Friday, April 26, 2013

Gina Sicilia Discovers It Wasn't Real

Gina Sicilia has developed into a striking vocalist and a very fine songwriter. This becomes clear listening to her new CD, It Wasn’t Real (Swingnation Records/VizzTone), is her first that was not produced by Dave Gross. Glenn Barratt produced this recording, that was recorded at Morningstar Studios in Philadelphia, and Gina explains it helped her move out of her comfort zone. Sicilia wrote nine of the ten songs here, the exception being a cover of a less-known Etta James recording, Don’t Cry Baby.

Opening with the terrific title track, Sicilia displays a powerful voice as she belts out this original evocative of classic 50s and 60s R&B. Jay Davidson’s baritone sax helps establish the mood before he takes a booting tenor sax solo while guitarists Kevin Hanson and Jef Lee Johnson add fills. Gina invests much feeling into the cover Don’t Cry Baby as Joel Bryant’s piano accompaniment stands out and Davidson rips off more tough tenor sax. Wake Up Next To You, has an infectious reggae groove, as Gina wants to take her baby home with her. Dennis Gruenling contributes marvelous chromatic harmonica on the jazzy Walkin’ Along the Avenue, that has her lyric on how love can happen when least expected. 

The country-laced Don’t Wanna Be No Mother is a moving song about a marriage where the romance has long gone and the husband Carl looks at pretty young girls and never makes love to her with the haunting line “The stale air of the airplane, smells like my life …” Jef Lee Johnson plays some acoustic slide as well as electric single note runs on this standout emotionally charged performance. It is the highlight of a consistently strong recording.

It Wasn’t Real is a superb album of blues, country and other roots music. It brings together exceptional original songs, strong session playing and marvelous, nuanced vocals that display the marvelous talent Gina Sicilia has become. Highly recommended.

I received my review copy from VizzTone.  Here is a video for Don’t Wanna Be No Mother.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tinsley Ellis Gets It!

Its been a bit since the last Tinsley Ellis, and the blues rocker has returned with an all instrumental album, Get It! (Heartfixer Music). Recorded in Nashville and Atlanta, Ellis is backed by Kevin McKendree on keyboards, Lynn Williams on drums and percussion; and Ted Pecchio on bass (on 5 of the ten selections). The selections include eight originals and two covers and allow Ellis to display not simply his impressive guitar chops and tone, but his ability to craft thoughtful, yet electrifying solos.

There is a nice range of material ranging from his tribute to (and evocation of the style of) Albert Collins on the opening Front Street Freeze, along with his tribute to Roy Buchanan on Anthem For A Fallen Hero. Berry Tossin’ is a lively take-off of Chuck Berry’s distinctive guitar style through Ellis’ own approach (with some Freddie King riffs tossed in). The title track is a driving bulldozer of a guitar shuffle while Fuzzbuster has Ellis exploring a range of tonal effects. Detour is a cover of a lesser known Bo Diddley track with Ellis playing through a Leslie speaker, suggesting classic Lonnie Mack. 

The focus here is strictly on Ellis as the backing musicians play solely in a supportive role. Get It! impressively displays Ellis imagination, power and taste as a guitarist.

A publicist sent my review copy to me. Here is some vintage Tinsley Ellis doing a classic Joe Zawinul tune that was written for the great Cannonball Adderley.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Eddie Taylor Jr's So Called Friends

One of several blues playing and singing children of the late Chicago blues guitarist legend Eddie Taylor, Eddie Taylor Jr. has followed in his father’s footsteps in playing the Delta rooted Chicago blues style that his father was known for. Taylor senior was best known as Jimmy Reed’s guitarist and worked/recorded with others including John Lee Hooker (on Bluesway), Harmonica Hinds and Carey Bell along with a number of fine recordings for Vee-Jay, Advent and other labels. Eddie Junior picked up much from his father and has been prominent amongst those old school Chicago blues musicians of today. He has recorded five albums for the Austrian Wolf label which has issued So Called Friends: His Best 15 Songs, compiled from those earlier releases along with five newly issued recordings. The selections derive from 5 different record dates with Eddie Jr. backed by brother Tim Taylor on drums along with Harmonica Hinds, Roosevelt Purifoy, Detroit Jr., Ken Barker, Johnny B Moore, and others. 

