Veteran New Orleans singer Luther Kent gets to pay his homage to one of his idols on his new Vetter Communications disc, The Bobby Bland Songbook. Kent has been a devotee of Bland since as a 13 year old he caught Bland backed by the Joe Scott at a Baton Rouge club. The influence Bland had on him was reflected by him when talking about Bland and one of Kent’s greatest memories being on a Riverboat Cruise with B.B. King and Bland during a 1980s JazzFest.
Kent has always included a few songs from Bland and his contemporaries such as Little Milton in his set list for decades, but this disc is devoted solely to Bland’s music. Kent and Don Chesson have assembled a big band with the Creole Beethoven, Wardell Querzergue doing the arrangements and conducting the band.
Kent has selected a dozen of Bland’s more famous recordings from the period that is arguably his greatest period, the late fifties and early sixties recordings he made for Duke which includes such classics as Who Will the Next Fool Be, I Pity the Fool, Stormy Monday, Cry, Cry, Cry, St. James Infirmary, Don’t Cry No More, That’s the Way Love Is, and I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog. The performances are styled after Bland’s originals, in this sense he doesn’t reinvent them as much as Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall did on his own recent tribute, Salute to Bobby.
Querzergue adds his own characteristic touches to provide a fresh shine on the horn arrangements and Kent while reflecting Bland’s originals does put his own imprint on these recordings for a pretty solid recording, which understandably is somewhat overshadowed by the originals. I would have also liked to hear a few of Bland’s more recent recordings interpreted like Members Only, and You Got to Hurt Before You Heal, but that is a minor complaint.
Kent is a very good singer, although not on the level that Bland was back in this period (an out-of-print English Ace CD that had many of these original selections was aptly titled, The Voice). This is a nice celebration by a fan of one of the great blues singers of the past fifty years. Its available at the Louisiana Music Factory in New Orleans (they do mail order and their website, www.louisianamusicfactory.com), cdbaby.com and Amazon among various retailers.
I purchased this CD and this review appeared in the August 2009, Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 319).