Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Andy Brown Makes a Direct Call

Chicago guitarist Andy Brown's third Delmark album "Direct Call," is his first with his own quartet of pianist Jeremy Kahn, bassist Joe Policastro and drummer Phil Gratteau that regularly play's at Andy's Jazz Club in downtown Chicago City (a fine room that I have been to in Windy City visits). After prior albums which included one shared with fellow guitarist Howard Arden and the other a solo effort, this one is a delightful set of swinging straight-ahead recording.

The recording's flavor is set with the bright opener, a piece of Ellingtonia with "The Jeep Is Jumpin'," with sparkling, lively guitar and a nice drum break. Contrast with this driving performance is provided by the lovely rendition of "Prisoner of Love," with some sublime fretwork as he squeezes every bit of feeling out of each note complemented by Kahn's short solo and fruity Arco bass from Policastro. Johnny Mandel's "El Cajon" features more scintillating Brown as well as Gratteau's nice brush work and followed by a solid performance of Hank Mobley's hard bop "Funk In Deep Freeze," with strong solos from Kahn and Policastro. The CD title comes from Django Reinhardt's "Appel Direct," with its evocation of busy city life and blistering guitar runs with more of Gratteau's deft brush work. In contrast, "Relaxing" comes from a classic Hank Garland album and showcases Policastro in addition to the leader's lovey lyricism here which is also heard on Jobim's "Ela É Carioca." There are lively renditions of Hoagy Carmichael's waltz, "One Day In May," and Joe Pass' "Catch Me." On both Brown displays his warm tone, with clean and deft playing and ability to take unexpected twists and turns.

A bouncy rendition of pianist John Coates Jr.'s blues, "Freak of the Week," closes this, straight-ahead album of swinging guitar music. Brown and his quartet play with taste and panache making "Direct Call" such a delight.

I received a review copy from Delmark Records. This review originally appeared in the July-August 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 367). Here is a video of Andy Brown playing solo jazz guitar.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Jim Cullum Jazz Band Porgy and Bess Live

The Jim Cullum Jazz Band
Porgy and Bess Live
Riverwalk Records

For 25 years, the public radio program Riverwalk Jazz examined and performed jazz from the first half of the twentieth century. The Jim Cullum Jazz Band curated and performed the music with numerous musical guess. The program ended at the end of 2015, but now a new release by Cullum has brought us "Porgy and Bess Live," a 1992 performance of the classic Gershwin Jazz Opera from The Landing in San Antonio, Texas for the program. Cullum's band included the leader on cornet; Allen Vaché on clarinet; Mike Pittsley on trombone; John Sullivan on piano; Ed Torres on drums, Don Mopstick on bass; and Howard Elkins on banjo and guitar with the jazz transcription by John Sheridan with Randy Reinhart, Allen Vaché and Jim Cullum.

This is an all instrumental rendition of this classic work with the late William Warfield, the great concert artist who arguably was the most famous actor to portray Porgy, providing narration linking the performances. Cullum leads his classic jazz band (think about traditional New Orleans and Chicago jazz) through such memorable numbers as "Summertime," "My Man's Gone Now," "I Got Plenty of Nuthin'," "Buzzard Song," "Bess, Your My Woman Now," "It Ain't Necessarily So," "I Loves You Porgy," and "Oh Bess, Where's My Bess."

This is a jazz transcription of virtually every song from the opera, not simply the most famous numbers like Miles Davis-Gil Evans' famous collaboration, so there are songs done here that are not on that recording or say the famous Ella Fitzgerald-Louis Armstrong recording. Vaché's clarinet takes the role of Bess, Clara or the grieving Serena, while the rougher male voices of Porgy and Crown are portrayed by cornet with plunger mute. The other instruments play gentler solos and provide relief and pacing according to Cullum. This is a charming, lively performance that was well received by the live audience and all the horns and pianist Sheridan get plenty of solo space to exhibit their melodicism, invention and drive .

At the conclusion of the performance there is an interview with William Warfield dealing with the admitted stereotypes as well the Metropolitan Opera's resistance to using an all-black cast (they wanted white performers in black face) which led Gershwin to stage this originally in a theatre. There is plenty of charm and lively classic jazz to be heard on this release that provides a different jazz take on an American classic.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 366).

Monday, November 28, 2016

Whisper Not: The Autobiography of Benny Golson

Whisper Not: The Autobiography of Benny Golson
Benny Golson and Jim Merod
Philadelphia:Temple University Press:
2016; 336+xvi pp.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing the marvelous saxophonist and composer Benny Golson, has been treated to not simply marvelous music but also his storytelling in introducing the tunes performed, whether recollections about growing up with John Coltrane, or the origins of some of his classic compositions such as "Along Came Betty," "I Remember Clifford," "Stablemates," and so many more. Now, Benny has put some of these stories and more in this new volume that was written with Jim Merod.

This is not a usual autobiography where the person provides a chronicle of his life. Instead the book is more of a systematic organization of vignettes of the manner he would tell in performance, except perhaps he gets into more depth about some and a number of them are matters that would not normally come up unless he was being interviewed.

The book is organized into eight parts and it would give an overview of the contents to describe each of the parts and some of the contents of that part. After Merod's preface, which provides an overview of Golson's life and contribution, while his own introduction is an indication of the positive, as opposed to negative, messages he hopes to provide in detailing his story.

