Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ann Rabson Strutted Her Stuff

In light of the passing of Ann Rabson, I though I would delve into my archives for a review from 2001 (The January-February 2001 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 249) in which I reviewed her second recording as a solo act and not as a member of Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women.  I reviewed few months ago, her last CD which was a collaboration with Bob Margolin, Not Alone.

Ann Rabson’s Music Makin’ Mama disc on Alligator was a more than pleasant surprise when released a few years ago. The followup, Struttin’ My Stuff, by this uppity blues woman is on the increasingly important MC Records label. Like the earlier album, this allows her to mix some vintage blues songs with some telling originals with her boogie woogie piano being the musical anchor for most of this set (with unobtrusive bass and drums on several selections) while she switches to guitar for a few cuts. 

While her strongest musical suit is her piano playing, she is more than a capable guitarist and an affable vocalist. Her marriage of traditional boogie woogie motifs with more modern lyrics often results in this disc’s highpoints. Hassle Attack, on which Ann states she grafted her lyrics on a zydeco tune, comes across as a modern reworking of Cow Cow Blues, while this writer was delighted to see her marriage of Chuck Berry’s Sweet Sixteen lyrics to the boogie woogie of Meade Lux Lewis’ Honky Tonk Train, and the closing instrumental Careless Boogie is a nicely paced boogie woogie reworking of Careless Love.

I am not too enamored with the rendition of Eddie Bo’s Check Mr. Popeye, but that might be the result of the understated rhythm on this New Orleans funk number. Brownie McGhee’s Sportin’ Life Blues, is a gem, with her performance capturing the irony of a lyric akin to Willie Nelson’s Night Life

All in all, another recording that should appeal to the many fans she has as well as fans of her from Saffire.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

RIP Ann Rabson (1945-2013)

RIP Ann Rabson. Best known as a member of Saffire-the Uppity Blues Women, she was such a wonderful musician, singer, and person. I first met her a DC Blues Society picnic in 1987 and we became friends then. So many memories of her and Saffire including a benefit at Georgetown University for the homeless and then seeing the original trio (with Earline Lewis slapping the bass) at a bistro in Georgetown in Washington DC which they played regularly while still a local-regional act.

For the DC Blues Society I did an interview and article on the Trio around the time of the first Alligator album that was soon published in Blues Revue, then a new publication, and thus the first article on Ann and the band. I know she was a regular instructor at Blues Week at Elkins WV and so she has so many people who she taught over these years.

But the most important one thing one could learn was being such a good person. Ann, I am only one of thousands who will miss you.

Here is Ann Rabson on guitar, not piano, performing One Meatball, a song that she performed as long as I knew her.

Here is Ann performing Little Red Wagon in Italy.

Finally a performance of Ann with Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women doing Middle Aged Woman Blues, one of the trio's best known originals that was on the cassette they sold while still a regional band and later re-recorded for the trio's Alligator debut album. Ann is on piano here although you cannot see her.

Mike Wheeler Is A Self Made Man

Having played with a who’s who of the blues world for three decades (including Big James Montgomery and the Chicago Playboys, singer guitarist Mike Wheeler has a new CD on Delmark, Self Made Man. He is joined on this by his band of Brian James on keyboards, Larry Williams on bass and Cleo Cole on drums with young harmonica wiz Omar Coleman added to three tracks. 

Wheeler and band wrote most of the songs and there is only one cover, and provides plenty of fervor in his performs with plenty of drive in his playing and urgency in his impassioned vocals. As evident in the opening Here I Am, there are evident soul and gospel roots to be heard in his vocals (which remind this listener of Michael Hill, although Hill’s singing is cooler). And he writes interesting, fresh songs as on Here I Am where he thanks his woman who lets him back in her life and he has done wrong. Big Mistake is a more traditionally styled song with some interesting twists in its groove a he sings about he made a mistake taking a woman in his life as she is more than he can take. Coleman adds harmonica to the peppy title track, where he notes he is a self-made man who made himself have the blues. In addition to telling his stories, his playing really catches the ear with a jazzy sensibility and his fresh twists and turns.

