Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sheba Butter On My Rolls

Mississippi born Sheba Beck has travelled many miles (literally and figuratively) since leaving the life in a Mississippi sharecropper’s family as a youngster. Growing up in Florida music became her calling as she play din various types of groups ranging from rhythm and blues and jazz to the blues she sings today. She has endured hardships, and abusive relationships, but her experiences provide a foundation for the music heard on her recent self-produced recording Butter on My Rolls. Sheba is backed by George ‘Chocolate’ Perry on synthesized strings, bass, drums and synthesized horns; Michael ‘The Dog’ Gauthier on keyboards, synthesized strings and synthesized horns, Walter ‘Roach’ Thompson on guitar; and Chuck Juntzman on slide guitar. While this writer isn’t a fan of synthesized horns and strings, they are functional and provide musical color. The backing fortunately is from real musicians as opposed to drum machines.

While some songs may sound generic, and the backing sometimes gets frantic (the boogie woogie shuffle Oh So Good taken at too fast a tempo), Sheba is a wonderful, soulful singer who caresses her lyrics while belting out a line or two for emphasis. She never sounds strident, and is compelling on slow blues (Real Good Woman who wonders about all those no good men) or soulful ballads (Can’t Help Lovin’ My Man and Don’t Say Goodbye). She gets down and bawdy celebrating her  well-packaged Big Man, telling other women to find their own good big man. She shows her presence on the rocking funky Pourin’ Rain, but the album's finest gem is the talking blues Blues of My Soul, with slide guitar backing where she recalls growing up in Mississippi and her mother taking her to Florida. She is a marvelous storyteller. She follows it with the title track, a song suggestive on some of the vaudeville blues of the twenties but with a lyric of today.

There may not be anything fancy about Sheba or Butter on My Rolls, but her vocals and songs ring true and full of heart. If the backing is mostly functional, there is nothing wrong with that when one is supporting a singer with the character Sheba manifests throughout.

I received my review copy from a publicist.  Here is a video to promote this recording.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jon De Fiore's Yellow Petals

Drummer-composer Jon De Fiore leads his piano trio of bassist Adrian Moring and pianist Billy Test on a new recording, Yellow Petals (Third Freedom Music). The three have been playing together for four years resulting in the cohesiveness and empathy exhibited in playing De Fiore’s compositions that covers a range of settings and musical inspirations ranging from adaptation of a work by Chopin, to the musics of Spain and South Africa.

One can hear a definite influence of Bill Evans in the general tone of De Fiore’s trio with being a fluid, lyrical player while bassist Moring provides the axis for the trio’s interactions with De Foire himself quite a rhythmic colorist. The opening Demise, adapted from a Chopin prelude, provides little clue to its classical origins in the trio's inventive performance. The second composition Live For Tomorrow, Forget Today, is built upon a ostinato bass motif and De Foire’s shimmering cymbal work with some free,almost anarchic, piano from Test, along with dynamic drumming from the leader.

The music of Spain is the inspiration of Orange that opens with the leader’s intricate stick work that helps set the mood for Moring’s opening solo over the leader’s spare playing before fireworks in De Fiore’s solo and then Test. The spirited InKleined, is inspired by the Argentinean pianist and composer, Guillermo Klein,  who is a major influence on De Fiore. This performance exhibits the marvelous interplay between the three. Moring’s walking bass drives the spirited Where Does The Wind Blow, with Test generating plenty of heat as well.

The closing Yellow Petals, written in memory to De Fiore’s mother, is a moving and evocative performance which opens with spare solo piano before De Fiore and Moring join in with their own muted accompaniment and solo. It is a fitting end to a high-spirited, engaging piano trio recording

I received my review copy from a publicist.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Taking the Blues Time Machine Back to January 1977

This is my blues column from the January 1977 Buffalo Jazz Report which had Lee Konitz on the cover. The column had my review of the best blues releases of 1976, and there were not nearly as many back then as today so it was a bit more manageable as well as hoping for more live blues to actually be brought to Buffalo. There would be no column for February issue as the Blizzard of 1977 would paralyze the city around the time the issue came out. I have noted the first 58 issues of Buffalo Jazz Report (now Jazz & Blues Report) have been digitized and can be downloaded from the University of Buffalo Library system. The website for these archived issues is: Note that the Living Blues mailing address has not been valid for many years, and the vinyl LPS I mention are no longer in print (with the exception of Sweet Blood Call as an expanded CD).

