Monday, February 28, 2011
The afore-mentioned band is a solid grouping that serves its accompanying role well and its members take some concise and thoughtful solos. The band arrangements are decent but the horn riffs are somewhat generic, while the solos show more imagination and flair. Sweet Claudette is a singer with a deep, understated delivery. Although she is not a shouter, she can belt a lyric out. There is a nice variation of material sung and played consistently at relaxed tempos. She can celebrate her man in the opening Best Damn Loving, while complain about her man who has Too Many Irons, in the pot and can’t stay true.
Glazer adds slide guitar to help give atmosphere to her lyric directed against a cheating man who she tells “honey hush, honey hush, honey hush” and Don’t Talk That Yak To Me, with Montgomery ripping off some tough tenor sax. This is followed by Love I See in Your Eyes, with a different lyrical sentiment and plenty of solo space for her band members. The CD cover notes that this was recorded “Live in the Studio,” which perhaps explains the length of some of the tracks. Despite the very nice playing (trumpeter Haralson is wonderful on Love I See in Your Eyes), a string of solos still diminishes the impact of a vocal when one is listening to a performance at home as opposed to seeing a group live. Shortening a couple of the lengthier performances would have provided the performances with more focus and a stronger impression. Its not that the performances are lacking, but as a recording they would have been stronger with some editing.
A couple of interpretations of well known blues conclude this recording. Ain’t Nobody’s Business, based on Albert King’s rendition, opens with some hot guitar before Sweet Claudette delivers her “Detroit Blues Power.” Meet Me is her reworking of the Cheatham’s Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On, with Glazer adding nice guitar. It ends an intriguing hour of blues with a slight touch of funk seasoning added.
My review copy was provided by the record label.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Satan’s Horn is a remastered and repackaged issue of an album originally released on Bohemia Music Organization, a small Los Angeles label. It won the Living Blues Critics Poll for best debut release and this writer was quite enthusiastic about it. Bailey is a Watts native who has played blues and jazz with Lowell Fulson and Jimmy McGriff, among others. Satan’s Horn is certainly an auspicious debut album. For those unfamiliar, a good reference point is of a street-wise Robert Cray, given similar instrumentation and a jazzy attack, although Bailey plays with a harder approach and his songs are structured in a more traditional blues vein. For example, Bad Times, Sad Times, is suggestive of B.B. King’s recording of The Thrill is Gone.
Bailey’s lyrical themes are a bit more earthy and urban centered than Cray’s. Rather than rueful observations of breaking up his motel liaison’s marriage, Bailey’s Saturday Night Special is a boast of his loving prowess. Other songs deal with crack addicted moms (Satan’s Horn refers to a crack pipe), hopelessness (on Cold to the Bone, where he plays acoustic guitar and the band plays sparingly behind him), and other street-level realities. All are originals, with the exception of solid treatment of Tampa Red’s Love Her With a Feeling (here credited to Lowell Fulson).
Bailey is a strong singer who has an unforced delivery and a tasty guitarist, and with this stunning debut now under the BMG distributed Zoo label, it will be easy to find and Ray Bailey will no longer simply be a figure that only some critics and a few other lucky aficionados have heard of. (With respect to this last sentence, remember this review was from 1995.)
Saturday, February 26, 2011
One thing that is evident quickly is how well they have absorbed the blues musical language and their playing sounds as natural as some of the best US Bands. Bukovskis may display a very slight accent in his vocals, but his phrasing flows naturally. There are some adaptations of some classic blues and R&B but most of this are their originals and these are strong, idiomatic performances. There are so many delights here starting with the opening rendition of Evil. There interpretation is a strutting, horn based rendition that sounds like more like Stax than Howlin’ Wolf’s original recording or versions based on that. A great vocal with the rhythm section laying down a strong groove and Robillard taking a crisp solo. Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand, sports a nice pleading vocal from Bukovskis as well as dobro playing from him on a nice interpretation of a Professor Longhair recording.
An original like Confused is a terrific shuffle with biting guitar from Bukovskis, while on Feel Like Cryin’, they take the tempo and volume down which lends a jazzier flavor to a sober lyric about “a part of me is dying.” They add a reggae groove to Wake Up, on which Kalnins takes the guitar solo. Let the Door Hit You, which I believe was by the late King Biscuit Boy, is a delightful rocking performance with Kalnins soloing again. There is a folky quality on 5 Minutes Too Late, a trio performance with Bukovskis on bass as well as vocal, Kalnins on guitar (and taking a really nice solo) and Saulietis on drums. Further indication of the variety on this recording is the excellent rendition of Rosco Gordon’s No More Doggin’, with nice interplay between Bukovskis slide guitar and Kalnins guitar and a rhythmic flavor suggestive of the music of the North Mississippi Hill Country.