The first five selections are from a recent session with Purifoy and guitarist Anthony Palmer opening with Hound Dog Taylor’s Wild About You Baby, and includes the topical Welfare Blues, as well as a cover of Jimmy Rogers’ You Sweet. This latter number best suits Taylor Jr.’s introverted vocal approach as opposed to the rocking slide guitar Wild About You Baby, which misses the fervor of an Elmore James or the exuberance of Hound Dog Taylor. They are not bad performances, just that Taylor is strongest on certain material. If his vocals are on occasion bland, the music is wonderfully played classic Chicago blues. The title track is an original that borrows the music of Willie Mabon’s Poison Ivy, with Taylor singing that nobody can hurt one but one’s so-called friends with a nice guitar break.

From his prior sessions comes a number of nice performances including his reworking of a Sugar Pie DeSanto recording Use What You Got, as he sings how he keeps his woman satisfied. His father played on Jimmy Reed’s original of Upside Your Your Head, and Eddie Jr. does his father proud on a relaxed cover, as well as a rendition of Magic Sam’s Easy Baby. There is a relaxed shuffle version of Stop Breakin’ Down, on which his playing and singing evokes his father. His brother Larry contributed a nice philosophical slow blues Blues In Your Life, that suits his introverted vocal. Also nice is his rendition of Sonny Boy Williamson I’s My Little Machine, modeled after Jimmy Rogers’ recording. It sports nice slide guitar and strong playing from Harmonica Hinds. More slide is heard on a Shake Your Money Maker variant, Gotta Make This Money, as he tells us about playing his Gibson all around town.

If not always a compelling vocalist, Eddie Taylor Jr. is always engaging and his playing is terrific. So Called Friends is a welcome introduction to a Chicago blues singer and guitarist that does deserve to be better known amongst the general community of blues enthusiasts.

I purchased this CD. Here is Eddie Taylor Jr. in performance.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Colin Linden Very Much Still Live

Canadian Colin Linden latest recording Still Live (Yellow Dog Records) is a live recording at a neighborhood Nashville tavern, the Douglas Corner CafĂ©. He has been living in Nashville since the 90‘s. It is Linden’s 11th album under his own name although he has contributed to many recordings by a variety of artists of a variety of stripes. He was backed on this by John Dymond on bass and harmony vocals, Gary Craig on drums and the legendary Spooner Oldham on organ. One selection, a new version of his John Lennon in New Orleans, was recorded in a studio during a rehearsal for this performance.

Linden impresses with his songs, his playing and his singing over a program of mostly originals (the one cover is a nice restrained rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s Who’s Been Talking). The opening Big Mouth is a blues rooted number displaying his considerable picking skills as well as his restraint and sense of dynamics. A country-folk flavor marks Between The Darkness and The Light of Day, while Smoke Them All, a collaboration with his wife Janice Powers, is a solo performance that displays Linden’s considerable finger picking guitar (with some jazzy accents) as Linden sings “barrelhouse at midnight the piano moans.” It is a moving tribute to his late friend, pianist Richard Bell. 

Other performances include Sugar Mine, a lovely rootsy ballad with Linden’s touch on the electric guitar complemented by the light backing he receives. Dark Night of the Soul, has a lovely lyric that Linden will be their for his friend and lead them from the dark night of the soul while Too Late To Holler is an exuberantly performed rocker with a very soulful vocal. Remedy was written with Jim Weider and recorded by the post Robbie Robertson The Band on their comeback album, and Linden’s bluesy-roots rendition with Oldham gritty on organ is a strong performance that has some of the same feel to it that The Band imparted to so much of their music. 

I called Linden’s From The Water a stunning recording, and Still LIve is a similar appealing mix of blues and roots songs.

I received a review copy from Yellow Dog Records. Here is a video of Colin Linden in performance.

Friday, April 19, 2013

2013-0418 Frank Basile Celebrates Pepper Adams at Kogod-7736

Thursday April 18, the monthly Take 5! program at the Smithsonian's Museum of American Art featured baritone saxophonist Frank Basile and his group celebrating the music of the late Pepper Adams.

Frank Basile
Adams, one of the most celebrated baritone players of the sixties until his death in 1986, first came to notice when he co-lead a group with Trumpeter Donald Byrd. He may be best known for his associations with Charles Mingus and the Thad Jones-Mel Louis Village Vanguard Orchestra, but was also a composer of note as well as a great player.