His soul roots are evident on the topical song, Join Hands with his message of people getting together and help each other as “we the people, together we stand, let’s work together, I know we can … join hands,” playing with fire here. A nice cover of Willie Dixon’s Let Me Love You Baby,, set to the Rollin’ and Tumblin’ melody (therefore sounding different than Buddy Guy’s 60s Chess recording), is followed by You’re Doing Wrong, an West Side styled blues with one of his most impassioned vocals here and searing guitar. Moving Forward has some funk styled guitar (he mentions Eddie Hazel with respect to his playing here) and funk groove. On Chicago Blues, he mentions loving all music but if he has to choose, give him the Chicago blues.

Self Made Man certainly will make many take notice of a very distinctive talent who has a very distinctive approach compared to other contemporary blues acts. Jimmy Johnson is another act who has blended elements of blues and soul and created a very personal approach to the blues and based on Self Made Man,” Wheeler has the talent to produce a similar musical legacy.

I received a review copy from Delmark. Here is a video clip for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Drive Down The Blues Highway

Catfish & Cotton: Driving Down The Blues Highway by brothers Luc & Marc Borms is a self-published, wonderfully illustrated account of their journey to the heart of the delta blues culture through their experiences visiting Delta landmarks and their interviewing artists, merchants, scholars and others involved in the Delta Blues scene today.

The Borms brothers, both blues musicians from Belgium, made this Trans-Atlantic trek to the area that is the heart of the music that has so engrossed them as they (among other things) spent two days in Clarksdale; went to Hopson’s Plantation where Jon Gindick conducts a harmonica camp; visited the grave of Sonny Boy Williamson II; stayed at the Riverside Hotel; spent night’s at the juke joint, “Red’s Lounge”;visited the Delta Blues Museum and Cat Head and had a beer at the Ground Zero Club; Helena, Arkansas; Memphis and Beale Street: Oxford, Mississippi; Leland Mississippi; and Avalon Mississippi.

The brothers interviewed Jon Gindick, who has become well known for his harmonica instructional material to describe the camp he holds; Frank ‘Rat’ Ratliff, owner of the Riverside Hotel which was a hospital prior to becoming a hotel; Roger Stolle, who operates Cat Head , a store of folk art as well as a record label, Broke & Hungry; Heidi Hockenhauer, MC of the Delta Family Gospel Festival held in Helena; Blind Mississippi Morris, blues harmonica player and singer; Laurie Montalnaro, staff member of the Memphis Rock’n’Soul Museum; ‘Sunshine’ Sonny Payne, longtime host of the King Biscuit Time Radio Show; Cristen Craven Barnard, painter and mural artist; Adam Gussow, harmonica player and educator; Bill Abel, guitar builder and player; Randy Magee of the Highway 61 Museum; Eddie Cusic, Delta blues musician; Super Chikan, blues musician and others. I was particularly pleased to see the interview of Cusic, who I myself interviewed in 1991 when I saw him life Festival at the Smithsonian FolkLife Festival who is such a strong performer of classic Delta blues.

This book is wonderfully illustrated by the brothers’ photography of various blues landmarks, persons and some performance shops. Illustrations and inserts give information on towns and cities, landmarks including Hopson’s Plantation; the Riverside Hotel Cherry Street in Helena; Sonny Boy Williamson II’s grave; the Homemade Jamz Band and more. I was particularly moved by pictures of Pat Thomas, including one of him holding a guitar and singing while sitting in front of the grave of his father, James ‘Son’ Thomas. And they weave their narrative in which the interviews, and other materials are placed. 

The layout of all this material is quite attractive and reading is enhanced by the layout and use of 4 column text where text is printed. It will be valuable as a guide book for places one might wish to visit when one travels in the Delta as well as a document of the music today and the community in which it persists and thrives in. It is a marvelous book that will appeal to anybody with an interest in the blues and the land from which it sprung.

I became aware of this book from participation in The Real Blues Forum, a Facebook Group that Marc participates. The link for this book is, which will take you the brothers store on, the website that allows books to be self-published. The brother’s store link is and can choose from a standard Black and White Edition, or the more expensive Deluxe Edition which is published in color. It is a 184 page, perfect bound book, 9 inches wide by 7 inches tall. I purchased the more expensive paperback edition. I have included for this blog a couple of the sample pages that you can view at website for this book.

