite his apparent fragility, "but each night the music got stronger and better. He had this unstoppable quality. … He was such a force of nature. He made me so happy, and still does." To join her in her salute to Kirk, Daly, on baritone sax, flute, and vocals, is backed by her band of Eli Yamin on piano, Dave Hofstra on bass, and Peter Grant on drums. The program includes interpretations of songs composed by Kirk, standards Kirk covered, and two originals based on Kirk's tunes.

Daly's performances display her musical personality and make for rewarding listening. As she states, Kirk was a force of nature, and his performances of "Volunteered Slavery" and "Serenade for a Cuckoo" will overshadow the interpretations by others. That does not mean one should dismiss her robust renditions. Her flute playing is exquisite on "Cuckoo." At the same time, her mashup of "Volunteered Slavery" with Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People" showcases her burly baritone playing and her direct, genuine singing. Her baritone sax playing has an authority evident of the opening "Blue Lady," based on Kirk's "Lady Blues." This selection also introduces listeners to her excellent band with pianist Yamin displaying a measured touch over the swinging rhythm section.

Bassist Hofstra opens up "Funk Underneath," another showcase for Daly's appealing, sparkling flute. Then, she dances on the baritone playing an Afro-Cuban version of Kirk's "Theme For the Eulipions." Daly's delivers another charming vocal on "Alfie," with Yamin leading the trio with an understated, sympathetic accompaniment. There is more delightful flute from Daly on "Momentus Brighticus," her contrafact of Kirk's "Bright Moments," followed by some barreling bebop baritone on Charlie Parker's "Blues For Alice." Daly's displays her qualities on "I'll Be Seeing You." With Daly's first-rate band and her outstanding playing, "Rah! Rah!" is an exceptional recording and a memorable tribute to Rashaan Roland Kirk, full of bright moments.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Claire Daly has been playing the music of Rashaan Roland Kirk for years. here is a performance from 2010.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

King Vintage Vault Collectors Series


 Last month in the blues column the series of twelve reissues from the King-Federal catalogs was noted. Reviews appeared of the Freddie King and Ray Charles album. This· column will attempt to provide basic information on the rest of the issues.

 Little Willie John (King -5004X) collects 15 of the late gospel-tinged singer's greatest recordings. Theresi some duplication with Free At Last (King KS-1081) but most stuff here is otherwise previously unreissued. Originals of "Fever" (before Peggy Lee) and "Sleep" are special highpoints.

Bill Doggett (5009X) and Earl Bostic (5010X) collect a number of fine instrumentals by the organist and saxophonist. This was jazz-flavored instrumental R&B at its best. Doggett's fourteen sides include the classic "Honky Tonk" whereas tunes on Bostic's sides includes "Flamingo" and "Harlem Nocturne".

A good portion of the King catalog was old group sounds. While historically important the sides by the Ink Spots (5001X) and the Platters (5002X) are too sweet for my taste. Rock'n'Roll Oldies freaks will feel otherwise. Much more solid is the rocking album by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters (5003X). Among the 20 tracks are "Work With Me Annie," "Annie Had a Baby,"  "Annie's Aunt Fanny," "Finger Poppin' Time," and the original recording of "The Twist". Great party music with hot band and vocals. Good bluesy feel on much material.

Finally four albums tracing the career of the group The Dominoes. Volume One (5005X) includes their 14 big hits including the bawdy "Sixty Minute Man". Volume 2 features Clyde McPhatter (5006X) in 18 tunes including two duets with Little Esther (Phillips). Volume 3 features Jackie Wilson on 14 tunes (5007X) and Volume 4 collects 21 other tunes by the group (5008X). The Dominoes was a gospel influenced group capable of doing intense ballad interpretations and some nice bluesy 'numbers. Both McPhatter's and WiIson's albums are superb featuring some strong vocal performances. and like Vol 1 are worth checking into. These are historically important reissues which are also great for parties where you can pop your fingers and twist the night away. Here's hoping for more to come in this series.

I do not remember if I received these from the publication, a publisher or the record company. This review appeared in the March 1978 Buffalo Jazz Report (now Jazz & Blues Report) (Issue 49). Here is Little Willie John singing "Fever."

