Monday, November 02, 2015

The Knickerbocker All-Stars Go Back Home To The Blues

A most pleasant surprise is a new release by The Knickerbocker All-Stars, "Go Back Home To The Blues" (JP Cadillac Records). The release is a follow-up to last year's "Open Mic At The Knick" and like the earlier album celebrates the Westerly, Rhode Island venue, the Knickerbocker Cafe. This is where, in the 1960s, musicians like Greg Piccolo, Johnny Nicholas, Fran Christina and others played in various groups which led to the emergence of Roomful of Blues by Duke Robillard and Al Basile and other bands. Producer Jack Gauthier and Musical Director Copley have put together a superb band of Mark Teixeira, drums; Brad Hallen, standup/electric bass; Al Copley, piano; Monster Mike Welch, guitar; Doug James, baritone/tenor sax; Sax Gordon Beadle, tenor sax; Rich Lataille,alto/tenor sax; Doc Chanonhouse,trumpet; and Carl Querfurth, trombone. Vocals are shared by Sugar Ray Norcia, Brian Templeton and Willie J Laws with Al Basile playing cornet and singing on one selection.

The musical focus is on the urban blues of the fifties and sixties with renditions of songs associated with Bobby Bland, Roy Brown, Guitar Slim, Chuck Willis and Larry Davis with Basile contributing several idiomatic originals as well. What can one say as the All-Stars are terrific, with Welch again showing that he has become one of today's top string benders. He channels Freddie King in backing Laws' soaring vocal on " You Know That You Love Me." Norcia opens the album with Bobby Bland's classic "36-22-36," with his terrific vocal perhaps more akin to Junior Parker than Bland. There is superb playing, including a booting tenor sax solo, backing Templeton on a jumping cover of Roy Brown's "Cadillac Boogie." Copley pounds on the piano on the Basile original "Brand New Fool," behind a fervent Norcia vocal, while Welch channels Guitar Slim as Laws' fervently sings Slim's  "Something to Remember You By." Norcia again evokes Junior Parker on a ripping cover of Chuck Willis' "Take It Like A Man."

The rest of this album is of an equally high level. There is a late night instrumental feature for the horns "Hokin'," while Basile plays cornet and delivers an appealing vocal of his witty original, "Don't You Ever Get Tired Of Being Right?" Templeton sounds vigorous on the Basile-penned title track that has strong tenor sax and guitar solos. Copley lays down some serious boogie woogie piano and Doug James get down in the alley on baritone sax on "Blockbuster Boogie." Laws preaches the blues on a driving rendition of Larry Davis' "I Tried," with more of Welch's blistering guitar. This entire recording is a joy for fans of jump and urban blues to listen to. It is another upper deck home run from the Knickerbocker All-Stars.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of the Kickerbocker All Stars featuring Brian Templeton on the vocals.

No comments: