Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Alberta Adams - Say Baby Say

While we are still recovering from the news Johnnie Bassett just passed away at the age of 76, the remarkable Alberta Adams wis turning 95 and will be celebrated by the folks in Detroit. The following review is of her second album for the Cannonball label. This review appeared in July/August 2000 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 246), and her performance at the Pocono Blues Festival, referenced in this review was outstanding. I received a review copy from Cannonball or a publicist. This may be harder to find but her recent recordings are available on Eastlawn Records.

Happy Birthday, Alberta Adams.

Cannonball has just issued a second album, Say Baby Say, by Alberta Adams, Detroit’s Queen of the Blues. Adams who had a brief recording career a half century ago (she recorded for Chess), shows little sign of slowing down. She’s heard with a tough studio band that includes guitarist Johnnie Bassett, saxophonist Keith Kaminski and drummer R.J. Spangler from Bassett’s band, keyboard whiz Bill Heid, bassist Pat Prouty, alto saxophonist Russ Miller and trumpeter Dwight Adams for a set that is subtitled Life’s Trials and Tribulations According to Miss Alberta Adams.

This writer continues to marvel at Bassett and his colleagues’ superb playing, and with the spirited Ms. Adams they have a wonderful personality to support. The music swings hard, and while Adams may lack a bit of the range she likely had a few decades ago, she still has a way of delivering a lyric. Her vocal approach is not that far removed from her contemporary, Ruth Brown – and this writer would point to We Ain’t Makin’ Honey as an example of this, with her rap towards the song’s end about not having enough money being not too far removed from a recording by Brown.

This is one of her albums on the Detroit
Eastlawn label. The cover photo was taken
by me at the 2000 Pocono Blues Festival.
Keith Kaminski gets featured as Adams exhorts him to “play me some blues, not so slow, please mr. sax man, blow man blow …” on the jump number Sax Man. She takes things down in the alley on I Cried My Last Tear, while Bassett kicks off Don’t Worry Me in a T-Bone Walker vein on a track that also lets Bill Heid showcase his blues playing. Heid and Adams contributed Everybody Got Their Hand Out, an Adams rap about everybody wanting something from her. With support from a slow, funky groove, some boppish horn parts and jazzy playing from Bassett, Nothing More to Stay, is a vocal duet with Bassett on a Heid written blues ballad with Kaminski featured again on sax.

On Say Baby Say, Alberta Adams sings with authority and believability, and is backed by as good a band as one will find anywhere, resulting in another superb album for Miss Adams. Alberta Adams will be appearing with Johnny Bassett and Joe Weaver at this year’s Poconos Blues Festival, and is one of those acts that are not to be missed.

Here is a video of Alberta in performance.

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