For this column I'd like to first go over what I consider the best blues albums of 1976. The best was perhaps Robert Jr. Lockwood and the Aces, Blues Live in Japan (Advent 2807) featuring Lockwood's stunning jazz-blues guitar and enthusiastic readings of blues standards. Mr. Johnson's Blues (Mamlish 3807) is the first American lp devoted to reissuing the classic and innovating work of Lonnie Johnson whose place in blues and jazz history is underappreciated. The best album by a previously unrecorded artist is Good Rockin' Charles (Mr. Blues MB 7601). This a fine set of Chicago blues with relaxed yet gritty singing and harp from Charles.

Honorable mentions for outstanding albums go to the two Joe Turner albums Nobody in Mind and In the Evenin' (Pablo). Otis Rush Cold Day in Hell (Delmark), When Women Sang the Blues (Blues Classics), Windy City Blues:The Transition and Detroit Ghetto Blues (Nighthawk), and Louisiana Red Sweet Blood Call (Blue Labor). As can be seen most of the finest al-bums were on small collectors labels (the major exception being the Joe Turners on Pablo). The big names in blues turned out either disco blues, Albert King with a pleasant album on Utopia, empty endless boogie, the Iive James Cotton album, or a Iive jam which never really ignited (B.B. King and Bqbby Bland). The small labels can turn out more interesting music perhaps because they don't expect to sell a gold album and don't compromise the music for sales. And the blues can progress as Jimmy Dawkins' has proved without losing its identity in a disco or funk setting.

1977 could be a year of some very fine recordings. Alligator records promises a Son Seals album, Delmark has re-issues of early Junior Wells among others ready, RCA's Utopia subsidiary has a Clifton Chenier in the can, Trix has Robert Jr.· Lockwood playing twelve-string coming soon and hopefully much more. Of course I will let you know what is available, and what it sounds like. 

Other items of interest. Living Blues continues to be a source of interesting informative articles, reviews and interviews. The Record Runner carries current issues and a years subscription (6 issues) costs $4.00 sent to Living Blues Publications, 2615 N. Wilton Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60614. 

It is possible that live blues may soon be coming to Buffalo in a format similar to the Tralfjazz series with perhaps comparable prices (depending on the act). for the entire night, etc. I would be curious about reader any indication of support for this before it is undertaken is important. Artists being contemplated include Robert Jr. Lockwood, Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon, Otis Rush, JohnnyShinesand others. Please write me in care of the BJR with your comments and suggestions. There has been Iittle Iive blues brought to Buffalo in the past few years and such places where blues was typically booked, an example being the Coffeenouse series at UB, haven't had blues in a year and a half. Imagine a series on American folk music which ignored the most basic American folk music. Blues can be brought and brought in an imaginative fashion. WBFO's David Benders, when head of the Coffeehouse, brought in not only folk blues but also a working Chicago Band, Son Seals, who played in the Rathskellar. It is to be hoped that the Coffeehouse committee at UB shows more imagination this year (1977) than in the past year and a half and brings blues both as pari of the Coffeehouse Circuit and as more than token representatives at the folk festival. I am willing to assist any organization that brings live blues to Buffalo and can be reached at either WBFO or the BJR. (David Benders incidentally hosts. Codfish Every Friday on WBFO at 10 PM to 11 PM which has blues featured about once a month.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Terry Hanck Gotta Bring It On Home To You

Saxophonist and vocalist Terry Hanck has a rhythm and blues party on his new Delta Groove release, “Gotta Bring It On Home To You.” The CD is by The Terry Hanck Band and Friends which has Hanck and his band of guitarist Johnny ‘Cat’ Soubrand, bassist Tim Wager and drummer Butch Cousins joined by friends guitarist (and producer) Chris ‘Kid Andersen; guitarist Debbie Davies; keyboardist Jim Pugh; Baritone saxophonist Doug James; pianist Bob Welsh; organist Lorenzo Farrell and background vocalists Lisa Leu Andersen and Dennis Dove.