There is a wonderful, natural sounding pace about these performances. When playing an uptempo number, the Latvian Blues Band never sound frenzied or rushed and similarly their is an appealing relaxed feel to their slower numbers. Having had no idea what to expect from them, this writer was floored by the quality of the music here. This was an unexpected delight and I suspect others will be similarly impressed.
My review copy was provided by the recording company.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
|Arguably the premiere jazz vocalist in the Washington DC area, Sharon Clark was not even nominated in the Jazz Vocalist category for the 2010 WAMMIES.|
Steve observes that “With the long-troubled Wammies, the artists who do not win or even get nominated are as important as those who do. WAMA leaders have said they sometimes consult "experts" to fill out the nominations slots, and in recent years they have, indeed, reached out to Washington City Paper writers (including me). But they've then largely ignored those suggestions.”
To illustrate Steve’s point I note that neither Bobby Parker (for blues) nor Sharon Clark (for Jazz vocalists) were even nominated. I could easily provide other names Steve also mentions categories of music and musicians that are ignored by the Wammie nomination process. Steve observes “While those artists have received media and public attention here and elsewhere, the dues-paying, voting members of WAMA are apparently not interested or aware of them.”
I might suggest that some of the nominations and results reflects folks voting for friends as opposed to having familiarity with a category of music and voting for folks who might deserve their vote. WAMA members solicit nominations and votes from other members and the results reflect that. It might be suggested that WAMA consider changing voting procedures so folks actually know something about categories that they vote in and the nominees in that category. Maybe limit categories any one person can vote in.
I also share Steve’s observation that the WAMA Board has again passed on honoring some of the old school soul and blues legends while giving themselves an old boys club, self-congratulatory special citation. Maybe someone from WAMA can explain, why none of these following are in the WAMA Hall of Fame: Bobby Parker, Sonny Warner, Lloyd Price, Bill Boskent, Ronnie Wells, and Little Royal are not in the WAMA Hall of Fame. Francis Scott Key, who is not from DC, is.
I really wish I could actually say something positive about the Wammies and WAMA but they make it really difficult to. Maybe when those running WAMA realize that Evans Grille in Forestville was at least as important as the Alexandria Roller Rink, you will show you get it and make yourself relevant to a portion of the great Washington area who view you as any but relevant.
Since I wrote the above, I realize I omitted Will Marion Cook from the list of folks who WAMA has yet to properly honor. Do yourselves a favor and do a Wikipedia search on this amazing person.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Listening to this CD, a number of reference points strike me. Custody of American Spirit, opens with Pope’s strong tenor contrasted with Allen’s electronic wind instrument followed by the Warren Smith’s employment use of percussion and what sounds like Indian chants and whoops backed by Lee Smith’s arco playing followed by Warren Smith’s timpani and the other drummers creating a wall of percussion as Pope and Allen, both on saxophones state the theme. Pope and Allen state the theme of Mwalimu with its African flavor followed by Lee Smith’s dueting with one (or more) of the drummers. The Binder conjures up some of the more intense free jazz of the sixties and seventies which evokes some of the recordings by Pharoah Sanders, Coltrane (particularly the latter recordings with Rashied Ali, including those which included Sanders and/or Donald Garrett). Allen follows with a furious solo with a fair amount of overblowing, screeches and honks set against the furious cacophony of the percussionists.
She Smiled Again is a more pensive composition with Pope’s ballad playing employing a slightly harsh vibrato with Lee Smith anchoring the performance while the drummers add their own accents here. Bassist Smith contributed the lively Go Figure, which is a lengthy bass feature with the drummers adding their comments. The Track by Allen has him on the electronic wind instrument contributing various electronic effects and sounds and engaging in a musical colloquy with Warren Smith on marimba and timpani. Allen’s playing here was interesting and suggests the possibility of electronics in the mix of usual wind instrument musical ideas with sounds one might associate more with, say, keyboard synthesizers. Blues opens with some driving percussion before the saxophones state the simple blues riff at the performance’s heart leading to fresh and robust blues playing by Pope (once again Lee Smith’s bass playing merits kudos) with some intense, fresh passages. A longer rendition of Custody of the American (Bullshit Version), concludes with Warren Smith’s wordless chanting supplemented by soft shouts of ‘Bullshit,” with more furious percussion by the trio of drummers.
There is powerful music here and when one considers that Pope is 72, Warren Smith is 76 and Marshall Allen is 86, one has to be astonished by the energy they impart into these performances. Obviously if one is not a fan of free jazz, this will not appeal to that individual. However, there is more on Universal Sounds than what might strike some as the frenzied cacophony during The Binder. Most of the performances more structured and providing for some fascinating, and thoughtful musical conversations. While admittedly this won’t be for everyone’s tastes, this is a most potent session.