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Lloyd Jones Tennessee Run

Lloyd Jones
Tennessee Run

I have been a fan of Lloyd Jones since listening to his Trouble Monkey CD nearly 25 years ago. I found appealing his mix of blues and funk with a voice suggestive of Delbert McClinton (they have similar voices) and a guitar style that could evoke Guitar Slim, amongst others. Jones recently participated as part of McClinton's Sandy Beaches Cruise. He was then invited by McClinton's longtime keyboard player, Kevin McKendree, to record at McKendree's Rock House studio in Franklin, Tennessee. With McKendree on keyboards, Steve MacKay on bass, Kevin Blevins on drums, Jim Hoke on saxophone, Quentin Ware on trumpet, Roy Agee on trombone, and others, he put forth 14 songs, all composed in whole or in part by Jones. McClinton guests on one selection, as does Teresa James.

There is a classic R & B feel to many of these performances that open with "You Got Me Good." This song begins with a driving bass line evocative of "I Can't Turn You Loose," as Jones celebrates his lady who he asks how she got so sweet," Did you have to steal it from the bees/ Did you scratch up your knees/Climbing up all those trees." It is set against a tough horn backing and sung with total conviction. This whole album is well sung with pretty of enthusiasm and grit. Another noteworthy track is the rock and roll of "I Wish I Could Remember Loving You." It has the feel of a Chuck Berry song with McKendree channeling Johnnie Johnson with his rollicking piano. Teresa James adds a harmony vocal here while McClinton is heard with Jones on "Everybody's Somebody's Fool," with the songs down-home philosophy.

Other songs include a novelty number about misplacing one's phone, "Where's My Phone?" "A True Love Never Dies" is a terrific southern soul-styled ballad with one of Jones' most heartfelt singing and a superb, focused guitar solo. A New Orleans second-line groove enlivens "Bayou Blues" and "That's All I Want." The latter number also places the spotlight on Jim Hoke's raspy baritone sax. "Turn Me Loose" is a jump blues with a nifty guitar solo as Jones pleads to his woman that she doesn't love him anymore, so turn him loose.

Those familiar with Lloyd Jones will find much too enjoy here as I suspect Delbert McClinton fans will also. Jones sings and plays with energy and fervor supported by some top-notch playing. The accompanying booklet provides the lyrics, and one should not be surprised if other artists cover some of the songs. Kevin McKendree's production, in addition to his keyboards, is another factor resulting in a first-class recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Lloyd Jones in performance.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Joe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys

When I first put on Joe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys (Adamo ADS 9507) I received a jolt. The opening "Mr. Downchild" and "Muddy Water's "Sad Letter" (a great version) had all the power of Muddy's great recordings from the early fifties . Wilkins was Robert Lockwood's successor as Sonny Boy Williamson's accompanist on the famed King Biscuit Time radio  program.

This album is his first lengthy exposure on wax and if there are occasional bum notes from the assorted accompanists don't let that deter you. Also, much of this album is from a live performance and if the sound isn't perfect, the music is funky and downhome. A truly great record of blues that anyone into Muddy, the Wolf or others will dig. My choice for album of the month.

I received a review copy from a record distributor. This LP had limited release and is extremely rare. I do not believe it was ever reissued. The review originally appeared in the June 1978 Buffalo Jazz Report (Issue 52). I am not aware of many other reviews of this recording. Here is "Mr. Downchild" from this album.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Sam Joyner When U Need a Friend

Sam Joyner
When U Need a Friend

Keyboardist-singer-songwriter Sam Joyner was born and raised in Chicago but is based in New Orleans, where his regular gigs include Spirits on Bourbon and Teddy’s Juke Joint. The latter club is in Zachary, Louisiana. On this session, he is backed by Benny Turner on bass; Jellybean on drums: Lil Ray Neal, Marc Stone, and Harry Sterling on guitar; and others.

The performances include the soul-blues of “Must Be Jelly” (not the William Clarke song), and the raucous Chicago blues shuffle, “Goin’ to Chicago.” Joyner is a robust, slightly sandpaper-toned singer who sounds at home in a variety of blues styles. His passionate singing on “Hard 4 Your Money,” is complemented by Lil Ray Neal’s B.B. King-styled fretwork. The semi-autobiographical “Them Bluez” is a showcase for some piano as well as his determined singing. Lil Ray Neal returns on a superb atmospheric slow blues, “Breakin’ Up Our Happy Home,” with a heartfelt vocal, a down-in-the-alley piano solo, and a “Long Distance Call" part spoken-part sung closing segment.