Bringing his vocals with a touch a grizzle and his mix of King Curtis yackety-yak with Junior Walker honking, Hanck and his friends bring together a lively part of rocking R&B on Elvin Bishop’s Right Now Is The Hour evoked Hank Ballard; the straight blues Peace of Mind with Soubrand sounding like a cross between Magic Sam and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson; the swamp pop flavored My Last Teardrop, although the performance shifts midway into a West Coast R&B rocker; the King Curtis influenced organ sax groove of T’s Groove; and the  straight cover of Tommy Ridgely’s classic instrumental Jam Up.

There are plenty of production touches such as the cheesy fafisa organ used on Pins and Needles that lends it a Tex-Mex flavor. Hanck’s band is excellent and the guests all acquit themselves quite well. Also, production and recording is excellent, as expected with Delta Groove. Gotta Bring It On Home To You is another fine CD from Hanck.

I received my review copy from Delta Groove. Here is a video of the Terry Hanck Band with some booting sax to kick things off.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

21st Tinner Hill Blues Festival -June 13-June 15

Teeny Tucker and Robert Hughes at 2009 DC Blues Festival.
Falls Church, Virginia hosts a weekend of Blues, Brew and BBQ with the 21st Tinner Hill Blues Festival which runs Friday June 13th through Sunday June 15. The Festival, which is a tribute to the late Northern Virginia Blues Legend John Jackson, will feature the blues talents of Shemekia Copeland, Teeny Tucker, Mississippi Heat and Ursula Ricks as well as area favorites Tom Principato and Cathy Ponton King. The Tinner Hill Blues Festival is produced by The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation which celebrates the legacy of the first rural Virginia NAACP chapter that was founded in 1915, which they will be celebrating the centennial in January 2015.

Friday, June 13th the Festival opens with Shemekia Copeland at The State Theatre, 222 N. 33 1/3” on Telarc which Howard Reich of The Chicago Tribune called “a gripping, stripped-to-basics release that reaffirms her position as one of the great hopes for the art form.”
Shemekia Copeland at 2009 Pocono Blues Festival
Washington Street in Falls Church. Shemekia Copeland is the daughter of Texas legend Johnny Clyde Copeland and began singing with her father while a teenager. After her father passed away, she started performing on her own and signed with the Alligator label with whom she had several award winning recordings before signing with her current label Telarc. Shemekia is a two-time Grammy nominee, multiple Handy Award-Blues Music Award honoree, winner of several Living Blues Critics and Readers Awards for Outstanding Female Blues Vocalist as well as DownBeat Award Winner for Rising Star Blues Artist. At the 2011 Chicago Blues Festival, In addition, the city of Chicago, state of Illinois, and Joyce “Cookie” Threatt, daughter of Koko Taylor, surprised Shemekia onstage with her mother’s tiara, and crowned her “The new Queen of the Blues” at the Chicago Blues Festival. Her most recent album is “

Opening for Shemekia will be Sol Roots. Sol Roots is a fine guitarist (actually multi-instrumentalist and singer that creates a blend of energetic rock, raw blues, reggae, and funk, all delivered with deep soul. Sol, who regularly plays at such venues as The Hamilton Live and JVs, has toured with many roots, funk, and blues legends around the world as a part of Music Maker Revue (and accompanied Beverly Watkins and Albert White at the 2013 Tinner Hill Blues Festival).

Saturday, June 13, the Festival moves to Cherry Hill Park on Park Avenue in Falls Church. In the morning, there will be acoustic blues played at the weekly Farmer’s Market held in the Falls Church City Hall Parking lot. There will be other events held including a panel discussion TBA before the main program begins at Cherry Hill Park.

This year’s Saturday line-up is headlined by Teeny Tucker. Teeny is the daughter of Tommy Tucker, best known for one of the great blues standards, High Heel Sneakers. Teeny has developed into a singer of great power and nuance whose performances include her salutes to some of the great blues women of the past and choice originals. Her powerful singing will conjure up memories of such legends as Lavern Baker, Big Mama Thornton and Koko Taylor. In fact, her rendition of Koko’s Voodoo Woman opens her new album Voodoo To Do You. Teeny’s band is led by an outstanding guitarist Robert Hughes, who in addition to being a terrific musician and collaborator with teeny, is an outstanding photographer who was recently named Ohio Professional Photographer of the Year. About her album Keep The Blues Alive, I wrote that the album “will certainly build Teeny’s audience. There is some exceptional material on this and Teeny is fabulous.”