I purchased this CD.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Mason’s new CD is Juke Joint Thunderbolt which sounds more in the vein of the Hill Country blues of North Mississippi mixed with a bit of Bukka White. The title is explained by the fact that a Juke Joint is an afro-caribe expression for a place or experience to have fun and dance and juke the trouble out of yourself while Thunderclap is when thunder and lightning are so close together that it seems that the thunder rolls away from you. In any event, the spirit of the title is present on the music here. Mason has an impressive group of guests including Cody and Cedric Burnside, grandsons of R.L. Burnside’ Lightnin’ Malcolm, Gary Hundt and others. The ensembles vary, but much of this has a trance-like vive characteristic of the Northern Mississippi Hills Country Blues. I find the playing a bit tighter and the rhythm less thrashing around than some other recent recordings in this vein.
The opening “My Old Lonesome Home” cranks out a hot, irresistible groove on a one-man band rig with Hundt wailing on harp as moans about the world getting better and we are getting older. Cedric Burnside is on drums for Gone So Long, as Mason makes use of repetition in his lyrics and his guitar accompaniment as he wonders has it been so long since you been gone while Cody Burnside adds a rap that is intertwined seamlessly with Mason’s lyrics and vocals. Its one of two tracks where Cody Burnside raps in among the most successful and natural integrations of the blues tradition and rap. More Than Wind, with Hundt on mandolin, has more of a folk-country flavor as Mason informs us “love don’t linger well up cool and fresh.” Riding On is the other song with Cody Burnside but in addition to Mason’s vocal and droning guitar, the accompaniment include Cedric Burnside on drums, Fara Tolno and Alya Sylla on djembe, Fasinet Bangoura on balafon, Hundt repeating a harp riff, Lightnin’ Malcolm adding searing guitar and Lionel Young playing crosscut saw fiddle creating a mesmerizing rhythm and making Mason’s vocal sound more compelling music.
Mason, using his one man band rig, provides a marvelous rendition of Rolled and Tumbled, with Hundt’s simple harp an effective foil for this slow-drag treatment of a pre-war blues standard. The philosophical lyric of Diamond Rain, is set to a folk country setting with Young adding some nice violin. Signifying Monkey, is taken from Oscar Brown’s recording of this bawdy number but is performed by Mason at a slow, dirge-like tempo with Lightnin’ Malcolm and Cedric Burnside helping instill the trance-like groove. Free moves back to a hill country stomp groove as Mason, as a one-man band, delivers his message of gonna fly because he is free and see what’s left of me with Fara Tolno’s djembe adding to the musical covering. Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm contribute to the exceptional rendition of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s Write Me a Few of Your Lines, with Mason adding his own effective harp along with the driving rhythm.
The closing Whisper is a solo guitar performance with Mason’s bluesy vocal matched by a spare, folky accompaniment that concludes this superb recording. In addition to the ten selections on cd, one can download two tracks on his website johnalexmason.com. a prologue track, Delta Bound and an Epilogue that is a rendition of Robert Johnson’s If You’ve Got a Good Friend.
The review copy was provided by a publicist.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
The play element is a little contrived to allow the musical contributions and fame of these four legendary vocalists to be paid tribute. Both Janine and Bonnie were wonderful in interpreting songs of their persons. Lavenia Nesmith did a wonderful job as Nancy Wilson, but Kristine Key may be a wonderful singer, but her vocal range was much broader than Lady Day and also her performance involved scatting, which is incongruous with Holiday as a vocalist. This was very entertaining.
Jimmy told stories about folks like John Coltrane and Clifford Brown as well as his brothers and much more. He discussed how he started to arrange and compose and gave insights into that process. Jimmy is such a personable person and Willard is a terrific interviewer so it was a memorable program. I look forward to reading it.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Others in this set included "God Bless the Child" with just Heath and the rhythm quartet, Blue MItchell's calypso "Funky Mama" before a nice relaxed groove for "Green Dolphin Street," with a short "On the Trail" to take the show off. The White Williams Quintet is a terrific band and I do not know if Lenny Robinson is a regular member but his tasteful playing helped drive this along along with bassist Jeff Harper and pianist Dale (?) Murphy.
Her set opened with a lively rendition of "Caravan" as other songs she sang included "September Song," a blues medley that kicked off with "Mama He Treats You Daughter Mean," and included "Everyday I Have the Blues, "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On," and "Hey Bob a Ree Bop," before a nod to Nancy Wilson on "Save Your LOve For Me," and then a rendition of "Fever" owing more to Peggy Lee than Little Willie John before closing with a moving treatment of Shirley Horn's "To Life."
