Friday, May 06, 2011

Bob Seeley's Strong Boogie Woogie

Bob Seeley at 2011 WWOZ Piano Night
Attending the annual WWOZ Piano Night, Monday May 2, after the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & heritage Festival, I had the pleasure of seeing a number of really terrific pianists, some who may be familiar, but others less known.Many of the pianists were from New Orleans and their music echoed such Crescent City stand bearers as Professor Longhair and James Booker. One exception was Boogie Woogie pianist, Bob Seeley from outside of Detroit.

A Detroit neighbor, Seeley was fortunate enough to become friends with one of the true legends of the idiom, Meade Lux Lewis, who along with Albert Ammons and Peter Johnson, are the primary influences on his music. Seeley’s performance at Piano Night was marvelous with a standout performance being of W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” in which he adapted Earl Hines’ “Boogie Woogie on St. Louis Blues” as well as a section in which Seeley employed stride piano elements in interpreting this classic. Also strong was a rendition of “Just a Little Walk,” which added boogie woogie elements to his interpretation of this gospel staple. It was a remarkable live performance in which he displayed a strong left hand bass as well as a driving and precise right hand. His articulation of his piano playing was on point.

After his set I engaged him on his performance and told him I especially enjoyed his treatment of “St. Louis Blues.” He had several CDs for sale and recommended his CD “Detroit Style Boogie & Blues PIano” (Bob Seeley Music, Inc.) It was a purchase I certainly did not regret as it contains a number strong interpretations from the likes of his friend, Meade Lux Lewis, “Chicago Flyer,” “Honky Tonk Train” and “Boogie Tidal,” as well as renditions of Pete Johnson’s “K.C. on My Mind,” Hersal Thomas’ “The Fives,” Freddie Shayne’s “Mr. Freddie’s Blues,” and Jimmy Yancey’s “Barbershop Blues.” There are also superb renditions of “St. Louis Blues” and “Just a Closer Walk,” that exhibit his powerful, focused and deft attack that would make Lewis proud of his disciple. He also does not slavishly copy his sources as heard on the classic “Honky Tonk Train,” as well as “Barbershop Blues,” where his playing owes more to Lewis’ rock solid approach than Yancey’s lyrical playing. Arguably, his boogie flavored interpretation of “Watermelon Man,” does not quite succeed but a minor blemish on what is generally a terrific recording.

Bob Seeley’s CDs (except for a collaboration with Mark Barun (Mr. B) may be diificult to locate him. You might email him for information on this and other CDs at

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