Here is a little clip of Eddie Cusic & Luc Borms filmed during the Catfish & Cotton tour.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

WKCR TO Broadcast A Full Day Of Roy Eldridge

WKCR, Columbia University's radio station, will be broadcasting 24 hours of the great Roy Eldridge (in the above video with Oscar Peterson) on Wednesday, January 30.  I saw a tweet from Phil Schaap, and a mention by Mark Myers in his JazzWax blog about it, so it is worth using this page to alert you if by chance you were not aware.  Available over the internet, go to

On the Phil Schaap Jazz Facebook page, Phil writes:

Little Jazz and not Bird on Wednesday January 30, 2013
There will be no Bird Flight on WKCR next Wednesday 1/30. 

Instead WKCR – 89.9 FM in the New York City region and online – will play ROY “Little Jazz” ELDRIDGE all day.

The live broadcast of Roy in various discussions at The West End on his 76th birthday (1/30/1987) will be aired at 8:20am ET and a much longer interview done on his 77th birthday (1/30/1988) will be aired at 6:00pm ET

A Lot of Little Jazz on WKCR: January 30, 2013

Here are a couple more videos to whet your appetite. First a classic of Roy and Anita O'Day with Gene Krupa's Big Band from a sound.

Now here is a clip of Roy handling (among other things) a blues associated with Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson, Kidney Stew

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Elijah Jamal Balbed's Checkin' In Today

Elijah Jamal Balbed caught at an earlier performance at the Smithsonian's Kogod Courtyard
One of the Washington DC area's most accomplished young musicians is saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed. At jams, performances with other artists and his own engagements, he has displayed a robust style displaying a musical maturity way beyond his years. He issued recently his first recording as a leader Checking In where he is joined by some of the DC area's most accomplished musicians including pianists Harry Appelman and Allyn Johnson, trumpeters Alex Norris and Donvonte McCoy, bassists Eric Wheeler and Zach Brown, guitarist Samir Moulay, and drummers Carroll Vaughn Dashiell III. 

Included are seven studio recordings from two sessions and a live performance from the Strathmore with a band that included Norris and Dashiell. Musically this is some fine playing in the vein of some of the classic Blue Note and Prestige recordings of the seventies by Wayne Shorter (whose Infant Eyes is interpreted), Booker Ervin, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw and similar artists. The disc opens with the leaders own Macrophobia, which displays a a full tone that goes beyond his influences. It is followed by a wonderful rendition of Freddie Hubbard's tribute to his contemporary Booker Little, Lament For Booker, which allows everyone to stretch out. Norris is terrific here as is Appelman, flautist Brent Birckhead, and Balbed. The title track is the last one featuring the group with Appelman and Norris and a is a brash, bouncy performance.

Imanust (Tsunami spelled backwards) reminds me of some of Woody Shaw's very sophisticated compositions with bassist Brown taking a brief solo before the leader takes the forefront with Kush Abadey propelling things along. Keep Me From Fear was inspired by a poem by Brendan Ogg, who died way too young. It is a lovely ballad with Balbed opening in a feathery manner with guitarist Moulay complementing the opening statement. Throughout, pianist Johnson plays superbly where comping behind Balbed and others or in one of his beautiful solos. McCoy's trumpet is another pleasure to be enjoyed here, especially on his solo during Brief Encounters, followed by an excellent rendition of Shorter's Infant Eyes. 
The live recording For Minors Only strongly closes out Checking In. Balbed has received much praise   from (which selected this as amongst the finest Washington DC new releases of 2012) and the Washington City Paper (Best New Saxophonist in 2010). This writer has been impressed every time I have had the pleasure of seeing Elijah Jamal Balbed perform. This music swings, the arrangements are first-rate, the ensemble playing is terrific, and the solos are consistently inventive resulting in this marvelous debut album. This was crowd-funded through Kickstarter and available through and available as a download from itunes and other download sources as well as from cdbaby.