Part 1 is entitled John Coltrane and in its three chapters discusses his interactions with Coltrane including John and him meeting Bird and Diz and then being the musical dynamo. Part II is entitled "The 'Hood' and Youthful Reckonings" and includes some of his early musical adventures as well as his Uncle Robert and Benny's first visit to Minton's, early musical experiences and then hard times. Part 111, entitled "Great P People," takes us to his experiences with the likes of Bull Moose Jackson and Earl Bostic, Art Blakey, Tadd Dameron, Clifford Brown and Fats Navarro, Jimmy and Percy Heath, Betty Carter, Art Farmer, and others. as well as discussing going to Howard University and further matters. Part IV, "Hollywood," was a revelation for me as I was unaware he had left the jazz world to spend several years scoring for film and TV. Included are his recollections of what was musically involved along with his three years with the show, "M*A*S*H."

Part V, "Amazing Friendships," has his recollections of Quincy Jones, Harry 'Sweets' Edison, Dizzy Gillespie, Philly Joe Jones (who he went back with to his youth), Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, Dinah Washington and Curtis Fuller as well as tells the story of The Jazztet that he and Art Farmer co-led. Part VI, "Music and Writing," includes his discussion of how his approach to writing music developed along with discussions of "Stablemates," his first recorded song, "Along Came Betty," and "I Remember Clifford." He was (and still is) not happy with changes Miles Davis made in his composition in the first recording of "Stablemates" (which included John Coltrane in Davis' Band). Elsewhere he recalls very sad circumstances of learning of Clifford Brown's passing that led to one of his most famous compositions. The last chapter in this part, "The Ballad and 'Weight,'" is one of the most thought provoking, as Golson considers playing of ballads such a great factor in the music's art and the import of the ballad as almost a genre in itself while in playing ballads, emphasis is on the weight given to each specific note played.

Part VII, "Icons," has his recollections of persons he had met that stand apart from simply great musicians. Included is his recollections of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, and performing in the film, "The Terminal." There are also recollections of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Coleman Hawkins, Art Blakey, Kenny Dorham, Lee Morgan, Peggy Lee, Diana Ross, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, Charles Mingus, Benny Goodman, Gigi Gryce, Larry Young, Mickey Rooney, Redd Foxx, Jersey Joe Walcott, and Muhammad Ali amongst those disccussed. Part VIII, "Verses And A Coda," includes how he resumed his musical performing career after his Hollywood hiatus, the centrality of the blues and the Coda which is a brief discussion of his becoming a Jehovah Witness.

The text is clean and readily accessible as a Golson melody and a photo album includes a number of memorable images. Golson is such a positive person, and that is conveyed throughout his graceful telling of his story. This is an important addition to the body of jazz biographies and autobiographies.

I purchased this. Here is Benny talking about John Coltrane.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

ROBERT LOCKWOOD Jr. A legend in his own right!

I’ve known Robert Lockwood since the fall of 1970, my senior year at Case Western Reserve University when I interviewed him for a student newspaper. At the time Robert was driving a delivery truck for a Cleveland pharmacy, and playing music part time. The previous summer he attended the second Ann Arbor Blues Festival, and was coaxed up on stage where gave a great performance that led to his first album Steady Rolling Man (on Delmark) as well as playing on a Roosevelt Sykes album, Feel Like Blowing My Horn (also on Delmark). In addition to my interview of Robert in the fall of 1970, I had him on my radio show on the CWRU station. WRUW‑FM in Spring of 1971, and I had the opportunity to interview him in a Buffalo hotel May 12, 1978 (which Jim O’Neal and Amy Van Singel transcribed for a Living Blues interview that never ran).

Robert Lockwood Jr at the 2005 Pocono Blues Festival
In a review of Robert Lockwood Jr.’s new recording, What’s the Score, in the first issue of Blues Revue Quarterly, Brett Bonner writes, “Robert Lockwood is one of the greatest guitarists the blues has ever produced. His music has, in its own subtle way, shaped the blues of the modern era.” Living Blues editor Peter Lee concluded an article on Lockwood in the July, 1991 Guitar Player, “Lockwood’s history is almost that of the blues. Yet he brought something more to the blues in both his style and in his playing. And in doing that, he can claim much more than most musicians could ever hope to.”

Robert Lockwood was born 20 miles from Helena in Marvell, Arkansas on March 27, 1915. He was raised on a farm outside town by his mother Esther Lockwood (Shannon). At the age of 7, he was taken by his mother to St. Louis, the first of many trips to that town, but this trip was a brief one and they soon returned South to live near  Helena.  Robert recalled  growing  up  in Marvel, Helena,  Memphis,  & St. Louis. “Most of my schoolin’ was in Helena. And I dropped out of school when I was about 14, 13 ‑ something like 13, 14 years old. Started to work and try to take care of my mother.” His mother struggled to make ends meet as a cook for a white family, and Robert dropped out of school in 7th grade, finding work in the cotton fields and levee camps. He also started playing music as an additional way to make money.
Robert Lockwood Jr at 2005 Pocono Blues Festival
Recalling this time, Robert stated “That’s when I started to learn to play. Yeah. I was about 13 1/2 years old. During that time I was doin’ farm work. Going out with the cotton chopping trucks, cotton picking trucks‑things like that. But the women wasn’t makin’ no money at that time. Females worked for $3 a week and that kind of shit.... Whenever I could get a job, I’d make around $9. About $9‑10 a week. That was a lot of money at that time.”

Robert didn’t recall a lot of music around the area growing up. “ There was people who was trying to play but, I don’t know. I just didn’t find too many guitar players interesting. I didn’t have no desire to play no guitar. I Thought I was goin’ be a piano player.” Asked if there were a lot of good piano players he answered “There wasn’t a lot. But the piano, you could very well play it by yourself without any help. And that’s what I always wanted when I was beginning-to not have to depend on anybody to help me. As the years passed, I got used to trying to put things together and I got used to help. My ambition was at first to play by myself. But I found it a little boring and dull as the years passed ‑ running all over the world by yourself. I done that for about 10 years, you know about 10 or 11 years, or longer.”