Mississippi Heat is a band that is led by harmonica player Pierre Lacocque who also contributes most of the new material. Mississippi Heat has always been a band that has focused on an ensemble sound and supporting its singers and for over two decades been playing strong Chicago blues. Lacocque himself plays in the Little Walter tradition. The band has a marvelous vocalist, Inetta Visor who has been with the group since 2001. Her powerful, Etta James-like voice on Footprints On The Ceiling, Glad You're Mine, and One Eye Open are always highlights of the performances. Other members of the band include guitarist Michael Dotson, bassist Brian Quinn and crummy Kenny “Beedy Eyes’ Smith. Kenny Smith, like Shemekia Copeland and Teeny Tucker, is a child of a legendary blues artist, in this car the long-time drummer with Muddy Waters, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith. Of the Mississippi Heat’s last Delmark recording Delta Bound, I wrote “One continues to get impressed by Mississippi Heat. Pierre Lacocque continues to write interesting and varied new blues songs which are rooted in the blues and not blues-rock. Match the material with the tight backing, strong solos and excellent vocals and he continues to bring us after 20 years first-rate and fresh-sounding, new blues.”

Baltimore’s Ursula Ricks has been a presence on the Baltimore and Washington blues scenes for a couple decades, Ursula Ricks certainly sounds poised to break out to the National music scene and her recent recording My Street (Severn Records) displays another singer of considerable maturity. She is a powerful singer, whose smoky and husky vocals are outstanding. Her controlled, unforced delivery stands out in a manner akin to Nina Simone. She never bellows, screams or sounds constipated. Rather she evokes classic sixties soul recordings by the like of Carol Fran or Betty Everett. About My Street, I wrote “The songs and her vocals ring with conviction and the backing is excellent on a superb recording that will hopefully enable Ms. Ricks to receive the recognition and rewards her talent and music deserves.” I am not the only person to notice this as she will be appearing at the Pennsylvania Blues Festival as well.
Tom Principato

Other performers on Saturday include Baatin, Tom Principato and Cathy Ponton King. Tom Principato is one of the most celebrated, blues and roots performers in the Washington DC area. An able singer, he is a fabulous guitarist rooted in blues but who incorporates rockabilly, swing jazz and country boogie into an irresistible sound. One of the few guitarists who could spar with the late Danny Gatton, Principato always puts on some energetic performances. watching him perform, one will understand why he is in demand in Europe. Of a recent recording A Part of Me, I wrote that it “is a typically strong album by Tom Principato with a varied collection of material, superbly and imaginatively performed and sung straight from Tom’s heart.” Cathy Ponton King is another local favorite who brings plenty of warmth with her heartfelt vocals and guitar playing. She always has a terrific band and you never know whether saxophonist Ron Holloway or pianist Daryl Davis might show up to play with her this day.

I will be updating this blog post with more information as it becomes available on the Festival including the Sunday, June 15th, Blues Brunch. For more information on this year’s festival, check out

All photos in this blog entry © Ron Weinstock. Here is a video of Ursula Rick.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bob Corritore's Taboo Harp Feast

Bob Corritore has a new album of blues harmonica instrumentals, Taboo on Delta Groove. Corritore, a Chicago native who moved to the Phoenix area in the 1980s, has been a significant figure in the blues world as a radio host (his excellent “Those Lowdown Blues” on KJZZ on Sunday evenings), a recording producer, a promoter who created a thriving blues scene in Phoenix and a superb harmonica player.

Corritore has lent his considerable talents to terrific recordings by such folks as Henry Grey, Dave Riley, Louisiana Red, Big Pete Pearson and John Primer. He has had several albums under his own name, but these have often been compilations mostly of his work with a variety of blues performers. Taboo is an album of 12 blues instrumentals that feature Corritore’s swinging and fat toned harp playing backed by a crackerjack combo of guitars Junior Watson, keyboardist Fred Kaplan, bassist Kedar Roy and drummer Richard Innes. Two of the twelve selections have guitarist Jimmy Vaughan and organist Papa John DeFrancesco on which saxophonist Doug James also plays (he plays on one other number.

