Monday, March 28, 2011

Things Go Cleveland Fats Way!


This review of The Way Things Go by Mark Hahn (aka Cleveland Fats) (Honeybee Records) that appeared in the December 2006, Jazz & Blues Report (issue 289). I knew Mark from when he was in Robert Lockwood’s band and the issue also featured my interview with Mark (which I may run here in the future) and obituary on Lockwood who has just passed when I interviewed Hahn. This album is available still from cdbaby, amazon and other sources. I believe I received a review copy from Jazz & Blues Report or from Fats himself.

I first met Mark Hahn when he was playing guitar with the late Robert Lockwood, Jr. for over a decade (and he is on several of Lockwood’s albums including the classic Does 12). His last gig as part of Lockwood’s band at the Blue Bayou Festival that took place in 1991 or 1992 at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center, after which Hahn started leading his own band using the name Cleveland Fats. This new release is, I believe, his fourth album since starting his solo career and was produced by Earwig Music’s Michael Frank with an excellent band that includes veteran bassist Aaron Burton; pianists Aaron Moore and Ariyo; drummer Dave Jefferson; saxophonist Doc Thomas; and organist Vince Willis. Billy Branch adds his harp on four tracks and Lockwood himself appears on four tracks which are among the final studio recordings on which the legend played.

This was recorded in Chicago, with Lockwood’s contributions overdubbed a month later in Cleveland. Hahn himself started getting into blues after catching B.B. King on a Cleveland TV show.The next day the local store was out of B.B.’s albums and so he picked up an Albert King album. Both Kings, T-Bone and a host of others, especially Mr. Lockwood, shaped his strong urban blues guitar playing. Echoes of Lockwood phrasing heard on his solo on Don’t Call Me, one of the tracks with Branch’s remarkable harp artistry. The opening bars on Invisible Man echo Lockwood’s intro to Lockwood’s 1960 recording This is the Blues, before Hahn launches into some nice slide as Branch embellishes with fine harp. These tracks feature Hahn’s solid singing that to these ears suggest Chris Cain and the late Louis Myers. And these numbers, like most of the selections, are Hahn’s originals that deserve to be picked up by others. Cell Phone Blues has an amusing lyric as Fats sings “Don’t want no cell phone hanging around with me, cause I may go to places I ain’t supposed to be.”

Lockwood first appears on the solid updating of Sonny Thompson’s easy tempo shuffle Long Gone, taking the second solo. Hahn’s fine original Blues Time is a slow blues with Hahn’s playing nodding a bit to T-Bone as well as Lockwood with Lockwood taking another fine solo that would have been at home on any of Robert’s albums. Just Fats, Branch and Lockwood are heard on Lockwood’s Dead orAlive, which Fats sings nicely as the three provide a relaxed,swinging performance.

This is marvelously recorded and performed and with Robert Lockwood now gone, this disc indicates that others will be helping keep his musical legacy alive by their own music. Highly recommended.

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