Robert Johnson was the impetus for Robert Lockwood becoming a guitarist. “He was my teacher.” Recalling how he met Johnson, he stated “Oh Robert met my mother. He followed my mother home. He hung around there for, oh, a couple of months. I guess. And my mother at first felt like he was too young but Robert could talk that way‑back talk. He didn’t look like he was no older than me. But I guess he was about 4 or 5 years older than I am. But I met Robert through my mother. And when he found out I was so interested in music, he finally decided to teach me. So, I’m very grateful about that cause my very first beginnin’ was not bad.”

At the 2005 Pocono Blues Festival
Lockwood recalled that Robert Johnson was a “very good musician.... I never heard Robert try to play nothin’ like nobody else. Really I wondered where did he get his understandin’ and style from. I never heard nobody play like him.... Oh you can listen to his records today and you don’t hear nobody playin’ like him but me. Nobody but me.” When I asked about Johnny Shines Robert stated, “Johnny Shines come close. Johnny Shines do pretty good, but he doesn’t play like Robert. So I teaches Johnny Shines every time I see him. Well, we grew up together. You know that.”

Robert recollected travelling with his mentor. “I went quite a few places with Robert ... quite a few. But Robert usually liked to travel alone. That was something else that I didn’t quite understand. But he carried me to Mississippi with him two or three times and he went up into some parts of Arkansas ‑ Eldorado, Arkansas, Camden and different places. I made about three trips with Robert.” Robert remembered some of the other musicians playing at the time. “Oh there was quite a few people down there that’s been gone a long time now. There was a dude called Son Kelly, and one called Stormy Weather. There was two brothers ‑ the Britt brothers, Jim Britt and W.B. Britt. All these people had help. I mean there was always two guitars ‑ one playing lead and the other one playin’ background you know.”

Many of the musicians that would be a vital part of the Chicago blues of the 1950s and 1960s were in Memphis. Robert knew Big Walter Horton in Memphis in the thirties and was the first one to take Walter away from home. “Walter was playin’ what was bein’ recorded. Wasn’t nobody recordin’ then but Big Bill, Peetie Wheatsraw and Lonnie Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, Memphis Minnie. Walter was playin’ better then  he do now.” When I asked Robert what was better about Walter’s playing then. “I don’t know, just seemed like [he was playing better] . . . maybe it was like a kind of new experience to me. Maybe he wasn’t, you know. But he was playin’ like hell then. See Walter and I had left Memphis and went down into a levee camp and came back with so much money Walter’s mother thought we’d done robbed somebody. Yeah, I picked Walter up in Memphis and carried him with me. And brought him back home. He could play. Walter was always a loner, too. You never see Walter, see him with nobody.”
Robert remembered Howlin’ Wolf. “Howlin’ Wolf? Yeah. When I first started playin’ Howlin’ Wolf was trying to play guitar. I used to run into Howlin’ Wolf when we were both runnin’ up and down the road. Howlin’ Wolf was tryin’ to play the guitar then. I didn’t know nothin’ about him playin’ no harp until ... I went down there, it was just after ’40, after ’41. I went back down South and he had a band in West Memphis and was playin’ the harp. I said, “Well I’ll be doggone.”

It was Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) who first took Robert Jr. to Mississippi. “I met Sonny Boy through Robert. Robert was always in Mississippi ‑ well Robert’s home was in Mississippi too. And Robert was steady goin’ to and from Mississippi and he would run into Sonny Boy and I think they would play some together. And Robert was steady tellin’ Sonny Boy about me. And as the years passed, Sonny Boy finally came to Helena looking for me. He came over and begged my mother to let me go to Mississippi with him. She never wanted me to go to Mississippi, but he finally convinced her. And she told me to go ahead. And I’d been goin’ all up and down the road by myself, you know, but she just didn’t want me to go in Mississippi. Well, Mississippi was pretty bad then on Blacks. And I went to Mississippi with Sonny Boy, and we made a lot of money. $100 was a lot of money then.”
Robert Lockwood Jr honored with Lifetime Achievement Award at 2005 Pocono Blues Festival by Larry Hoffman

This was around 1936 or 1937. Sonny Boy wasn’t calling himself Sonny Boy at the time, but rather called himself Boy Blue”. People were also calling him “Rice.” When John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson started making records, Rice Miller started calling himself Sonny Boy. “And Big Sonny Boy could play Little Sonny Boy’s material better than he could play it. So, the way I understand it, they knew each other somehow, but Little Sonny Boy got a chance to make those records. And I think he was a good song writer, Little Sonny Boy was. Both of ‘em was.... Anyway I remember when Little [Sonny] Boy came to Helena.  Well when he came to Helena I had played with him. I played with Little Sonny Boy in 1938‑39.... 1939 and a part of 1938, played with Little Sonny Boy in St. Louis. We used to play a lot of house parties. So in 1942 he came to Helena. Well, the word had got around that Sonny Boy Williamson was down South. He came down there and they talked about it and Little Sonny Boy got on the same station ‑ KFFA. And he stayed on that station for about two months. And that really confused the people. Oh man, I’ve seen some things man."

Robert joined the King Biscuit Time radio show in 1941 a few months after it started with the second Sonny Boy. “I went down after I recorded those records for RCA Victor. And I went down and Sonny Boy grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I stayed with Sonny Boy down there for about two years. And me and the owner of King Biscuit Time, we never got along too well ‑ he’s still living‑ and so I finally split. Well what was really happenin’, then, they wasn’t payin’ nothing. But the publicity was gettin’ us a lot of work. Me and Sonny Boy was playin’ seven nights a week, you know. And those road engagements was really payin’ off, you know.” Responding to my observation that life on the road must have been rough, Robert Jr.. stated, “Nah, it’s not rough when you like it. You know, you just have to like it. You have to like it. There are a lot of people who don’t like it who just be out there for the money. Then it goes kind of hard with them so that’s why they get on all these old different kinds of drugs and dope and stuff‑ to be able to work.”

