Sunday, April 08, 2012

Bruce Katz Very Live! at the Firefly

The keyboards of Bruce Katz has been a most welcome to a variety of performers recordings, including in recent years, Duke Robillard and Joe Louis Walker. With his current band of guitarist Chris Vitarello; bassist Rod Carey; and drummer Ralph Rosen, he has a new disc on his own Brown Dog label (distributed by VizzTone), Live! at the Firefly, recorded at the Ann Arbor, Michigan club in April 2008.

Live! at the Firefly is a collection of chicken-licking blues and jazz instrumentals that fans of Jack McDuff and Jimmy McGriff will love. Opening with a straight blues groove on Deep Pockets, Katz and Vitarello both display their chops and musical sense. An unusual choice is Charles Mingus’ Better Get It In Your Soul, and ambitious attempt with plenty of Katz’s greasy Hammond B-3 to start things off with everybody swinging hard. Carey and Rosen certainly merit praise here, before a nicely paced solo from Vitarello.

Katz switches to piano on a late night slow blues, The Blue Lamp, that lets him rumble down in the alley as well as lets Vitarello a chance to show his electric blues chops. Jump Start, is a funky groover with twangy guitar; Ice Cream Man, is a playful funky blues; while the solo piano Southern Route, has a country-tinge. Marshall Country, evokes West Side Chicago to these ears, and Crew of Two, is a ebullient shuffle.

Norton’s Boogie Woogie, has blistering boogie piano, a rocking guitar solo followed by sizzling solo piano interlude with the full quartet taking it out in jumping fashion. Its followed by the atmospheric Victoria, with Katz on piano and this joyous disc concludes with Brother Stevie. This walking shuffle closes Live! at the Firefly on the high level that characterizes this entire recording.

This review originally appeared in the February 2009 Jazz and Blues Report (Issue 313), although I made a few minor stylistic changes. Here is the Bruce Katz Band performing in Norway a few months after recording this album.

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