A lovely and talented singer with a terrific trio backing her.
The opening Get Around To Me, is a lively number with tasteful, crisp jazzy-styled guitar and laconic vocal as well as some accordion that is overdubbed here. Sexy Little Cool, where he notes his girl has a way to move him and put a spell on him, sports effectively whining slide guitar as the tempo stays nice and relaxed. On Evening Train, about a lonely town where no one knows Phil’s name, has an insistent train-like rhythm and a nice twangy solo with imaginative single note runs while My Babe, isn’t the Willie Dixon song, but rather a song with a similar sentiment set with a driving funk groove, as he celebrates how she treats him right. Another easy funk groove underlies Everyday, a song with a message as we got to everyday keep making it better and not let things slow us down.
I’m Addicted is the track referenced by the CD’s title as he sings about Jonesin’ to play a tune. He takes the tempo down for You Should’ve Listened, about a woman too busy yapping and not enough listening. I Never Knew, is another light shuffle as he sings about things better after his woman has gone. Road Shufflin’ is an instrumental taken at a relaxed tempo.if a little leadenly played. The closing The Wisdom, has a spiritual tinge as he remembers those dear to him and the words they said as he still has them in his heart, with his drumming being a bit livelier here.
There are few surprises in the nature of material and the performances have a charm, but the overdubbing (including bass and drums) lends some of the material to possess a sameness that takes away from some of the music’s appeal. This is a shame, because Gates is a thoughtful player and vocalist with plenty to intrigue a listener. One senses that with proper production, Phil Gates can produce a superb, not simply a good, recording. This should be available from cdbaby.com.
A publicist sent me a review copy.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Sharpeville is literally a ‘blueblood’ who plays the blues having been born into one of the UK’s oldest, titled Aristocratic families, and his late father was Viscount St. Davids with him the “Heir Presumptive” to these family titles. A budding blues career was interrupted when his marriage collapsed and he suffered a nervous breakdown after being separated from his children, leading to a long court battle for contact to his children. His own experiences inform a number of the songs on "Porchlight" and their is a real authority in his vocals in part from singing about things so personal. He is a fiery guitarist characterized by a strong focus in the development of his solos and riffs behind his vocals.
The opening " If Love Was a Crime," has some fine harp from Kim Wilson to help with the tune’s atmosphere as a one-person horn section as he insistently sings the memorable line,”If love is a crime she’s got me doing time for sure.” The humor of the title for "Lousy Husband (But a Real Good Dad)," is a bittersweet lyric based on his experiences as he declares “He’s gonna lose his house, honey ain’t that the truth; So who thinks its fair to take them children too?,” and he trades solos and fours with Robilliard with Bruce Bears adding some rollicking piano here. The bleakness of mood is reflected in "Used," with his line of “The black hole in my heart’s been widening all my life,” set against an insistent riff as he lets go the demons of being used by the system and used by friends.
"Why Does It Rain," is a ballad where Sharpeville pleads that he is down on his knees with Doug James and Carl Querfurth among the solid horn section. He puts so much heart into his performances, but at the same time he is able to cleanly articulate his lyrics as well lay down a searing guitar solo. His mix of passion and precision stands out throughout the 13 tracks here. Toss in a biting bit of contempt towards Tony Blair and George Bush on "Can’t Stand the Crook," with its Ten Years After hyper-drive tempo and Wilson wailing on harp and Sharpeville taking a few scorching unaccompanied boogie riffs. A crisp second-line groove helps lend the more optimistic mood of "Everything Will Be Alright," with its message of times may be hard but in end everything will be alright.
Joe Louis Walker joins in " When The Blues Come Callin'", another lyric from one wizened by experience in romance as he tells her “You play me like a sucker woman, put on your waterworks; And make me change my mind …” with Walker adding biting stinging notes behind Sharpeville’s fervent singing and taking the first solo with the two trading choruses at the end. Shel Silverstein’s "If That Ain’t Love What Is?," is the one number Sharpeville did not pen with the caustic irony of its lyrics dealing with “if you’d rather be with him than me; than you’re a stupider bitch than I think you are …” Another interesting is his paean to the larger lady, as he wants a "Whole Lotta Lady," to keep Todd warm at night. The title track is a touching song showing the great love he had for his father.
“Porchlight” contains 15 strong performances that show Todd Sharpeville to be a significant talent. His music is thoughtful but full of emotion and producer Robilliard has surrounded him with strong backing resulting in a terrific recording full of personality and compelling performances.