Longtime Lockwood band member, Maurice Reedus
By the late thirties Robert Lockwood was living and playing in St. Louis, a rich blues community which at the time was the home of Peetie Wheatstraw, Sonny Boy Willliamson I, Henry Townsend, Big Joe Williams, Lonnie Johnson, Dr. Clayton and others. It was with Dr. Clayton, that Lockwood got his first chance to record. “Well Dr. Clayton‑ ton and me and John Lee Williams, which was Little Sonny Boy, and Peetie Wheatstraw and Walter Davis and Elijah Williams and Booker T.. Washington - we all was runnin’ around there in St. Louis - playin’ on the street corners and different little towns in Illinois, you know, and Dr. Clayton and me would sit down and share ideas with each other. And we both was writing songs, you know.  So Clayton had been to Chicago and he kept tellin” me, he said, ‘Well, let’s go to Chicago.” So I had a job parking cars, I was working at the Ninth and Chestnut garage. And I got that job down there and kind of got myself together‑ I bought me a lot of clothes, bought me a brand new instrument, and bought me a union card. So when we came to Chicago we came to Chicago to record for Decca. The talent scout was J. Mayo Williams and Mayo Williams was out of town so . . . during this process we ran into Lester Melrose and Lester Melrose and Mayo Williams was racin’ over talent, because at that  time, the black musicians, blues singers, they wasn’t paying them a goddam thing ‑ you know about 15% of 1¢ royalty.... That’s what they promised you,  know. So anyway, Dr. Clayton and me, I think we got better from Melrose than anybody else. Clayton really got paid ‑ he really got some money out of it. See well, I got $900 for playing with Clayton and for doing my own session. And at that time they was only paying $12.50 a side for a record and then a session was called two records. So that meant you  made $50 for a recording session  But I told Melrose to forget about the 15%  and, oh, he hollered. He didn’t want to give me that much money. He told me, ‘I could record 10 people for what l’m payin’ and you’re askin’ for.’  But what made him record me was I told him, I said, ‘I didn’t come here to record for Victor in no way, you. I’ll just wait until Mayo Williams comes. And he didn’t want Mayo to get me. Oh, we went through a pretty bad time cause he was telling me that he didn’t know whether my material was goin’ to sell or not and ‘I’m taking a chance.’ And I started naming all the dudes who was playin’ for him which was Big Bill, Tampa Red and Johnny Temple.” 

Both Big Bill and Tampa Red should be relatively well known to most blues listeners. Jackson, Mississippi born Johnny Temple may not have been a great instrumentalist but was a rather prolific recording artist of the thirties and forties. Robert kidded me about not knowing Temple’s biggest  record, “Well, his best record was ‘Big Leg Woman.’ I can’t see how you missed that. But Johnny Temple and  those dudes who was playin’ those guitars ... and Melrose, he really didn’t dig me too much because I’m kinda of straightforward about saying what I think. When I think I’m right, I mean you got a problem ‘cause  I’m not goin’ be givin’ in, you know. So he was tellin’ me about how he didn’t know whether my stuff was gonna sell or not and I told him, I said, ‘You can line all them sons of bitches you got ‑ that play by themself ‑ and I’ll just walk right through them. I play what they play and play what they don’t play.’ And he really didn’t like that either. But he wouldn’t let me go. He wouldn’t agree and let me record for Decca. So he finally come up with the contract and I recorded for him.”

Robert recorded four selections that were released: Take a Little Walk With Me, Mean Black Spider, Gonna Train My Baby and Little Boy Blue. With the exception of Train My Baby, the songs became blues standards that were recorded by countless other blues artists. Muddy Waters recorded Take a Little Walk With Me for the Library of Congress and his reworking of Mean Black Spider as Mean Red Spider was among Muddy’s first recordings for Chess Records. Robert gave songs to Muddy and others including Glory for Man which Sonny Boy II recorded as All My Love in Vain, Elevator Blues for John Lee ‘Little Sonny Boy’ Williamson and That s All  Right for Jimmy Rogers.

Video of Robert Lockwood Jr.

After the Bluebird recordings, Robert moved back down to Arkansas, joining the King Biscuit Time show with Sonny Boy. He remembered other musicians. “WelI in Helena there was Willie Love and Dudlow. That dude, he was nicknamed, was Robert Taylor. And Starkey Brothers. The Starkey Brothers used to be with me ‑ they was part of my first band. And a dude who used to live in Marianna named Jim Leake ‑ he had a string band. And an old man called Poppa Crump that played piano very good. And there’s somebody else who I know real good and I can’t think of him for nothing.” Robert formed  his  first band with the Starkey Brothers after leaving King Biscuit Time and started his own show for Mother’s Best Flour, a competing company to the Interstate Company that sold King Biscuit Flour and Sonny Boy Corn meal. This band was a much jazzier group than the band with Sonny Boy. As Robert Palmer chronicles in his excellent book, Deep Blues, Robert Lockwood was one of the first amplified guitar players in the Delta region and exerted considerable influence on numerous musicians including the late Joe Willie Wilkins who was one of the other guitarists that was associated with Sonny Boy and King Biscuit Time, the Murphy Brothers, Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Rogers, Louis Myers, Freddie King, and very significantly B.B. King.