Basile, one of the finest young baritone sax players on the New York scene, has recorded CDs of Adams composition and brought his arrangements of Adams music for a group that included fellow baritone saxophonists Leigh Pilzer and Brad Linde. The rhythm section included pianist Hod O'Brien (who had played with Adams), bassist Tom Baldwin and drummer Tony Marucci.

It was a real pleasure listening to the three saxophonists, each with their own distinctive sound playing Adams' music. Reminder that the Take5! series takes place the third Thursday of the month and starts at 5:00PM, and runs until 7PM (8PM in the late spring and summer).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

John Primer and Bob Corritore are Knockin’ Around These Blues

The fact that John Primer and Bob Corritore share the billing on a new Delta Groove release, Knockin’ Around These Blues, is certain to be welcome to fans of real deal blues. Primer, a member of Muddy Waters last band and a long time member of Magic Slim’s Band, has deservedly acquired a reputation as among the finest living ‘old school’ Chicago blues artists still with us. The fact that Bob Corritore (who produced this) has teamed up with Primer for this new release is doubly welcome as his recent collaborations have been generally outstanding. The album was recorded in two sessions. One session in Phoenix with Chris James on guitar, Patrick Rynn on bass and Brian Fahey on drums. The other session was in Chicago with Billy Flynn on guitar, Bob Stroger on bass and Kenny ‘Beedy Eyes’ Smith on drums. Pianist Barrelhouse Chuck is on both sessions. 

The personnel listing should give a sense of what to expect, and indeed this is a recording that fans of classic Chicago blues will savor. While most of the album are covers, the songs covered such as the opening rollicking rendition of Jimmy Reed’s The Clock, will be fresh and even the most familiar songs, Little Walter’s Blue and Lonesome (with some real nice slide guitar), and Robert Lockwood Jr.’s Little Boy Blue (sounding as if Muddy Waters had recorded), are reworked so they sound new. Primer sings and plays strong, Corritore wails and Barrelhouse Chuck pounds the 88s. 

The originals are Primer’s When I Get Lonely, which has the feeling of some of Eddie Taylor’s fifties recordings and Corritore’s Harmonica Joyride, a rollicking feature for him. Other highlight’s include Primer’s take on Artie White’s Leanin’ Tree, taking that soulful blues to Pepper’s Lounge, Lil Son Jackson’s Cairo Blues, transformed into a Chicago blues shuffle and a rendition of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Going Back Home sounding as Muddy Waters might have done it back in the sixties. 

Bob Corritore has to be thanked for his efforts to bring deserving blues performers into the spotlight. John Primer should have been a household name amongst blues lovers for several years, and if there is any justice, the stellar Knockin’ Around These Blues will elevate him to this status. He is among today's finest blues performers.

I received my review copy from Delta Groove. John Primer will be performing at the Chicago Blues Festival, the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival, the Pennsylvania Blues Festival, the Riverfront Blues Festival and other blues events this summer. Here is John performing They Call Me John Primer from a few years back.

Incidentally here is a link to my blog entry where I reviewed several of John's earlier albums.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Frank Basile Celebrates Pepper Adams' Music at Museum of American Art

Baritone saxophonist Frank Basile has established himself as among the most formidable players of the Baritone saxophone on the scene today. Thursday, April 18, he well lead a celebration of the music of the great baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams at the Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in the Penn Quarter section of Washington DC, just across 7th Street from the Verizon Center and opposite F Street from the Spy Museum. The free program is part of the Museum's monthly Take 5! series on the third Thursday of each month and takes place from 5 PM to 8 PM.

The Museum's website describes this program:

"Relax and Take 5! with free, live jazz in the Kogod Courtyard. Frank Basile celebrates the music of Pepper Adams, the exceptional baritone saxophonist and composer who played with Charles Mingus, Donald Byrd, and Thad Jones. Basile and fellow baritones Leigh Pilzer and Brad Linde perform original arrangements, accompanied by Hod O’Brien (piano), Tom Baldwin (bass), and Tony Martucci (drums)."

