This writer had the pleasure of seeing violinist Christian Howes perform at the DC Jazz Festival performance as he was part of pianist Marian Petrescu’s band in a tribute to Oscar Peterson. He dazzled with his technique but his music was playful, thoughtful and passionate. His new recording on Resonance Records is “Out of the Blue” and is with a group including Robben Ford. Besides Ford, other players on this album include pianist Tamir Henderson, organist Bobby Floyd, bassists Ric Fierabrazzi (electric) and Kevin Axt (acoustic) and vocalist Sharon Hendrix.
Chick Corea’s “Fingerprints,” a take on Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,”is first up with its exhilarating violin from the leader followed lively solos from Henderson, Axt and then Ford with the tempo taken down. Often labelled a blues-rock guitarist, Ford is quite home in this jazz setting and eschewing some of the more rock-oriented elements of his playing. His playing adds a nice contrast to Howe’s rich, flowing tone. The Fats Domino classic “I’m Walkin’,” is taken at a crisp gait as Howe lovingly embellishes the melody with his marvelous playing. Howes rendition of Horace Silver’s “Cape Verdean Blues,” swings under his twisting, driving violin lines, while “Gumbo Klomp,” is a light second-line finger-snapper with both keyboards present and Ford’s slightly crackling tone adding to the festive feel. Howe’s opening playing on the title track evokes to these ears old-timey music before his moody solo followed by some crisp staccato playing from Ford that contrasts with Howes’ moody playing.
Sharon Hendrix handles the vocal on the R&B flavored “Seek and Ye Shall Find,” with some really nice organ from one-time Ray Charles organist, Floyd and Ford shines here as well before his playing is the counterpoint for Howes vocalized playing. “Bobby’s Bad,” is a lively Howes original that is built on a memorable funky riff and dedicated to Floyd, his one time mentor. Carla Bley’s “Sing Me Softly of the Blues,” is a marvelous performance with both Howes and Ford (arguably the best of his superb playing on this) hinting at “C.C. Rider” in their statements here. Ford is not on the the hot pepper tempo rendition of Ornette Coleman’s “When Will the Blues Leave,” with Howes working off Henderson here along with solos from Axt and Rosenblatt. The disc closes with Booby Floyd on piano opening a delightful duet with Howes on the classic “Sweet Lorraine.”
“Out of the Blue” is a delightful album that with its bluesy foundation is both substantial and accessible. Howes swings and plays thoughtfully, mixes in some humor yet never loses his feeling on this very appealing recording.
This review has appeared in the September 2010 Jazz & Blues Report. The review copy was provided by either Resonance Records or a publicist for the release.