On the album cover, Charlie Musselwhite observes” Not many people can do an all instrumental harp CD and keep it interesting all the way through.” Having some dream backing musicians certainly helps as does a nice array of grooves and feels. Corritore is a player not simply possessing a big harp tone, but also one who displays a nuanced phrasing and a strong sense of swing that is heard on the somewhat exotic sounding title track as well as the driving Harp Blast, a hot shuffle in the vein of Little Walter, while another harp feature, Ruckus Rhythm evoked the brilliance of the late Jerry McCain’s classic Steady. Fabuloco (For Kid) is a nice salute to Kid Ramos with a Tex-Mex groove.”

Mr. Tate’s Advice is one of the two selections with organist DeFrancesco and Vaughan but Corritore’s unison playing with saxophonist James is also noteworthy on this jazzy performance. His unamplified chromatic playing on Fifth Position Plea contrasts with the fat atmospheric amplified sound on Many a Devil’s Night that would make Little Walker and George ‘Harmonica’ Smith proud. There is more outstanding chromatic on another Little Walter inspired instrumental, Bob’s Late Hours. On all three selections, Watson’s guitar is the perfect foil for the leader.

The terrific rhythm section provides such backing throughout while keeping the groove at a nice, relaxed tempo. Taboo is a marvelously performed, recorded and programmed CD of blues harmonica instrumentals. To paraphrase Charlie Musselwhite, it is a dandy of a CD.

I received my review copy from Delta Groove. Here Bob Corritore is seen with Bob Margolin at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sly5thAve's Marvelous Akuma

Akuma (Truth Revolution Records) is the debut recording of Sly5thAve (aka Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka II). The release of Akuma comes as the Nigerian born, New York- based saxophonist came off a national tour with Prince. Based in New York, Akuma represents an effort the synthesize his Nigerian roots with jazz, soul and global music for an impressive debut displaying considerable maturity in his compositions, arrangements and his playing.

The core band includes Sly5thAve (Sax); Ross Pederson (Drums); Daniel Foose (Bass); Hajime Yoshida (Electric Guitar); Keita Ogawa (Percussion); and Jay Jennings (Trumpet). Appearing on various selections include Brad Williams (Acoustic Guitar and producer of the recording); Cory Henry (of Snarky Puppy on Piano and Wurlitzer) Phil Lassiter (Trumpet); John Leadbetter (Flute), Zach Brock (Violin), Denitia Odigie (voice).

The performances of Sly5thAve’s compositions bring together a memorable melodic lines, charged rhythm sections, intriguing horn voicing, thoughtful, often energetic solos throughout and a marvelous display of dynamics throughout. The opening three part Suite For Ogbuefi includes a wonderful solo from guitarist Yoshida the builds in intensity before the leader teaks over with some forceful playing that takes the performance up a notch. With Henry’s marvelous playing on the Wurlitzer, and Foose a solid anchor one can appreciate the imaginative coloring that Pederson adds here.

The title track displays some of the leader’s African roots in its theme and the rhythmic core of it. Leadbetter’s flute is added for musical coloring while Jennings takes the initial solo with some bright, interesting playing that suggests a definite familiarity with the likes of Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard. “Bach” opens with the leader playing unaccompanied before the ensemble enters playing very lightly under Brock’s hot, soaring violin that segues into a nice trumpet. Security has a lively, danceable groove and a strong piano solo. Deme features lovely voice and showcases Yoshida’s fleet playing.

Road to Abuja is a percussive introduction to Abuja with its its mix of propulsive percussive rhythms, and unison horn passages to frame the solos by Yoshida’s single note playing; and conversational, explosive, interplay between Sly5thAve and Jennings. It is an understatement to say Akuma is an auspicious debut given the strong and memorable playing that will leave a strong impression on listeners. It is a marvelous and very contemporary recording.

I received my copy from a publicist. Here is a video trailer for this release.