I write this and post this a few hours before Balbed leads a program devoted to one of his influences, Wayne Shorter, at the Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian's Museum of American Art. The program is a tribute to Wayne Shorter's 80th birthday year, and he will showcase Shorter's early works (prior to his tenure with Miles Davis). Balbed's group will include Alex Norris on trumpet, Samir Moulay on guitar, Harry Appelman on piano, Herman Burney on bass, and Billy Williams on drums. It is free and starts at 5:00PM and runs until 7:00PM. Food is available in the snack bar and there is a free drawing workshop  taking place at the same time where one can build a sketchbook from recycled materials. This workshop is in conjunction with the exhibition Abstract Drawings. Here is Elijah Jamal Balbed from a couple years ago performing one of songs Wayne Shorter wrote for Miles Davis.

I purchased Checking In

I cursorily proofed this but will do a more thorough proofing later.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Frankly Some Great Jazz

I just came across some video clips on youtube of a program from the 1960's called Frankly Jazz with some really terrific performances. How about Gerald Wilson's Big Band doing Miles Davis' Milestones.

Then there is Lou Rawls singing the blues.

And Paul Horn performing On Green Dolphin Street.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Paul Motian's Monk In Motian

On Monk in Motian, the late drummer Paul Motian is heard leading a combo with guitarist Bill Frissell and saxophonist Joe Lovano with guest appearances by Dewey Redman and pianist Geri Allen. There is no bass on this, and with the exception of the tracks with Allen are piano-less as well. The CD was originally issued on the German JMT label in 1988 and reissued in 2002 on the Winter and Winter imprint, which I recently purchased from

I really like the open feeling of the performance which the lack of piano contributes to as does Frissell’s really nice guitar. Frissell’s chords and riffs form the anchor of these performances which Motian and Lovano playing off of. There are a number of familiar Monk classics including Evidence, Bye-Ya, and Epistrophy. The ambience is somewhat similar to School Days, the wonderful Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd group devoted to Monk’s music.

This is packed in a hardback styled cover. It is, as indicated above, not a new release which I purchased it from

Monday, January 21, 2013

Snooks Eaglin JazzFest 07 Day 2-289

JazzFest 07 Day 2-289 by NoVARon
JazzFest 07 Day 2-289, a photo by NoVARon on Flickr.
Today is the anniversary of the birth of the great Snooks Eaglin. I remember standing next to the poet, radio announcer and activist John Sinclair at what is now the Gentilly Stage and kidding John about Snooks, on a live recording that was on a wwoz CD, calling him out and saying I want to see you dance. Well at this performance the first thing Snooks says before he launches into his set is "Sinclair, you out there? I want to see you dance." Snooks was one of a kind.

My recommendation for a Snooks album is the Black Top release Out of Nowhere that was reissued by Shout Factory and which is available from amazon as a cd-r. You may be able to find vendors selling the original CD as used or a collectable. It is well worth trying to locate. I previously posted reviews of several of his albums including Snooks Live in Japan.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Will Bring Its Strongest Line-up Yet To Rockville

The Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival returns to Rockville, Maryland February 15 through the 18th. This year is the Festival’s 4th edition and takes place at the Hilton Executive Meeting Center in Rockville for a weekend of jazz music, workshops, interviews and a High School Band competition. The festival combines internationally renowned artists along with both established and up-and-coming acts from the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Paul Carr - Photo  Ron Weinstock
This year’s festival will have a special focus on the Hammond B-3 and feature performances by organists Pat Bianchi, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Joey DeFrancesco. In addition, there will be performances by pianists Orrin Evans, Helen Sung and Larry Willis; saxophonists Bobby Watson, Paul Carr, Sharel Cassity and Tim Warfield; vocalists Gregory Porter (singing the title track of his album Be Good in video above), Carmen Bradford and Stephanie Jordan; as well as the supergroup The Cookers. That only cracks the surface of the performers appearing.