I have become aware of Frank Basile from a Kickstarter project supporting his most recent recording Modern Inventions. One of the premiums I received for my participation was one of several recordings he has performed of the compositions of Pepper Adams and it was a terrific introduction to Basile's music. I am looking forward to the triple baritone attack at the Kogod Courtyard.

Frank Basile's website is:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Daryl Davis Boogies The Woogie at Tinner Hill Blues Fest Fundraiser

Sunday night, April 14, Daryl Davis, a mainstay of the Washington DC blues and roots music scene, performed with some friends at a fundraiser for the Tinner Hill Blues Festival. The fundraiser took place at a residence in Arlington Virginia and was catered by the Falls Church location of Famous Dave's BBQ.

Daryl performed solo a wonderful first set (and nice to see him on a real piano and not an acoustic piano. After a break he returned with drummer, harmonica and Bobby Parker's saxophone player for more rousing music. Daryl has played at numerous shows and festivals in the DC area (He played the 1st DC Blues Festival in 1989), and tours with the legendary Chuck Berry on the East Coast of the United States. Mentored by the late Johnnie Johnson (Chuck's original pianist) and Pinetop Perkins, he plays strong two-handed boogie woogie and blues along with some rock and roll and even old pop songs.

A fun evening of music and friends. Daryl will also be performing as part of the Tinner Hill Blues Festival. His performance will take place on Saturday afternoon, June 8. Visit for more information.

Friday, April 12, 2013

John Hammond Headlines Tinner Hill Blues Festival Opening Night Concert

The Tinner Hill Blues Festival returns to the City of Falls Church, Virginia the weekend of Friday July 7 through Sunday July 9. Produced by the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, this is the 20th year the Foundation has produced a music festival and the seventh year the Festival has been devoted to the blues. The Blues Festival is held in honor of the memory of Piedmont Blues Legend John Jackson who was a friend of the Foundation and performed at a number of events produced by the Foundation. Jackson's last performance was in fact at a New Year's Eve concert produced by the Foundation as part of Falls Church's annual New Year's Eve Celebration.

The 2013 Festival will feature a mix of free and ticketed events. This is the first of several blog entries that I will be posting to promote this year's Tinner Hill Blues Festival which looks like it arguably has the best line-up of 2013 Washington DC area blues festivals devoted to real deal blues as opposed to blues festivals that include a heavy dose of blues-rock and rock headliners.  It opens eight weeks from when this is posted with the major event on Friday night being a concert at the State Theatre in Falls Church. This Friday night concert will feature John Hammond Jr, and also Phil Wiggins and the Chesapeake Sheiks. Roy Bookbinder, who will be performing on Saturday afternoon, is a special guest and will be joining his friend John Hammond this evening.

John Hammond has performing primarily acoustic blues for nearly five decades. When I first saw him perform in the late sixties, I was in college. Hammond has been playing mostly in the Delta tradition  and has recorded numerous acclaimed albums. While the recordings of Robert Johnson have been a definite source of inspiration, he was also directly influenced by such Mississippi blues masters as Big Joe Williams and John Lee Hooker for his driving rhythmic approach to his music. The above video of John Hammond was from the 2006 Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise which I was on.

Phil Wiggins, a Washington native, is one of the true masters of blues harmonica and is known for his long partnership with the late John Cephas with whom he made numerous recordings and toured the world. Since John Cephas' passing, Phil continues to play and teach. He currently works with Corey Harris or Rick Franklin. At the Tinner Hill festival he will be bringing the Chesapeake Sheiks, some of his local friends that he frequently plays with. It will be a treat to have Phil in the spotlight as he is certainly one of our local treasures. Above is a video of Phil with Rick Franklin.

Roy Bookbinder is among a number of disciples of the legendary Reverend Gary Davis and a brilliant guitarist in that tradition as well as storyteller and master of finger-style guitar with a broad repertoire that includes songs of past blues masters like Little Hat Jones, Blind Blake, Pink Anderson as well as Reverend Gary Davis. I first saw Roy in the seventies when he played to a small audience at the University of Buffalo and one of the songs he performed was Delia, which I recall he said was one of the songs he learned from Rev. Davis. The above video is of him performing that song.

