Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bob Stroger Is Back in Town

Veteran bass player Bob Stroger is one of the steadiest and most solid players on the blues circuit having graced countless sessions with his rock-solid approach. Saxophonist Sam Burckhardt’s association with Stroger dates back to the 13 years they spent together in Sunnyland Slim’s Band and later the two with guitarist Steve Freund and the late drummer/vocalist Robert Covington as The Big Four. Burckhardt has brought in Freund, keyboard whiz Kenny Barker, drummer Kenny Smith and legendary Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith on harp for one track for a nicely produced session of blues, Bob is Back in Town (Airway Records).

Stroger obviously has a fondness for Junior Parker as he handles Parker’s What Goes On in the Dark, and Stranded in St. Louis along with Tampa Red’s Don’t You Lie To Me (for some reason credited to Albert King), and Eddie Taylor’s Bad Boy. While Stroger is credited with a number of songs, the title track sounds like Lieber & Stoller’s Ruby, Ruby (even with a backing vocal chanting softly “Ruby, Ruby,” while I’m a Busy Man employs a swamp blues rhythm in the manner of Slim Harpo, although not with the macho lyrics. Blind Man Blues has a melody similar to Albert King’s Pretty Woman, and opens with a searing guitar solo from Freund before Stroger starts his soft-spoken vocal. I Got to Move is a slowed down rendition of the traditional blues associated with Fred McDowell, but probably Stroger picked it up from Elmore James, and Burckhardt adds some nice tenor behind the vocal. Freund adds guitar fills along with a jazzy solo which anticipates the easy going swing of Jazz Man Blues with its line “Jazz ain’t nothing but a bluesman blowing his home.” Indigo Bunting is a tasty instrumental from Burckhardt.

This is a wonderfully played album, with Burckhardt contributing atmospheric arrangements. Stroger is a lowkey, amiable singer although somewhat anonymous( and not commanding) singer. This is not surprising given his long tenure as a sideman as part of many first-rate bands, which include the marvelous aggregation here, which makes this an engaging and easy to listen to disc, though not an essential one.

I want to add that yesterday (December 27, 2010) was Bob's 80th Birthday.  If I had known that earlier, I would have posted yesterday.

This review appeared in the June 2007 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 294) and the publication was likely the source of my review copy.

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