Friday evening, February 15, the Festival’s Ronnie Wells Main Stage kicks off with pianist Orrin Evans and his trio with special guest, saxophonist Tim Warfield. Evans, a former finalist in the Thelonious Monk Competition, has become one of the most acclaimed young pianists, rooted in the tradition but also quite forward looking. Following Evans will be the Grammy nominated Gregory Porter accompanied by the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Paul Carr, which features some of Paul’s students from the Jazz Academy of Music and special guests from among the Mid-Atlantic’s finest musicians. Porter is among the most talked about new names in the jazz vocal circles and brings a warmth reminiscent of Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway to his soulful jazz styling. The main stage will close with saxophonist Paul Carr with B3, a group consisting of organist Pat Bianchi, guitarist Bobby Broom and drummer Bryon Landham. 
Carmen Bradford

On Saturday afternoon bass clarinetist Todd Marcus will lead his group which will have as special guest, clarinet master Don Byron. That will be followed by a vocal summit featuring Sharon Clark, Lynette Washington and former Count Basie singer Carmen Bradford, backed by the Chris Grasso Trio. Grasso is among the DC area’s most in demand accompanist for singers. Saturday afternoon concludes with the Akiko Tsuruga Quartet, featuring the Japanese born organist who is a mainstay on the NYC scene.

Saturday Night’s performances on the Main Stage opens with the Larry Willis Quintet that includes trombonist Steve Davis, saxophonist Joe Ford, bassist Steve Novosel and Billy Williams on drums. This is quite an impressive grouping including former McCoy Tyner saxophonist Ford and Rashaan Roland Kirk bassist Novosel in addition to the leader. It will be followed by another supergroup, Women In Jazz, which includes vocalist Sharon Clark, saxophonist Sharel Cassity, pianist Helen Sung, bassist Amy Shook and drummer Allison Miller. The Main Stage closes that night with the legendary Dr. Lonnie Smith on the Hammond B-3.

Sunday’s Main Stage opens in the afternoon with saxophonist Bruce Williams leading a group with Pat Bianchi on organ. Williams, a Washington DC native, is a member of Ben Riley’s Thelonious Monk Legacy Septet as well as being the newest and youngest member of the World Saxophone Quartet in addition to leading several ensembles on his own. San Francisco area saxophonist William O’Neill will lead a group that also features vocalist Kenny Washington, and the afternoon closes with the Jazz super-group, The Cookers. The Cookers comprise of true jazz legends including pianist George Cables; tenor saxophonist Billy Harper; drummer Billy Hart; bassist Cecil McBee; trumpeter and flugelhorn player Eddie Henderson; flautist and alto saxophonist Craig Handy; and trumpeter David Weiss. 

Stephanie Jordan
Photo © Ron Weinstock
The final night on the main stage opens with saxophonist Bobby Watson. New Orleans vocalist Stephanie Jordan will be singing a Tribute to Lena Horne, but hopefully she will also sing her wonderful rendition of Shirley Horn’s Here’s To Life. The Ronnie Wells Main Stage closes with the multiple poll-winning organist Joey DeFrancesco for more hot Hammond B-3 grooves. The Festival’s Main Stage Line-Up is arguably the strongest yet, and a musical feast for those who want to hear real, straight-ahead jazz.

In addition to the main stage line-up, the Festival hosts a High School Jazz Band competition and performances by a number of up and coming performers in MAJF Club room. Friday night saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed performs. He has just released his first album, “Checking In,” which is certainly going to gather much attention for his robust playing and his thoughtful, impassioned solos. Also in the Club that night is vocalist Chad Carter. Saturday in the club will be saxophonist Marshall Keys, vocalist Janine Gilbert-Carter and saxophonist Bruce Swain. On Sunday Janine Gilbert Carter will be doing a gospel brunch show in the Hotel Atrium along with performances in the MAJF Club by Darius Scott, Ivy Ambush and Cloudburst.

For the first time, the Festival will have a Juke Joint with blues performances over the weekend from David Cole, Clarence ‘The Bluesman’ Turner and Linwood Taylor. There will be workshops by some of the performers and interviews with Gregory Porter, Dr. Lonnie Smith, The Cookers and Joey DeFrancesco. Each night will conclude with Wes Biles leading a midnight jam. 