It should a fantastic concert of acoustic blues and get folks ready for a terrific weekend.  I will update this post when tickets are available for purchase, but one can get more information by going to

I should point out that I am on the Festival Committee, but I joined the Committee after the line-up was announced. I repeat that I would be hard-pressed to name a Washington DC area festival whose line-up was as strong as this one.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Lucky Peterson Band Featuring Tamara Peterson Live At The 55 Arts Club

Lucky Peterson, if not for some personal issues, would be among the leading acts in the blues and funk world. Despite producing a number of albums for Verve/Gitanes and Blue Thumb that are amongst the finest contemporary blues (as opposed to blues-rock) recordings of the past couple decades, his star has not burned as brightly as his talent may have warranted in the United States. Reports are that he apparently has put his house in order with the help of his wife Tamara and busy performing again.

A real pleasant surprise is a new DVD set on BlackbirdMusic/ Soulfood by The Lucky Peterson Band Featuring Tamara Peterson Live At The 55 Arts Club. Recorded at the Berlin, Germany venue, this is a 3 DVD/ 2 CD package with 2 DVDs capturing Lucky’s 2 full sets with Tamara joining midway through the performances with a third DVD providing guitarist Shawn Kellerman’s opening numbers for the two sets along with some behind the scenes of Lucky and band, a brief clip of a rehearsal of a number and an interview with Lucky and Tamara. The music of the 2 DVDs of Lucky and Tamara in performance is also on the two CDs in this set.

Lucky’s Band includes the afore-mentioned Shawn Kellerman on guitar, Tim Waites on bass and Raul Valdes on drums. Its a hard-rocking, tight band which does a terrific job and backing Lucky and Tamara, with Lucky playing both the Hammond B-3 and some guitar, while Kellerman when featured on guitar adding his own blistering attack. Lucky is in good voice and his wife Tamara (who went to High School in Houston with Roy Hargrove, Erykah Badu and Norah Jones) is a terrific singer. 

The material ranges from Lucky’s reworking of blues classics such as You Shook Me, I’m Ready, and Who’s Been Talking, along with Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s Ta’ Ta’ You. He takes out the slide for Dust My Broom, while getting really greasy on the B-3 on I’m Back Again, as well as Rico McFarland’s Giving Me The Blues. Tamara shows how expressive a singer she is on the cover of Prince’s Kiss, along with originals like I Don’t Like You But I Love You, and Last Night You Left. She is a powerful, yet nuanced singer who certainly complements Lucky. 

I found the video well done and capturing the performing personalities of Lucky and his band quite well. I was amused to see how fierce Kellerman appears backing Lucky as I knew the Canadian Kellerman when he was playing with harmonica player, Jordan Patterson in the Washington DC area in the nineties. He has spent time with Bobby Rush as well and his fiery playing may be on the rock vein at times, but he never gets boring or overbearing. 

In the bonus CD Lucky talks about how he thinks that this particular group may be the one to take him to the next level. Based on the performances here on Live At The 55 Arts Club, and given the stability that Tamara and their faith have apparently given him, one should not be surprised if he doesn’t take it to the next level. There is some terrific music to be seen and heard here.

My review copy was received from a publicist. Lucky is appearing at the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival near Annapolis MD in May.  It was on the strength of this Live DVD/CD package that I decided to attend this festival so I could see him.  Here is a little clip that was posted on youtube to promote Live At The 55 Arts Club.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Colin Linden From the Water

I am presently listening to Colin Linden's most recent recording, Still Live (Yellow Dog Records) and realized that I had reviewed one of his earlier albums a few years back. I will writing a review of the new release in a few days, but I thought I would also post this review from a few years back. I received a review copy from a publicist or the record label. The review appeared originally in the August 2009 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 319).

Canadian Colin Linden has been playing blues and blues-related roots for some time and has a new CD, From the Water (True North) that certainly will enhance his reputation as a thoughtful and skilled player and singer. This disc is comprised mostly of his originals (some penned with others), the record benefits from his often restrained approach. 

The opening title track has a hypnotic groove akin to that of the North Mississippi Hills Country bands but benefits from a lighter accompaniment. His silences speak more effectively than some of the unrestrained heavy metal approach of some award-winning blues groups from Mississippi. This is followed up by a lovely ballad sung in French, again with spare backing which makes his strong slide solo stand out . An old Blind Teddy Darby recording is the source for a superb country blues performance of Built Right On the Ground, with Paul Reddick adding some nice harmonica support to Linden’s spellbinding guitar and vocal. Smoke 'Em Down, again sports a light accompaniment with Linden on acoustic guitar with Gary Craig using brushes on his drums as he sings about a barrelhouse pianist whose left hand would smoke ‘em all. 