When I first met Robert, he mentioned the fact that he had been working with B.B. King at the outset of B.B.’s career, trying to help B.B. work on his time while working with B.B. as a sideman. Frustrated with B.B.’s apparent inability to pick up on this aspect, Robert wanted to quit but B.B. cajoled him to stay a while longer, and when he left told the record company that was going to record B.B. to use a big band to help cover some of B.B.’s timing mistakes. It was almost two decades after Lockwood left B.B. King’s band before B.B. hired another guitarist to play in his band, so deep an impression Robert left with the Blues King.

In the early fifties Robert moved to Chicago where he would stay until the early sixties. In Chicago he became a major part of the blues scene there, recording Dust My Broom for the J.O.B. label a few months before Elmore James’ classic recording, along with Aw Aw Baby (a version of Sweet Home Chicago) and the jazzy Sweet Woman from Maine as well as established as a session player on recordings by Sunnyland Slim, drummer Alfred ‘Fat Man’ Wallace, pianist Eddie Boyd and others. While none of these records were heavy sellers, they stand up today as small gems of postwar Chicago blues. They have been reissued on a Flyright CD, Johnny Shines & Robert Lockwood which also contains Johnny Shines earliest recordings.

When Louis Myers left Little Walter’s band, the Jukes (or the Aces), in a money dispute, Robert replaced him and ended up working with Walter for several years. Robert once told the story of travelling in the south with Little Walter, and they came across some place where the pace had a sign saying that Little Walter was playing. This fact was news to them, and they had problems convincing people there that Little Walter was the real Little Walter.

Another video of Robert Lockwood Jr.

Robert was a mainstay of the Chicago recording scene, being on numerous sessions for Chess Records until the sixties when Buddy Guy assumed a similar role. Robert’s carefully placed chords and immaculate sense of timing perfectly complemented Walter’s hard driving harp solos, Eddie Boyd’s uptown band blues or Rice Miller’s wry vocals. Robert also did sessions with Muddy Waters, Floyd Dixon, Willie Mabon and the Mooglows for Chess. In 1961 Robert Jr.. travelled with Otis Spann and St. Louis Jimmy Oden to record for Candid Records. At the time, the classic album Otis Spann is the Blues with four vocals each from Spann and Lockwood along with two instrumental from Spann. Lockwood once expressed his belief that the album should have been with a full band, yet there can be little disputing the superb playing by both, with Lockwood’s guitar being a perfect compliment for Spann’s piano. A small glimpse of what might have been with a full band was two songs Spann recorded for Chess with Lockwood, Walter Horton, Willie Dixon and Fred Below that were not even known to exist until they turned up on Japanese import some ten years ago, Chicago Pianology, presenting two powerful examples of classic Chicago blues.

Shortly after returning to Chicago, Robert went to Cleveland with Rice Miller to play a club called Gleason’s for a short gig. While the second Sonny Boy left Cleveland after about nine months, Robert settled in to what has become his home town and raised his  family  with  his wonderful  wife, Annie. Musically, he remains active and doesn’t rest on his past laurels or reputation; still writing songs and still developing his music as when he started focusing on a twelve string guitar over a decade ago. He has made a number of fine albums. His Delmark album Steady Rolling Man is on vinyl or cassette, while his two Trix albums, Contrasts and Does Twelve are unfortunately out of print as is a wonderful Live in Japan that he recorded with the Aces. Similarly hard to find should be two albums he collaborated  with Johnny Shines that were on Rounder.  More recently he recorded an album for the French Black & Blue label Plays Robert & Robert on which he played an acoustic 12 string guitar. This album was recently issued on cassette. Most recently he recorded the fine What’s the Score on his own Lockwood label  which also spotlights second guitarist Mark Hahn and harmonica player Wallace Coleman, as well as show that Lockwood is the ideal blues accompanist.  While some will go to se Robert initially because of the connection with his  stepfather, (Robert Johnson), after hearing him they’ll understand why Bob Dylan was picking up a few pointers from him a decade ago. He is a Giant of the Blues.

This originally appeared in The DC Blues Calendar and Jazz & Blues Report, likely in 1991 or 1992,

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Barbara Dane with Tammy Hall Throw It Away …

Barbara Dane with Tammy Hall
Throw It Away …
Dreadnaught Music

What marvelous career Barbara Dane has had ranging the whole spectrum of American music. From her classic jazz recordings, and her memorable album shared with Lightnin' Hopkins over a half century ago, she remains a singular presence on the music scene. Now at 88, she teamed with a wonderful pianist, Tammy Hall and produced "Throw It Away …," with classic blues, torch songs and a few more modern gems. Filling out the backing is bassist Ruth Davies (best known from her time with Charles Brown) and drummer Bill Maginnis with Pablo Menéndez adding blues harp on three tracks and Richard Hadlock adding soprano sax on one.

Dane may not have the range as a singer she once had, but the jazzy accompaniment allows her to "explore entirely new ways of singing." Certainly this is evident in the opening rendition of Memphis Minnie's bawdy "I'm Selling My Porkshops," where her delivery evokes Helen Humes and Ruth Brown in their latter days, and followed by her take on Leonard Cohen's "Slow," with its humorous, half spoken vocal about her partner wanting to get their fast, but she wants to get it last, and that she always liked it slow because it is in her blood. There are a number of other gems including Abby Lincoln's song that provides the CD its title, and that sometimes it is best to let go; Paul Simon's "American Tune;" Duke Ellington's "All Too Soon" which she added lyrics and Hadlock's soprano sax suggesting Johnny Hodges; and the Lennon and McCartney classic, "In My Life."