It is a music packed weekend with much more details on the performers as well as the schedule, ticket information, accommodations info and more at Hope to see many of you there.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2013-0112 Hayes Greenfield at Smalls-1120394

Part of my short weekend in New York City, my wife and I went to Smalls, a jazz club in Greenwich Village that I have watched performances of at the club's website. Performing that night was The Hayes Greenfield - Roger Rosenberg group with Greenfield on alto sax, Rosenberg on baritone and soprano sax, Dean Johnson on bass and Scott Naumann on drums.

This was some nice music in an Ornette infleucned vein including a couple of nice renditions of Monk compositions, "Well You Need It" and "Monk's Mood" (on which the bassist Johnson was featured) and an Ornette tribute number in which Naumann was quite lively.

There was wonderful soloing and group interplay. It was a nice cap of three days in the Big Apple.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Catherine Russell at 2013 NYC Winter Jazz Festival

Catherine Russell was one of the many performers at the Ninth WinterJazz Festival in New York City. Held over two nights at six venues a wide range of performers could be seen and heard at the various crowded venues. I was fortunate to have gotten at La Poisson Rouge early and caught sets by Amina Figuera and Catherine Russell.

Russell, daughter of Luis Russell and Carline Ray, is one of the finest interpreters of blues and pop songs form the thirties through the sixties with a marvelous band. She is a singer not simply a shouter, and her set included songs associated with Ella Fitzgerald (when she was a teenager with Chick Webb), Esther Phillips, Dinah Washington, ivy Anderson (with Due Ellington) and Wyonnie Harris. Her taste in her repertoire is matched by her performances.

Here's another shot of Catherine Russell from her set.

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013-0110 Donald Harrison et al at Blue Note-6958-Edit

Ron Carter, Donald Harrison and Billy Cobham performing at the Blue Note in New York City. I was next to the stage, about 5 feet from Ron Carter and able to get some images abiding with the club's no flash policy. Real nice show that started with a nice rendition of Miles Davis' "So What' followed by Carter's "Cut & Paste." A nice rendition of "I Can't Get Started" was followed by Carter doing a solo on "You Are My Sunshine," and they closed with a lively rendition of the classic Sonny Rollins calypso, "St. Thomas."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013-0110 Donald Harrison et al at Blue Note-6974

In New York for a brief vacation, I happened to see a wonderful set by saxophonist Donald Harrison with Billy Cobham on drums and the legendary Ron Carter on bass. This is the trio that recorded the High Note CD "This Is Jazz" (and they performed several songs on the CD) and I was sitting at the foot of the stage, FIVE feet from Ron Carter.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Lets Give An Amen To Johnny Jones

The late Johnny Jones was a strong guitarist that was a mainstay of the Nashville Rhythm and Blues scene from the sixties on. The following review was part of a composite review of releases on the German Blue Label/SPV that appeared in the April 2007 Jazz and Blues Report (Issue 292) and I have made minor stylistic changes. I received my review copy from the publication.

Johnny Jones was a central part of the Nashville R&B scene for the past half century. Originally from the Memphis, he became part of Ted Jarrett’s traveling revue and eventually settled in Nashville where he was studio guitarist for many of Jarrett’s productions and also part of the studio band for The !!!!Beat TV show and led his band The King Casuals with bassist Billy Cox (Jimi Hendrix would Jones in this band, and Jones would give Hendrix some pointers). 

Jones' career was revived with the help of Fred James and was highly acclaimed overseas with albums on Black Magic and Northern Blues before the live recording, Can I Get An Amen, from Bern, Switzerland. Its a terrific performance with Jones straight forward vocals and guitar playing which suggests to these ears the late Son Seals. Albert King is an obvious influence with the fine opening, funky interpretation of Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong, followed by William Bell’s Chip Off the Old Block. 