A more rock and roll blues groove follows with Trouble Comes in 3’s, with a melody suggestive of Lieber & Stoller’s Riot in Cell Block 9, although his vocal sounds slightly mannered, and drummer Craig is not as supple. Between the Darkness and the Light of Day, is more of a blues-tinged contemporary folk original with an uplifting lyric of pushing on through life’s obstacles, followed by his spiritual vision on I Have Seen a Miracle, with perhaps more of a country flavor and a vocal that would have been home with The Band. Devilment takes us back with a hokum feel on a lyric of a woman seemingly innocent but having devilment on her mind with lovely piano by John Whynot. John Lennon in New Orleans, has a surreal lyric about being a wanted man no one can recognize with a soulfully sung vocal. 

The remaining tracks are as deftly performed and Linden and his collaborators have written some very strong originals that display plenty of heart without any bombast. Linden’s mix of blues and blues-based roots material here and his understated, but heartfelt performances, makes for a stunning recording.

Here is a video of Colin Linden performing the title track, From the Water.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Hadden Sayers Has Rolling Soul

Rolling Soul is Hadden Sayers’ newest release on Blue Corn Music and follows up the terrific Hard Dollar. Sayers has seen hard times with circumstances leading him to have given up music for a period. Thankfully, he is back and writing new tunes, part of the amazing Ruthie Foster’s band and this new release full of Texas Roadhouse blues and rock with country, swamp pop and Tex-Mex seasoning. On his latest release he is backed by David DeWitt on keyboards and accordion; Mark Frye on bass and Tony McClung on drums and percussion with Phil Clark on harmonica and Baritone sax, Jim Ed Cobbs on clavinet and Ruthie Foster sings on one track.

Don't Take Your Love (out on me), opens with Sayers’ nuanced sandpaper vocals and blues-rock guitar with his effective use of various effects set against his band’s crisp backing. Something Wrong In the World, was written after learning a mentor of his had passed and is a restrained soulful blues about wanting his baby but knowing someone else is holding her tight,” with a nice guitar solo as DeWitt’s organ provides additional musical colors. Sayers and his band struts on Want What You Have, with effective employment of a riff from You Don’t Love Me. He also makes effective use of his wah wah pedal. Also noteworthy is Sayers’ use of sustain and echo with his spare playing on Alone With the Blues

Ruthie Foster joins him for the vocals on Lay Down Your Worries, on which Clark adds harp to support the vocals. Hadden calls The Man I'm Supposed to Be, a love letter to his one and only. It is a lovely performance, marked by restraint in his playing that displays that it is what one plays, not how fast and how many notes that one plays, that matters. Unlucky has a rocking country flavor with some nice guitar while DeWitt is in a honky tonk piano mood. Insomniac Blues is a nice 12 bar blues with a late night feel in the backing and a terrific vocal, before closing out with Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind, a very fine piece of blues-rock.

Hadden Sayers has a knack with words, his vocals ring true and his wonderful guitar playing is complemented by his fine band. The result is that Rolling Soul is another excellent addition to his body of recordings.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Hadden in performance although not doing music from this recording. For those in the Washington DC area, he is at Hill Country Barbecue on April 27.

The Kahil El’Zabar Quartet States What It Is!

As Howard Mandel observes, the new Delmark release What It Is! by The Kahil El’Zabar Quartet is the 58th recording to feature the composer-drummer/percussionist-bandleader-music director Kahil El’Zabar. One of the many important musicians to emerge out of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM) his credits are multiple, including being part of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble with saxophonist Ernest Dawkins. 

On What It Is!, El’Zabar is joined by Kevin Nabors on tenor saxophone, Justin Dillard on piano, Hammond B-3 and Fender Rhodes, and Junius Paul on bass. The selections with Dillard on the Hammond B-3 provide a fresh twist on an organ group from the opening moments of The Nature Of, as Dillard brings some interesting voicings on the B-3 while Nabors displays a robust attack and full-bodied tone. Paul takes a solo while the leader keeps the groove percolating on this spirited opening track. On Impressions, the first of the two Coltrane covers, the group shows the influence of the classic Coltrane quartet while providing their own personality. One can certainly hear Coltrane’s influence in Nabors’ fervent tenor here, while Dillard evokes McCoy Tyner as well. Dillard is on the Fender Rhodes while the leader is on the African Earth Drum for the title track and sings on a soulful number that has a seventies’ rhythm’n’blues flavor.