Other tracks of note include another solid shuffle is “Natural Born Luvah,” and “Onions Ain’t the Only Thing” with the cheesy keyboards. Marc Stone adds slide guitar on the title track that closes this CD. Sam Joyner certainly captures the listener’s attention with the authority and conviction he sings with. I wish the liner notes gave a bit more information about Sam’s career and provided information on who played on what songs. The music does speak for itself, however, and does so very impressively.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Sam Joyner performing at the 2017 International Blues Challenge Finals.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Take 5 With Sonny Rollins

This week on Take 5 we present a short playlist of the great Sonny Rollins who recently turned 90 years old. Belated Happy Birthday to the Saxophone Colossus.

First up is one of Sonny Rollins first recordings as a sideman with Bud Powell, "Bouncing With Bud."

Next up is Sonny as part of Miles Davis' group playing, "But Not For Me."

Perhaps Sonny's most famous album is Saxophone Colossus with so several iconic performances. One of these was "Blue 7," which was subject to a famous analysis of Rollins' improvisation.

This album also contained one of Sonny's most famous calypso inspired numbers, "St. Thomas." Another famous calypso was "Don't Stop the Carnival." Here is his original recording with Jim Hall on guitar.

We close this short playlist with his rendition of "Without a Song," from his 9/11 concert.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Sugar Ray and the BlueTones featuring Little Charlie Too Far From the Bar

Sugar Ray and the BlueTones featuring Little Charlie
Too Far From the Bar
Severn Records

The new Sugar Ray and the BlueTones album is a corker of a recording. The regular cast of Anthony Geraci on piano, Michael 'Mudcat' Ward on bass, and Neil Gouvin on drums support Ray Norcia's vocals and harmonica. Handling the guitar on this recording is (Little) Charlie Baty playing on some of his last recordings. Duke Robillard, who produced this recording, adds his guitar to four songs. This stellar band is heard on nine originals from Norcia, Ward, or Geraci along with six covers of songs that have not become hackneyed from being over-recorded.

Norcia is superb, whether singing with his warm natural baritone or laying down swooping horn licks on the harmonica while the backing is stunning. Norcia's vocals flow naturally with a relaxed, mellow flow suggestive of Junior Parker and Fenton Robinson. His harp playing can rock like a Big Jay McNeely sax solo or warble like Sonny Boy Williamson. Baty's guitar sings whether comping, adding subtle comments to the vocal, or a sizzling solo. Robillard is more in a jazzy single note o his selections while Geraci is at the top of the game, at times channeling Otis Spann and elsewhere laying down his accompaniment with a jazz-tinged sophistication. The supple rhythm from Ward and Gouvin completes this sublime music.

The recording opens with a spirited reworking of The Five Royales "Don't Give No More Than You Can Take," with Norcia's ripping horn-like solo and Baty's explosive playing. It is followed by a first-rate rendering of John Lee Williamson's "Bluebird Blues" with Geraci superb while Norcia's harp evokes Rice Miller. There is plenty of humor in several songs, including the title song. It is about folks who go to a restaurant or bar and wondering when they will get served. After a swamp-pop flavored "Too Little Too Late," Norcia showcases his virtuosity on the energetic instrumental "Reel Burner." His playing on it is more James Cotton than Little Walter here. An excellent cover of Little Walter's "Can't Hold Out Much Longer," follows. One of the most original lyrics here is "Numb and Dumb" about a woman that has Norcia under her thumb as he wonders who she is taking home.

There is a somewhat frantic feel to "My Next Door Neighbor," with Baty blasting off with rockabilly-laced solo, although Norcia's vocal lacks the relaxed quality due to the frenzied tempo. On the cover of Otis Spann's "What Will Become of Me," Geraci is outstanding as channeling the legendary blues pianist behind Norcia's heartfelt singing. Robillard adds his touch to the jazzy feel of "What I Put You Through," as well as the standard, "I Got a Right To Sing the Blues." Another selection that Robillard is present on is Mudcat Ward's "The Night I Got Pulled Over." It is a talking blues with Norcia providing the narrative of a traffic stop without a reason because he fit a profile.

An alternate take of "Reel Burner" closes this album. That song title is an allusion to what Duke Robillard observed that the band was so hot that they even set a multi-track tape machine on fire. As hot as some of the performances are, others bring out different qualities and moods. Whatever the tempo or feeling, "Too Far From the Bar" is simply a stellar blues recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. (This CD is being released on September 18). Here is a video from 2019 of Sugar ray and the BlueTones with Little Charlie and Duke Robillard.