The title track opens with some down-in-the alley guitar before he launches into an intense vocal. Herb Stuffing is a funky instrumental with plenty of searing guitar and commentary from Jones. His friend Charles Walker joins on a fervent take on Don Covay’s Ain’t Nothin’ a Young Girl Can Do.This is a fine set of contemporary urban blues, sung with heart and played with plenty of fire which is easy to recommend

Here is a video of Johnny Jones from a few years ago shortly before he passed away.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

2012-1024 Capital Blues Night at The Hamilton Live-241971

Today I retire as an attorney who practiced primarily in the area of the Exempt Organizations Tax Law with the Office of Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service. As offices of all kinds do when someone retires after a long period of time, a party was held to honor me. I had asked that in lieu of personal gifts to me, contributions be made to the Music Maker Relief Foundation and I was pleased that a nice donation in my honor was made to MMF (and check out their website at

This picture was from the most recent performance that MMF presented in Washington DC, which was one of the better live performances I had an opportunity to attend in 2012 and featured in this picture is guitarist Cool John Ferguson and vocalist Captain Luke.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A Couple of Blue Notes

Carla Marciano

I believe it was a link to a free download on that turned me on the Carla Marciano, an Italian saxophonist from Salerno, Italy. Listening to the download immediately led me to download on itunes (and its available elsewhere) her new recording Stream of Consciousness (AlfaMusic). She elads a quartet of her on saxophone; Alessandro La Corte on piano; Aldo Vigorito on bass and Gaetano Fasono on drums. I ahve seen her referred to as John Coltrane's daughter and listening to this recording it is immediately evident from the opening God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, which certain will evoke Coltrane's rendering of Greensleeves, to the title three-part suite where she and her combo will make some wonder if this is a previously unissued Coltrane recording. What's interesting is that the suite is akin to some of Trane's freer recordings. Anyway this lady has certainly left a strong impression on me and this is well worth checking out.

Here website biography is at

Miles Davis - The Complete Illustrated History

Miles Davis - The Complete Illustrated History, published by Voyageur Press of Minneapolis, Minnesota is a marvelous graphic overview of one of the most important, influential and original artists of the Twentieth Century. This coffee-table sized volume provides an overview of Miles Davis’ life accompanied not simply by wondrous and classic photography, but also short essays by his musical colleagues, jazz critics and  historians and cultural historians. The who package is quite well done and the various comments from those of his contemporaries like Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Lenny White, Ron Carter and Clark Terry and such noted jazz writers as Francis Davis, Ashley Kahn and Robin D.G. Kelley, certainly help flesh out a bit of his personality as well as his musical history. This is the second such book on Miles (We Like Miles came out two years ago to accompany a Miles Museum exhibit in Paris and Montreal) and is certainly a must for those who don’t have the prior volume, but also stands on its own for those (like myself) who have the earlier book. 

If you go to Barnes & Noble’s website or to amazon, you can get the flavor of this volume from the preview that is available. 

I purchased both of these items.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Notable Jazz and Blues of 2012 - Part 2

This is the second blog recapping some of the finer jazz and blues releases that came out recently. Today I focus on recordings I reviewed in the second half of 2012.

New Jazz Recordings

Our Thing (Motéma Music) is the first time studio collaboration between Israeli-born guitarist/composer Roni Ben-Hur and Panamanian-born bassist/composer Santi Debraino. The musical delights of this trio is captured in a beautifully engineered recording which is also one of the better jazz guitar recordings this listener has heard recently.

Cassandra Wilson's, Another Country (eOne Music), is a collaboration with the Italian guitarist and producer, Fabrizio Sotti. From the opening moments of Red Guitar, to the closingOlumutoro, Wilson's sultry and intimate vocals benefits from the backing.

Brazilian born drummer Duduka Da Fonseca bridged the world of samba and jazz on Samba Jazz - Jazz Samba (Anzic Records). With a band of well-regarded players (and bandleaders): Anat Cohen - clarinet and tenor saxophone; Helio Alves - piano; Guilherme Monteiro - guitar; and Leonardo Cioglia on bass, he produced an appealing album with strong ensemble playing on a varied set of compositions. 

Ernest Dawkins Afro-Straight (Delmark) is a terrific recording of straight-ahead jazz from an ensemble led by Dawkins, who is most associated with free jazz, as they tackle tunes from Coltrane, Shorter, Gillespie as well as an original blues from the leader. This is an excellent recording that easily refutes the stereotype that free jazz players can’t play straight-ahead.

Cornetist Josh Berman & His Gang, 
There Now (Delmark) is an imaginative free-bop release that includes very original interpretations of songs associated with the Chicago Jazz of the thirties. I found it a most imaginative and fascinating recording, full of surprises and passion.