Song Of Myself” has Dillard back on the B3 and, as Howard Mandel observes, he explores some of the realms that Larry Young had ventured in against Paul’s firm ostinato bass and the leader’s sure footed groove. Nabors takes a lengthy solo that also takes unexpected twists while his playing displays his ability to build up a lengthy solo. The other Coltrane cover, Central Park West, is an particularly appealing organ-group reworking of the ballad with Paul contributing a lively bass underpinning, and El’Zabar’s hand drumming supporting Nabors vigorous tenor sax here with Dillard laying down some soulful organ. From The Heart is a lovely original with the leader on kalimba (thumb piano) setting the tenor of the performance. Kari, named after Kahil’s son, is a lively closer in a Coltrane vein. 

What it Is! is outstanding with varied material and energetic, swinging playing by The Kahil El’Zabar’s Quartet. The music here a joy to listen to.

I received my review copy from Delmark. This was the second recording by Kahil El'Zabar I have heard and it inspired me to purchase three more CDs by him (including one by Ethnic Heritage Ensemble).

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Buddy Guy Live At Legends

In considering Buddy Guy’s new release, Live at Legends (Silvertone), one is struck by a couple of things. These are not the first live recordings Buddy has made at Legends as several years ago he offered a series of live recordings from his annual run (I purchased two of them). Secondly, on an album titled Live at Legends, it is odd to have some of the recordings included being studio recordings, as if they did not have more live material they could have included.

Musically this is the hard-edged Stone Crazy Buddy Guy with a mix of frenzied styled performances with searing guitar backed by a rock-tinged rhythm section. Unlike the 2004 performances, there are no saxophones to provide another solo voice (although when Guy explodes his solos, is any other voice needed). There is a nice piano break on the opening Best Damn Fool. His enduring love of Muddy Waters is reflected in renditions of Mannish Boy and a medley of I Just Want To Make Love To You with Bobby Rush’s Chicken Heads, with Guy engaging in a bit of call and response with the Legends’ audience on I Just Want To Make Love To You. The appealing Skin Deep benefits from opening in a more relaxed vein before Buddy cranks it up a notch with his solo before taking it down to sing its message about treat others like you want them to treat you. 

After a searing Damn Right I Got the Blues, Guy follows with relatively short medleys of Boom Boom/ Strange Brew, and Voodoo Chile/ Sunshine of Your Love, expressing his admiration for John Lee Hooker and then Clapton and Hendrix. On a live recording, I would rather have heard Buddy revisit at Legends some of his early recordings such as First Time I Met The Blues or My Time After Awhile, than three previously unissued studio recordings although they are pretty similar in the vein of Buddy’s most recent recordings.

Certainly Guy’s many fans will savor the explosive performances on Live at Legends. While blues traditionalists will find this a bit over the top, the fact is Buddy has remained true to his own muse and plays in a manner than belies his age. 

I received my review copy from a publicist.  Here is Buddy Guy doing a song associated with Otis Rush.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Andy T - Nick Nixon Band Drink Drank Drunk

Andy “T” Talamantez is a Southern California native who spent eleven years touring with Smokey Wilson and Guitar Shorty, although in recent years he has been based in Nashville where he has been hosting the Nashville Blues Society’s regular Sunday night jam. It was at the jam that he heard Nick Nixon. “The first time Nick sang next to me on stage I got goose bumps. Nick sings like I’d like to able to sing.” A guitarist himself, Nixon, developed a relationship with Andy T. ““Andy plays great in every style of blues, so I like to just play rhythm and let him handle the hot stuff. But even when he’s playing the hot stuff, Andy knows that the blues is about soul and feeling, not about playing a lot of notes.”