A publicist provided the review copy of this.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
it is a fascinating collection of performances as soling cellos play against others riffing a bass melody line. Arrangements are often taken from solos on the original performances and the unusual setting makes the familiar sound new. Guitarist McLaughlin adds some of his exhilarating playing to the opening rendition of his “ Open Country Joy,” with the cello solos of Leanna Rutt and Haimovitz adding a celebratory tone. In thee notes, arranger sanford observes he tried to capture the flavor of the Birth of the Cool recordings in the arrangement of Miles Davis’ “Half Nelson.” with a lovely solo from the leader and some nice pizzicato playing by Dominic Painchaud. Sanford credits John Zorn’s punk-thrash recording of Ornette Coleman’s “W.R.U.” as the inspiration for a performance that has spirited polyphonic solos as well as crisp drums from Matt Wilson. The rendition of John Lewis’ “Blues in A Minor,” is a duet between the pizzicato playing of Haimovitz and Dominic Painchaud, both plainly precisely and clear articulation of their ideas.
“ Meeting of the Spirits” is another John McLaughlin number with Haimovitz recreating McLaughlin’s original solo, while Amaryllis Jarczyk recreates Jan Hammer’s solo on the original recording. Their solos sandwich a Fender Rhodes solo by guest Jarczyk while Wilson ‘s drums propel the performance. It is followed by Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count,” written from his hospital bed with Haimovitz attempting to recreate the inflections of Johnny Hodges alto saxophone to honor him here on a lovely, sober performance. An original by Haimovitz and Uccello is “Triptych,” inspired by the works of an artist friend as well as jazz pianists Vijay Iyer and Nik Bartsch, which comes across as somewhat melodramatic. A lighter tone is heard on a rendition of the Gershwin standard “Liza,” inspired by the Quintette of the Hot Club of France with Haimovitz’s pizzicato work evoking Django Reinhardt. followed by the arco playing of Leanna Rutt whose enlivening playing is a homage to Stephane Grappelli followed by spirited ensemble playing.
The final performance is of Charles Mingus’ “ Haitian Fight Song,” which scores Booker Ervin’s tenor saxophone and Jaki Byard’s piano solo,” and is another fascinating performance as they capture much of the spirit of the original performance despite the very distinct instrumentation. The performances convey a range of musical flavors and emotions. This is a change of pace for listeners well worth exploring.
A publicist for this release sent me a review copy for this release.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
This writer is not familiar with the prior release, but this opens up with a rocker, “ Honky Tonk Girl,” that one could easily see done as a country rocker, but he does provide a bluesier spin along with some energetic twisting twangy guitar that captures the spotlight along with his enthusiastic vocal. The appealing chicken-scratching instrumental “Booker Twine” has a funky groove might be a tribute to the classic Booker T and the MGs Stax recordings, while “That’s How Trouble Starts” is a driving number with credible singing, and some stunning guitar (sounds like he is playing lap steel guitar). Kudos to Herman Matthews’ lively guitar here.
Anderson adds some nice harmonica to the musical stew on the title track before showcasing his imaginative and spicy fretwork. “ Wes’ Side Blues,” is a lively, instrumental with an enticing latin flavor and punchy horns, while and “Dogbone Shuffle” (named after the Burbank, CA studio this was recorded at), is another intriguing instrumental. Two takes of “Still in Love,” are included with a low-key vocal by Anderson and a vocal Bekka Bramlett that takes one to church. On “110 in the Shade, Anderson eschews a band and provides nice country-blues styled guitar and accompaniment to his vocal. This new edition of the release also includes two live performances.
Anderson is an effective vocalist but his vocals are not his strength. Those who have heard his work with Yoakam and others will not be surprised by his tone, chops nor his musical imagination on a most entertaining disc.
A publicist for this release provided the review copy.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Originally uploaded by NoVARon
One of the biggest and most pleasant surprises at the 2011 Grammy Awards was Esperanza Spalding being the winner of the Best New Artist. Here she is seen at the 2009 Duke Ellington Jazz Festival (now the DC Jazz Festival), performing with Nicholas Payton. Spalding is an absolutely amazing bassist and vocalist as well as a composer and educator and her unexpected victory (over such pop acts as Drake and Justin Bieber) was warmly welcomed in jazz circles and those who love great music and musicians.
Sugaray is a big man and has an equally powerful voice. The church roots are clearly evident when he sings on a nice varied mix of material. He comes roaring on “ Nuthin’ I Wouldn’t Do (For A Woman Like You),” one of two songs Al Kooper contributed here. It features wailing harp, some blues-rocking guitar and a busy accompaniment that, however, doesn’t smother his personality. With Kavooras’ stark slide and use of tremolo guitar, Sugar renders a field holler moan on the rendition of a Blind Willie Johnson recording “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground,” a performance dedicated to his mother. Sugaray’s strong sing does justice to Son House’s “Death Letter” which opens simple hand clapping and tambourine behind Kavooras stark delta groove before the band kicks in and the guitarist rocks out a bit on his solo.