There is plenty of humor here such as Lu Mitchell's "The Kugelsburg Bank," celebrating a little old lady that is enjoying her slice of the pie south of the border after years of being the bank's outstanding employee as well as her rendition of Mose Allison's "My Brain" (set to the "This Train"/"My Babe" melody). She does not ignore her progressive leanings whether in her environmentally conscious "King Salmon Blues" and her rendition of a Leroy Carr standard "Tell Me How Long" as he asks when we will get justice, tell me how long.

Not the singer of her youth perhaps, but her experiences have helped her shape these performances marvelously and Tammy Hall is a stellar accompanist and the rhythm rendering apt, complementary backing. "Throw It Away …" is a gem of a recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video associated with this release.

Friday, November 25, 2016

40 Years of Stony Plain

Alligator Records is not the only independent label to issue an anthology celebrating its catalog. "40 Years of Stony Plain," is the latest installment in such compilations from the Canadian label, apparently the oldest independent Canadian record company still with the same ownership. Stony Plain is much more than a blues label, although love of blues and jazz is at the core of Holger Petersen who has also hosted blues radio programs for nearly fifty years, helped found the Edmonton Folk Festival and so much more. The Stony Plain catalog spans folks and roots to jazz and blues and has issued 15 albums from Canadian Country Icon Ian Tyson (formerly of Ian & Sylvia) as well as 20 Duke Robillard releases along with over a half dozen he produced with other artists, eight CDs and one DVD by Ronnie Earl and six releases from Eric Bibb. Richard Flohil provides an overview of Stony Plain including excerpts from his notes to earlier compilations as well as song notes in the enclosed booklet.

This celebration of the label has three discs. The first is entitled "Singers, Songwriters and much more" and includes performances, from amongst others, Colin Linden, Spirit of the West, Doug Sahm, Harry Manx and Kevin Breit, Emmylou Harris, New Guitar Summit, Rodney Crowell, Ian Tyson, Jennifer Warnes, Steve Earl and Eric Bib featuring Taj Mahal, The Blind Boys of Alabama and Ruthie Foster. Highlights on this disc include is the acerbic roots-rock of Linden's "No More Cheap Wine"; the Irish flavored "The Crawl" from Spirit of the West; an unusual folky Doug Sahm performance; the atmospheric reworked blues of Manx and Breit, "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep"; the revival of an Elvis Presley Arthur Crud-up cover by James Burton, Albert Lee, Amos Garrett, and David Wilcox; a hauntingly beautiful Emmylou Harris performance; Duke Robillard, Jay Geils and Gerry Beaudoin recorded a lightly swinging "Flying Home" as part of New Guitar Summit; the traditional country of Ian Tyson's "Cottonwood Canyon" and Tim Hus' "Wild Rose Waltz," and the Eric Bibb led gospel "Needed Time."

The second disc brings "Blues, R&B, Gospel, Swing, Jazz and even more," with performances by the likes of Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne, Joe Louis Walker, Rosco Gordon, Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, Maria Muldaur with Taj Mahal, MonkeyJunk, Jay McShann, Jeff Healey, Billy Boy Arnold, Ruthie Foster, Sonny Rhodes and King Biscuit Boy. There is a rollicking "Bankrupted Baby" by the Blues Boss from his most recent recording; Joe Louis Walker's revival of a swamp rockabilly number "Eyes Like a Cat"; late Rosco Gordon and Jay McShann (both from Duke Robillard produced sessions I believe); Ronnie Earl's revival of Otis Rush's "It Takes Time" with vocalist Michael Leadbitter from his latest album; Muldaur & Taj doing an impassioned take of Blind Willie Johnson's "Soul of the Man"; Jeff Healey's amusing swing era jive of "Hong Kong Blues"; a terrific Billy Boy Arnold Chicago blues; Ruthie Foster's excellent Memphis Minnie interpretation from Stony Plain's Memphis Minnie tribute album; and the late King Biscuit Boy's Louis Jordan cover. There are also acoustic blues interpretations from Rory Block and Big Dave McLean on this.

The third disc contains "Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material" starting with a couple of Duke Robillard numbers including a Smiley Lewis cover; two tracks from Eric Bibb including a hauntingly beautiful "Wayfaring Stranger"; live performances by Maria Muldaur of songs from Memphis Minnie and Reverend Gary Davis; a lively acoustic guitar instrumental blues by David Wilcox; Colin Linden and Doc MacLean backing the legendary Sam Chatmon on two songs from the long defunct Flying Fish catalog; two Bob Carpenter's two folk numbers and a closing instrumental by Shakey 'Walter' Horton backed by Hot Cottage. The inclusion of these rare selections enhance the already considerable value of compilations such as this one.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the July-August Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 367).

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gonzalo Bergara - Zalo's Blues

Gonzalo Bergara
Zalo's Blues

The Buenos Aires-based Gonzalo Bergara may best be known for his gypsy jazz quartet, Charlie Baty notes that when he first met the Argentinian, Bergara was developing as a blues guitarist. Then he changed gears and immersed himself in the gypsy jazz tradition (something Baty himself has done). Now Bergara has made a 'blues' recording, which also includes his vocals. Baty calls him "one of the most talented guitarists in the universe" and he certainly displays his chops and appealing vocals on an album of originals with the exception of a Jimmy Reed cover, backed in 2015 by his trio of Mariano D'Andrea on bass and Maximiliano Bergara (except for one track with Vince Bilbro on bass and Michael Partlow on drums that was recorded in 2003).