Five members of Brooklyn Jazz Underground, a cooperative association of jazz artists from Brooklyn, NY, collaborated on a new recording A Portrait of Brooklyn on the association’s sister company, Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records. It is an excellent collection of first-rate original compositions and terrific playing.

New Blues Recordings

Vicksburg Blues (Red House Records) is the first collaboration between pianist and clarinetist Butch Thompson and singer-guitarist Pat Donohue and mostly explores classic blues in the vein of Leroy Carr, Tampa Red and Big Bill. "This is simply the finest album of blues piano and guitar duets in a number of years and certainly one of the finest new blues albums I have heard in 2012."

Johnnie Bassett had a new release on Sly Dog Records, I Can Make That Happen. This was another well produced and enjoyable recording. He died not long after this was released but was still making it happen with his soulful and sophisticated blues.

There are several songs on Linsey Alexander's Delmark debut Been There Done Thatthat if were recorded thirty years ago would be viewed as blues classics. This was one of the finer blues albums I heard in 2012. 

Michael Burks, Show of Strength (Alligator). What turned out to be a posthumous release was a stunning display of his fiery fretwork and soulful singing performing some fine material. 

Omar and the Howlers, Too Much Is Not Enough (Big Guitar). There is the second album of JimmY Reed's music Omar Dykes has put together and this includes the alte harmonica master Gary Primich about others. 
These are wonderfully paced performances and many ‘blues players’ would do well to see how one can take familiar material and make it sound fresh and vital

The Lioness of the Blues, Sista Monica, most recent recording on her Mo Muscle Records label is Living In The Danger Zone. A singer that combines the power of an Etta James with the nuanced delivery of Ruth brown, Sista Monica has produced another strong release.

Willie Buck with The Rockin’ Johnny Band had a new album on Delmark, Cell Phone Man. Evoking Muddy Waters, His vocals exhibit some of the same expressive qualities and with the strong backing here (which at times suggests some of the outstanding Delmark albums of the late sixties and seventies) Buck produced an outstanding recording of real-deal Chicago blues.

Fourteen Stories is the self-released recording by the Red Lotus Revue, a band rooted in fifties’ Chicago blues. They produced a strong collection of Chicago styled blues.

Vintage Jazz and Blues Recordings

Magic Sam, Live 1969 - Raw Blues (Rock Beat label). Exceptional previously unissued club recordings by legendary Magic Sam backed by Bruce Barlow (later with Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen) on bass and Sam Lay on drums. Soul may not be quite hi-fi, but the performances are searing.

Don Sebesky’s Giant Box was part of the CTI Masterworks reissues of classic CTI albums marking the label’s 40th Anniversary. The performances onGiant Box display how his ambitious synthesis of classical, jazz and popular music was realized. His orchestrations frame the featured players here and enhance the solos that exhibit the skill and imagination of some of the greatest jazz musicians of four decades ago.

Celebrating a half century of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a new box set on Columbia/Legacy, The 50th Anniversary Collection. It spans there recordings and includes some previously unreleased material. This is a joy and soulfulness of all of the performances here on this celebration of 50 years of what is truly a cornerstone of American culture, not simply music.

Labor Records issued a new Louisiana Red CD, When My Mama Was Living, bringing together 16 tracks comprised of one track on CD for first time and the rest previously unissued selections or unissued alternate takes. This new release of unissued songs and alternate takes is welcome as. Louisiana Red was in quite fine form during this period.

Grant Green, The Holy Barbarian/ St. Louis 1959 (Uptown Records). This is first release of live recording of nearly 70 minutes of what was a strong performance of blues and hard-bop organ jazz in St. Louis at a short-lived pioneering venue.  Beautifully packaged this is as exciting release as Resonance Records recent Wes Montgomery CD.

Louis Armstrong & the Allstars, Satchmo at Symphony Hall - 65th Anniversary: The Complete Recordings (Hip-O-Select). A double CD reissue that includes previously unissued music that is one of the classic traditional jazz recordings and one of the most legendary performances of Armstrong’s career which thankfully is finally available in a complete issue.