Thursday, April 21, 2016

Guy King Truth

It was at the Montreal Jazz Festival that I first discovered the Israeli-born, Chicago blues guitarist and vocalist Guy King and was first struck by King's sophisticated and jazz-inflected blues. I believe it was the following summer when I was in Chicago for business when Dick Shurman recommended catching him at Andy's Jazz Club where he was leading his jazz organ combo on a set that was musically different, but equally satisfying. When word came out that Shurman was producing an album by King for Delmark, I was delighted, and the recently issued CD, "Truth," fulfills expectations.

Writer (and songwriter) David Ritz, in the liner notes, credits Buddy Guy for telling him about King This led to Ritz catching him a number of times and becoming impressed by King's vocals (Ritz notes the influence of Ray Charles and Percy Mayfield) and  guitar playing (influences include Wes Montgomery, Albert King, B.B. King, Albert Collins, and Johnny Guitar Watson) lending to King developing his own personal approach to blues and jazz. His blues on this CD has a jazzy, swinging flavor, yet retaining plenty of of grit and funk. King is backed by a sextet and produces strong renditions of songs associated with Charles, B.B. King and others along with three originals co-written with Ritz, and a fresh original instrumental.

The Ray Charles flavor is more felt in the arrangements of several songs and some of King's vocal phrasing as opposed to trying to capture Charles' gospel inflected sound. This can be heard on the opening rendition of Charles' "The Same Thing That Can Make You Laugh (Can Make You Cry)." Here King's fervent singing is complemented by some Albert King-styled fretwork with brassy horn riffs accenting his driving solo. The title track is one of the King-Ritz collaborations with an urbane, jazzy flavor matching some smoldering singing.

The King-Ritz song, "My Happiness," is a delightful vocal duet with Sarah Marie Young, and King channeling B.B. King in a manner that also evokes the late gentleman of the blues, Johnnie Bassett. It is followed by a cover of the late Johnny 'Guitar' Watson's "It's About The Dollar Bill," that captures the funky spirit of the Gangster of Love's original, both in the rendition and King's guitar playing here. The last King-Ritz collaboration, "A Day In A Life With The Blues," is a late night blues with outstanding contributions from Christopher Neal on tenor sax and Marques Carroll on trumpet.

Also nice are covers of B.B. King's 'Bad Case of Love," and the Doc Pomus-Dr. John penned "There Must Be A Better World Somewhere." Guy King captures much of the humor inherent in Percy Mayfield's "Cookin' in Style," with Amr Marcin Fahmy on Fender Rhodes and Carroll on trumpet spotlighted while ably crooning on "I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues." This latter number spotlights his fleet jazz-inflected playing here (debts to Wes and Grant Green amongst others). "King Thing" is a strong guitar feature set against a relaxed groove. Among the other delights is a cover of Albert King's recording, "If The Washing Didn't Get You (The Rinsing Will)," as King's vocal captures the lyric's ironic humor while King's guitar pays homage to Albert King.

If there was one quibble, it might be King's versatility has him heard in several different styles as opposed to there being a specific Guy King style (such as one heard from Ray Charles or Albert King). Some will not find that an issue and, in any event, this is an excellent recording.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here Guy King performs "If The Washing Didn't Get You (The Rinsing Will)."

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