While Baty calls this Bergara's 1st 'Blues' album, it transcends the genre with a fair dose of blues-rock and country in the songs along with a focus on his guitar playing which incorporates doses of surf-guitar and country-billy that evoke a Danny Gatton or Tom Principato. The opening "Drawback" certainly dazzles, followed by some very credible singing on "Drinking," a nice rock-flavored song crisply played with  more guitar fireworks that doesn't obscure how how inventive and logically he plays. "Singing My Song" is more of a classic rock styled song, but again one is impressed by his guitar playing, especially in his use of space and tone. Covering Jimmy Reed's "You Don't Have To Go," he opens sampling Reed's original but tearing into the performing with his vocal very much reflecting Reed's influence, even if his performance is a bit more emphatically done than the lazy Reed original.

"Dirty Socks" is another sampling of his blistering fretwork set against a funk groove, followed by "Gotta Go," a country-rockabilly romp followed by a driving shuffle groove on the original blues "No More." "Whoosh" is another brisk instrumental with some jazzy accents that was based on Charlie Baty's "Percolatin'", and which Baty not only felt Bergara captured his sound, but had a more interesting theme. Starting off as a lament, "Been Runnin'" is a dose of blues-rock and his playing explodes here (although likely my least favorite track). "Levi" is a nice medium tempoed-blues instrumental with a mix of restraint and explosive guitar followed by a lovely tone poem "Ines," another display of technique, taste and dynamics. The closing "Won't Stay With You" contrasts with understated accompaniment supporting his vigorous singing.

Listening to "Zalo's Blues," one is most impressed by the superb guitar work from Gonzalo Bergara and if not a great singer, he does deliver his vocals with a definite appeal. With his trio, he has provided a recording that will certainly have many take notice of his talent.

I received a review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in September-October 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 368). Here is a sample of him playing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trudy Lynn Sings the Blues for You

Trudy Lynn
I’ll Sing the Blues for You
Connor Ray Music

Houston vocalist Trudy Lynn has to these ears been an under appreciated blues and soul vocalist. She has appeared in various contexts including the big blues band of the late Calvin Owens. Her latest album features her unique takes on songs from ‪Big Mama Thornton‬, Lowell Fulson, ‪Memphis Minnie‬ and Johnny Copeland, among others, as well as the funky original, “Thru Chasin’ You.” Backing Trudy on the new album are a tight small group comprised of label president Steve Krase on harmonica, David Carter on guitar, Terry Dry on bass, Randy Wall on keyboards and Matt Johnson on drums.

There is a good selection of material starting with the rollicking rollicking down home feel of her interpretation of a lesser known Big Mama Thornton number "Alright Baby," with Krase's harmonica along with Wall's piano adding to the fun. The Lowell Fulson hit "Black Night" has a different tenor to it with a nice guitar solo by Carter and restrained backing for her nuanced vocal. "Honky Tonk Song" is a song Koko Taylor recorded on one of earliest Alligator albums. Lynn's rendition is a bit cooler but equally satisfying. Other notable selections include her small group reworking of (and powerful vocal on) Big Maybelle's "Ramblin' Blues" with Krase's horn like harp solo.

After her jaunty reworking of Memphis Minnie's "Kissin' in the Dark," the album closes with an instistent vocal on Johnny Copeland's "Down on Bended Knee," where she begs her man to please come back to me. A solid performance that ends another solid recording by this Houston blues queen.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of Trudy performing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Julio Botti Sax To Tango

Julio Botti, Pablo Ziegler Producer
Sax To Tango
Zoho Music

"Sax To Tango" is the second CD collaboration between Argentine born, but New York domiciled saxophonist Julio Botti and his celebrated mentor and colleague, Nuevo Tango pianist, arranger and composer Pablo Ziegler. The prior recording, a Latin Grammy nominee, featured classic quintet settings with occasional string quartet accompaniment, while the present recording is more ambitious in its arrangements featuring The University of Southern Denmark Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Argentine conductor Saul Zaks in a selection of nine iconic Astor Piazzolla Nuevo tangos, one Tango standard, and three compositions by producer Ziegler who also plays piano. The recording sessions were scheduled in connection with a live concert of the material.

As Ziegler observes the saxophone was never a traditional tango instrument but he finds Botti able to express Nuevo Tango as if a tango singer and the orchestrations both frame his vocalized and passionate playing but add to the romanticism inherent in the music. This becomes clear on the opening "Primavera Porteña," part of Astor Piazzolla's "Los Cuarro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires)," which was inspired by Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" but composed at different times and not primarily intended to be performed together or in seasonal sequence. This composition is a celebration of spring and followed by "Invierno Porteño," a celebration of winter. Both compositions and the lovely orchestration allow plenty of space for Botti to sing on the soprano and dance through the orchestrations with various shifts in tempo and mood with Ziegler's piano itself adding to the music. Much the same can be said of the performances throughout.

The music is beautiful, passionate and invigorating with the orchestrations enhancing the many delights of Botti's voice as he brings life to the rest of Piazzolla's "Los Cuarro Estaciones Porteñas," along with the beautiful melody of Juan Carlos Cobian's "Nieblas del Riachuelo," the lively "Fuga Y Misterio," with sax dancing along with Ziegler's piano, the Piazzolla composition "Oblivion," with some hauntingly beautiful saxophone, and Ziegler's own "Rojotango," with its sense of drama in the orchestration. "Sax To Tango" is a remarkable recording full of many listening delights.