The title track, which Sugaray co-wrote, takes us from updated country blues to an uptown soul-blues with a funky groove, riffing horns, and a vocal that evokes Artie ‘Blues Boy’ White and the late Little Milton. Phil Parlapiano’s piano break adds to this tracks strong appeal. Some nice Albert King styled guitar opens the slow drag groove reworking of B.B. King’s “ You Upset Me Baby,” that again showcases his ability as a singer as provides a convincing low-key reading of the lyrics.
Al Kooper’s soulful ballad, “ I Let Love Slip Thru My Fingers,” provides an opportunity for him to show another side of his style with some nice saxophone from Jimmy Z. His rendition of a terrific Arthur Adams song, “You Can’t Win For Losing,” is another strong soul-blues performance that evokes classic Little Milton. A short gospel performance with just organ and vocal chorus, “I Got to Move,” is followed by the strong “I Sing The Blues,” about him being raised in the country and his whole life has been a struggle,” set against a moody horn arrangement as he really reaches deep in the gut for his vocal here. “Overnight Sensation” has a jazzy flavor with some nice clarinet from Geoff Nudell while Kavooras taking a more low-key approach here.
Sugaray Rayford impresses this listener more each time I play “ Blind Alley.” Not many singers can take us from the delta to the modern chitlin’ circuit as easily as he does. A big man with a big voice and plenty of personality that makes “Blind Alley” a recording to savor. His website is http://sugarayblues.com/ and this can be purchased at cdbaby.com. He impressed me enough that I am likely to check out the two discs by Aunt Kizzy’z Boyz that he was vocalist on.
Monday, February 14, 2011
You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down has big Joe backed by a version of the Dynaflows that is comprised by members of Delbert McClinton’s backing band led by keyboardist Kevin McKendree. Others include Bill Campbell on bass, Rob McNelly on guitar and the late Dennis Taylor on saxophones. If memory serves me correctly, McKendree and Maher go back to Powerhouse, Tom Principato’s DC area jump blues band he reformed in the early 1990’s and after Principato returned again to showcase his sizzling guitar playing, Maher formed the Dynaflows whose original line-up included the then still prodigic talent of McKendree. McKendree subsequently left to play with Leroy Parnell and now Delbert McClinton while in the past several years establishing himself as a producer of blues and roots recordings. The two are re-united here for this disc which they co-produced in Tennessee, and the band just cooks behind Joe’s strong vocals.
The title track opens with the rollicking title song with some strong piano with Maher declaring you can try what you want, but can’t keep him down as McNelly rips off a terrific guitar solo. A nice cover of B.B. King’s “Bad Case of Love,” is followed by Maher’s solid “Evangeline,” a reworked rendition of King Karl’s swamp pop classic “Irene,” with McNelly evoking Earl King-Guitar Slim in his solo as Taylor’s saxophones add to the performance’s mood. Atlanta shouter Billy Wright penned “Whatcha Gonna Do,” that is a jumping shuffle with Maher in fine form and McNelly standing out some more against Taylor’s riffing saxophones in the background. The bittersweet blue-ballad “Someday,” takes the temperature down with McKendree’s accompaniment standing out here.
Jay McShann’s classic “Confessin’ the Blues” benefits from its spirited tempo as Maher belts out the lyrics as McKendree pounds on the ivories while McNelly plays another tough solo. “Supercharger” is a rocking shuffle instrumental where Maher sets just the right tempo (as he does throughout) that provides more space for McNelly fluid and imaginative playing. “Nothing But Trouble,” is a fine late night, slow blues by Maher with McNelly evoking T-Bone Walker as Maher convinces us about the heartache and trouble he sees. After a cover of Jimmy McCracklin’s “I’m To Blame,” the disc closes with McKendree playing some strong boogie woogie piano to kick off “What the Hell Were You Thinkin’?” which he composed with Delbert McClinton and Tom Hambridge,” and he adds a solid boogie woogie piano for this lively conclusion to this strong release.
Maher sounds very strong throughout here, even a bit more youthful sounding as a singer than this writer recalls. McKendree has placed in the context of a terrific band that sounds like they all have been playing for years. The tempos are right, the groove is consistently in the pocket, and the material is strong leading to a fabulous recording of blues that may be the best that Maher has produced.
