Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Carlos del Junco Is Steady Movin’.

Northern Blues has treated us to the latest release by the Cuban born, Canadian raised harmonica wizard Carlos del Junco, Steady Movin’. Del Junco plays a ten note diatonic harmonica chromatically employing the “overblow” technique taught to him by the virtuoso Howard Levy.

This set is produced by guitarist Kevin Breit (Norah Jones, Cassandra Williams) and features him in the con- text of a blues quintet on a genre transcending set of blues, jazz, funk, folk and more. Obviously the selling point of this album is his harmonica wizardry, but he isn’t that bad a singer either. As suggested, this covers quite of range of musical styles from the hot swinging jump harmonica boogie Diddle It. that opens this with some driving saxophone like lines, followed by Kevin Breit’s Dull Blade, with its Ventures instrumental flavor with del Junco’s harp adding a TV theme flavor. Dennis Keldie adds some nice organ on this track that surprises with its twists and turns. 

Jersey Bounce, is a jazzy instrumental that may have come from the Tiny Bradshaw songbook on which del Junco displays his jazzy side. Mashed Potatoes Canada, with John Dickie’s vocal is a tribute to James Brown with a nice funk groove and Carlos being a one-person funk horn section. It is followed by a nice tribute to Rice Miller on Movin’ Down the River Rhine, with him evoking Sonny Boy’s harmonica styling and contributing an effective vocal. The intimate setting is followed by the Latin-jazz flavored Paradise, with another credible vocal and some country-folk guitar in the backing. 

A lengthy solo version of Amazing Grace, with his harp echoing bagpipes near the end precedes the exotic The Simple Life, with echoes of the music of the Indian subcontinent. Bailey’s Bounce, a tribute to pioneering harmonica master DeFord Bailey, is a marvelous harmonica evocation of a train such that Bailey himself had made famous. The album ends with Doodle It, with a banjo prominent in the skittle band styled backing that opens at a slow tempo before the band kicks it into a peppier gear with more swinging harp that closes this excellent album on a very high note.

Del Junco is obviously rooted in the blues, but he goes beyond his blues roots for a stunning recording that demonstrates why he among the most highly regarded harmonica players around. This is helped by the excellent support he receives on this disc. Steady Movin’ is simply superb. 

This review originally appeared in the October 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 309) although I made a few minor edits. I likely received this from the recording company or a publicist. Here is a clip of him performing Movin’ Down the River Rhine.

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