The partnership formed at the Sunday Jams has developed into a most formidable band. The Andy T - Nick Nixon Band has a debut recording on Delta Groove, Drink Drank Drunk. The CD is produced by Texas guitarist and band leader, Anson Funderburgh, who first met Andy T while Andy T was touring with Guitar Shorty. Anson with his association with various singers fronting The Rockets, most notably with the late Sam Myers, brings his experience in making a number of solid recordings. A variety of individuals add backing here including pianist Christian Dozzier, bassist John Garza, and drummer Danny Cochran.

There is a mix of interpretations of some post-war blues classics and originals with the tone set by the rendition of Gatemouth Brown’s Midnight Hour, with Nixon’s singing complemented by Andy T’s guitar playing which evokes Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, and this track is followed by a cover of Watson’s Don’t Touch Me. The fifties West Coast flavor is continued in the title track, an original from Tom Hambridge and Gary Nicholson, with Ron Jones adding some raspy sax behind Nixon’s vocal celebrating a 24 hour happy-hour with a lazy groove suggestive of Watson’s Motorhead Baby, with Andy T adding some stinging guitar. Nixon’s voice can soar, but also he is able to sing in a relaxed baritone as on Paul Gayten’s No Use Knockin’ with Jones’ sax featured.

Dozzier’s accordion lends a Tex-Mex flavor on Andy T’s original Have You Seen My Monkey, with a slashing guitar solo. This is followed by the crisply played guitar feature for Andy T and Anson Funderburgh, Dos Danos, with Jones wailing on a sax break as well. Nixon’s No End To The Blues has Nixon really tearing into the vocal joined by Markey’s backup singing here with more blistering guitar. On My Way To Texas is a wonderfully paced original that celebrates the blues history and the wide open spaces of Texas as Nixon sings give me some Lightning, T-Bone, Frankie Lee and Albert is so cool. Nixon’s You Look So Good, is a relaxed Jimmy Reed styled shuffle with Brian ‘Hash Brown’ Calway adding harmonica. Dozzier is on accordion for the closing track, a cover of Ray Charles’ I Got a Woman, where Nixon displays his gospel roots in his fervent singing. 

This is a wonderfully produced recording with a terrific studio band to support Andy T and Nick Nixon in marvelous, wonderfully paced and performed performances. Andy T impresses with his fluidity, tone and taste while Nixon brings pretty of heart and soul to his nuanced vocals. Not simply an impressive debut, Drink Drank Drunk will have listeners wanting another dose of music from The Andy T - Nick Nixon Band. 

I received a review copy from Delta Groove. Here the two are performing Have You Seen My Monkey.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Project Trio Asks When Will Then Be Now.

Project Trio might simply be described as a Chamber Jazz and Music hybrid on its self-released When Will Then Be Now. The trio is comprised of Peter Seymour on bass, Greg Pattillo on flute and Eric Stephenson on cello and they perform a mix of classical numbers from Beethoven, Bach and Rossini with a bebop cover and five originals that display an invigorating, rhythmically charged performances that display the trio’s interplay and bridge of musical worlds.

The short opening take of the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Beethoven 5, opens with a brief statement of the theme before their interplay. Pattillo’s use of his flute almost as rhythm instrument is introduced here and followed by the original Classique, an evocative crossover in the classical tradition. Raga Raja is a lively Indian styled composition with Pattillo driving playing lending an exotic flavor here. In contrast are the three Bach Sinfonias with a distinct chamber music flavor. TV Theme Show is a fun original that should have wide appeal while The Stacks moves from a chamber trio to driving feature for flute and cello. The Charlie Parker and Miles Davis bebop classic Donna Lee starts as a stately bass-cello duet statement of the theme before Pattillo turns up the tempo a few notches with Stephenson shadowing him and then taking his own brisk cello solo before Pattillo leads the performance to its coda. 

“6th Road Middle” opens with the tone of a chorale number by the trio (some really pretty flute at the beginning before becoming a hot jam between the three. Rossini’s William Tell Overture is the lengthiest performance to close this. There is a playfulness leading up to what folks of my age will refer to as The Theme to The Lone Ranger, followed by three minutes of silence before a minute long spacey segment closes this recording. The is a mix of serious music and playfulness on When Will Then Be Now matched by their lively performances that also likely accounts for the following among the diverse audiences Project Trio has garnered.

A publicist provided a review copy. Here is a performance of Rossini’s William Tell Overture to whet your appetite for Project Trio.