The review copy of this release was provided by a publicist.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
I have known of Rich DelGrosso as one of the more significant acoustic blues performers and teachers. With his late wife Maureen, I remember he performed at a DC Blues Society fund-raiser some two decades ago, later ending their performance with Howard Armstrong and Cephas and Wiggins jamming. Since then he has established himself as one of the contemporary masters of the blues mandolin. I have known Jonn Del Toro Richardson more recently through his wonder playing with the terrific Houston singer, Diunna Greenleaf. The two have paired on a new recording, “Time Slips On By” (Grove House).
With a solid rhythm section and the Texas Horns, this is a disc that showcases the two in a diverse program. DelGrosso opens with a gruff, gravelly vocal on the opening “ Baby Do Right, with his mandolin matched by Richardson’s strong guitar. The title track showcases Richardson, whose singing can suggest a member of Los Lobos. With the Texas Horns adding to the mood, Richardson takes a crackling solo. “Mandolin Man” is an ebullient Chicago blues shuffle with Sonny Boy Terry’s harmonica added. DelGrosso’s lyric celebrates here early blues mandolin players Charlie McCoy, Yank Rachell and Johnny Young. Nick Connolly pushes things along with driving piano. Richardson’s “Katalin,” with Joel Guzman adding accordion, slows things down on appealing celebration of the sweetest girl he knows.
On “Shotgun Blues,” inspired by the music of Yank Rachell, DelGrosso evokes Elvin Bishop. Here, Richardson’s sharp electric guitar is followed by some of DelGrosso’s nifty mandolin. “Hard To Live For” is the lengthiest performance here, opening with mandolin setting the atmosphere on a slow blues with a real strong vocal on a fine lyric. Richardson’s “Where’s Laura,” is an instrumental opening with Richardson’s use of an echoey treble and DelGrosso and trumpeter Al Gomez take concise solos.
“Summertime Is Here,” celebrating barbecue and seeing old friends, has Lopez again on accordion, and is another number conjuring up Los Lobos, with DelGrosso’s mandolin adding the right touch. “I Wish I Heard,” has the tenor sax of Kaz Kazanoff in the spotlight with a strong solo as well as his responses to DelGrosso’s vocal. DelGrosso’s “She Is Sweet,” is a rollicking shuffle that suggests “Dust My Broom” with Sonny Boy Terry back on harp and Richardson strong, while “Good Rocking Johnny” is an easy rocking instrumental with nicely picked mandolin before Richardson displays a touch of chicken scratch tone is his choruses.
As one would expect from these two, the musicianship is exemplary. They are thoughtful yet passionate players and display a certain flair for crafting songs and delivering them and I was surprised by the singing was on most of this. Time Slips On By is a solid result of the partnership of DelGrosso and Del Toro Richardson, which one might hope would include some touring.
A review copy of this was provided by a publicist for the recording.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
This is album of blowing tenor, funky B-3 and finger-popping groves kicked off with the New Orleans groove of “Lee’s Lick,” which one might guess was dedicated to the legendary Crescent city tenor man Lee Allen. Issac Hayes’ “Cafe Reggio,” has a mellow groove before Taylor takes a robust solo displaying his full tone. Dr. John’s “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” is an interesting choice and Taylor really gets gutbucket here although the accompaniment is rather simple. McClinton takes a low-key approach to the vocal on the Buddy Johnson penned standard, “Since I Feel For You” with Taylor’s tenor complementary to the vocal before his very lyrical solo as McKendree comps.
Taylor’s rendition of Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Her So,” will get the fingers snapping and after McKendree’s solo, Taylor takes us out in rousing form. Leroy Johnson’s “Lady Day,” is a moody ballad performance followed Taylor’s lively original “Stepping Up,” with McKendree adding the right amount of grease on his solo. There is more second-line groove on Taylor’s “The Gospel Truth” which is followed by Taylor’s marvelous ballad playing on the Lennon-McCartney chestnut, “And I Love Her.” Nice renderings of Percy Mayfield’s “The River’s Invitation,” and the Fats Domino classic “Josephine and three other Taylor originals complete this recording of which “Here’s The Deal,” a hard bop burner and the closing late night blues, “Back at the Teddy Bear Lounge,” are especially worth pointing out.
There is about 70 or so minutes for the 14 performances collected here, the recording of which was completed two weeks before his passing. Taylor's widow, Karen Leipziger and Kevin McKendree completed this as a labor of love and a chance to leave us with this solid musical statement of a marvelous musician and person. This should be available from cdbaby.com.
Friday, February 11, 2011
This is the second part of my appreciation of Oran “Hot Lips” Page.
Hot Lips Page’s music being so heavily rooted in the blues and Kansas City jazz was able to readily make the transition to jump blues and the post-war rhythm and blues market in the manner of such other swing-based performers as Louis Jordan.His place in post-war blues has been neglected although he was the subject of a memorable story in Whiskey Women and, a late rhythm’n’blues quarterly that many of us still miss. The Spanish El Toro label has issued a compilation of 27 recordings (over 70 minutes of music) for a variety labels, “Roll, Roll, Roll: The R&B Years.”
Hot Lips Page was one of the few who could approach the ebullience and inexhaustible musicianship of Louis Jordan, as Dave Penny observes in his liner notes. The proof is in these recordings from the rousing cover of Julia Lee’s “Last Call For Alcohol” as Lips lets us now its the last call with a ripping tenor saxophonist before he blasts some high note joy as a hot jitterbug tempo, which he takes out with some hot playing. This was recorded at a paris Concert and later released on King Records. “They Raided The Joint,” was written by Lips and Joe Eldridge based on an earlier Dan Burley song, and the performance for Continental sports a solid big band ensemble behind Lips fine vocal and trumpet.
“There Ain’t No Flies On Me,” is a nice mix of jive and swing that was recorded for Columbia,” while he covered Louis Jordan’s 1947 hit, “Texas and Pacific” for Apollo, of which an alternate take is presented here here. Nice tenor saxophone on this and Lips blasts through his mute although his vocal is a bit flatter than Jordan’s original. “Walking in a Daze” is a terrific straight blues wonderfully sung with just a bit of gravel in Page’s voice and followed by another terrific blues performance, “Miss Larceny Blues,” showing that Page could stand up to Wyonnie Harris, Eddie Vinson and his other contemporaries able to shout, yet invest a lyric like “every time your wagon breaks down, you come running back to me, I’d like to call you lover, but you are larceny,” with the applicable irony.
Page’s rendition of the Jimmy Preston’s “Roll, Roll, Roll” stomps and rocks as hard as the lyrics suggests. Again more terrific booting tenor sax as well as blistering trumpet. Other highlights include his original recording of “Ashes On My Pillow” which Eddie Vinson had a hit with but King never originally released, his own interpretation of the oft recorded “Open the Door Richard.” Another hot track is “Birmingham Boogie,” a hot jump blues with strong tenor, piano and Lips taking it out on his horn. His Victor recording “I Want to Ride Like the Cowboys Do,” comes across Louis Jordan crossed with the Joe Liggins band with a jive lyric and gutbucket baritone sax in addition to Page. On “The Jungle King,” a take on “The Signifying Monkey” as well as “The Cadillac Song” date from some early fifties sessions for King with a band that included Sam “The Man” Taylor and Harry “Van” Walls. These are terrific idiomatic recordings with a solid, infectious walking rhythm with Taylor terrific on tenor sax as one would expect.
Then their are his duets with Little Sylvia, Mildred Anderson and Pearl Bailey. Page’s duet with Bailey of “Baby Its Cold Outside” paired with “The Hucklebuck” was very popular. While the former was not included, the lively “The Hucklebuck” is. The success of these led to other duets including the salacious “Chocolate Candy Blues,” with the 14 year old Little Sylvia sounding like an attempt to emulate the Johnny Otis recordings with Little Esther with either Mel Walker or The Robins (the use of a vocal chorus) is consistent with this suggestion.
This compilation of Lips also concludes with some live club recordings originally issued on Circle with a band that includes Tyrone Glenn on trombone, Paul Quinichette on tenor sax, Danny Barker on guitar and Sonny Greer on drums with the lively “ Main Street” and “I’ve Got the Upper Hand” being more strong blues. Barker’s playing here will be a revelation for those only familiar with his banjo playing in his latter days back in his hometown while Quinichette’s Lester Young flavored tenor is as home in the blues as Page’s trumpet and vocals. There is a slight bit of noise on these which I assume is from the source recordings.
Dave Penny has a nice essay in the accompanying booklet, but El Toro does not include (because of cost as Dave Penny commented after this review was posted) full discographical and composer information, which is a significant omission. Nonetheless the main attraction on this is the boisterous, exhilarating music of Oran ‘Hot Lips’ Page. This is where the realms of swing jazz and blues meet, and the meeting is such a congenial one. I had this CD on my cd player at work, and I do not know if it was coincidence, but I was in an incredible good mood that day. Its over five and a half decades since Oran Page left this world, yet his music, such as on “Roll, Roll, Roll” has a vitality still today. Like the music of another trumpeter who stood in Louis Armstrong’s shadow, Henry ‘Red’ Allen, he left a body of music that would seem worth excavating by contemporary artists, although one wonders how many contemporary jazz artist would be able to do justice to this material. Perhaps Kermit Ruffins or James Andrews might be recruited for such a project.
I purchased this from bluebeatmusic.com.