I received my copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the September-October Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 368). Here is a brief video clip to promote this recording.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Houston Person, Rene Marie and Etienne Charles Among Headliners For 2017 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival

 Houston Person

The line up for the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, to be held February 16th through 19th , 2017 at the Hilton Hotel in Rockville, MD has been announced with over 150 artists performing. Artist groups appearing on our main stage include Rene Marie, Houston Person, Etienne Charles, Vanessa Rubin, Kathy Kosins, Paul Carr, The Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Jazz Orchestra with guest conductor Delfeayo Marsalis, Russell Malone, Bobby Broom and Paul Bollenback and Steve Turre. A first this year for the MAJF Event and its producer the Jazz Academy of Music, is the pre-festival Mardi Gras fundraiser Gala featuring our own Jazz Academy Youth Orchestra opening for Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra. This pre-festival gala offers a New Orleans theme with New Orleans Jazz, New Orleans Cusines and New Orleans Fun. The Mardi Gras Galla will be held on Thursday February 16th, 2017 starting at 6pm at the Hilton. Proceeds from the Gala will support the Jazz Academy Education Programs. Also new for this year will be a Discovery Stage for which emerging artists can submit an application to Paul Carr, Executive and Artistic Director of the Festival. 

As stated this year opens with a Festival Gala on Thursday evening February 16 and features Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra. Also appearing will be the Jazz Academy of Music under Paul Carr's Direction. Friday Night opens on the Ronnie Wells Main Stage with the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Collegiate Orchestra, conducted by Delfeayo Marsalis followed by the wonderful vocalist Vanessa Rubin with tenor saxophonist Houston Person closing this evening's main stage. Herb Scott and Candice Bostwick will be performing in the MAJF Club and David Cole and Main Street Blues will be laying down blues in the MAJF Juke Joint. At Midnight, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the MAJF Midnight Jam Session with the Wes Biles Trio takes place in the MAJF Club.

Rene Marie

Saturday Afternoon has the "Mid-Atlantic "2017 Jazz Voice" Finals," the Festivals annual jazz vocal competition on the Ronnie Wells Main Stage. Performing in the MAJF Club in the afternoon are vocalist Chad Carter, the Terry Koger Sextet and Iva Jean Ambush and Ambuscade. Vocalist Iva Jean Ambush will be doing a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald.

Saturday evening Kathy Kosins Group opens the Ronnie Wells Main Stage, followed by a Guitar Summit featuring: Russell Malone, Paul Bollenbeck, and Bobby Broom. Etienne Charles and Creole Soul, featuring the marvelous trumpeter will lose the Main Stage this evening. Performers in the MAJF Club this evening include Tacha Coleman Parr and Anthony Compton; and Maija Rejman, while Anthony "Swamp Dog" Clark will be performing in the MAJF Juke Joint.

Sunday morning has the traditional gospel brunch and MAJF Women's Collective featuring Akua Allrich, Janelle Gill, Amy Shook, Savannah Harris are the first afternoon act on the Ronnie Wells Main Stage. Also in the Main Stage will be the Greg Hatza Organization and the Lavenia Nesmith Group who will perform a Tribute to Nancy Wilson. The Lovejoy Group and Petra Martin.

The Festival's last evening has a Tribute to Paul Carr Featuring the Paul Carr's Bantam Orchestra; the Steve Turre Quartet featuring the famed trombonist and conch shell player; and the terrific vocalist Rene Marie. The Festival concludes with the MAJF Midnight Jam Session with the Wes Biles Trio. There are likely some other performers that will be added including those at the Discovery Stage. There are also workshops, interviews with artists, screenings of film, a High School Big Band Competition and more.

Etienne Charles

The Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival continues the legacy of the East Coast Jazz Festival that ran for 15 years starting in 1992. The ECJF originated in honor of Elmore “Fish” Middleton, a Washington, DC jazz radio programmer, whose commitment to promoting jazz music and supporting emerging jazz artists became the guiding principle behind the festival. The driving force of the ECJF was the late Ronnie Wells, a Washington DC jazz icon. After her passing, so did the ECJF.

As stated on its website “The Mid Atlantic Jazz Festival (MAJF) represents an auspicious renewal of the spirit and intent of the ECJF, as a showcase for some of the DC area’s finest established and emerging artists, student ensembles, and a healthy dose of renowned touring jazz artists as well. MAJF is designed to take the ECJF mid-winter jazz festival tradition to the next level and to further enhance arts & culture in the Washington, DC region.” Under the auspices of Washington DC area saxophonist and educator, Paul Carr, the Festival has a focus on not simply bringing some of the best local and national jazz performers to the area, but to help nurture and support Jazz Education. As seen in my brief description of the Festival performances, this remains true.

For more information on the Festival, including hotel accommodations, visit

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Invitation to Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography of Les McCann

Invitation to Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography of Les McCann
Curated by Pat Thomas and Alan Abrahams
Seattle: Fantagraphics Books
2015: 200pp

With the holidays coming up this book focused on the photography of keyboardist-vocalist Les McCann is one that might well be high on your list for the jazz lovers on your gift list. McCann is of course famous for his recordings, including a classic album that helped launch Lou Rawls career and the epic live performance with Eddie Harris at the Montreux Jazz Festival that was issued as the legendary album "Swiss Movement." This book's title derives from a 1972 album on Atlantic. Not only a musician, McCann is also a photographer who has photographed a wide variety of performers as well as political figures and others. Now, from thousands of photographs we are treated to a wonderful coffee table book of his Black and White photography.

One of the selling points of books of musical photography are the specific individuals presented. Here, one will find a wealth of photographic treasures with images of such greats as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Sonny Payne, Gerald Wilson, Miles Davis, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, Yusef Lateef, Cannonball Adderly, Gene McDaniels, Louis Armstrong, B.B. King, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie (including a shot with Herb Albert), Ray Charles, Jean Luc Ponty, Ray Nance, Grover Washington, Ben Webster, Toots Thielemans, Richard 'Groove' Holmes, and others along with shots of Redd Foxx, Bill Cosby (taken far before his present disgrace), Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Wilson Pickett, Richard Pryor, Tina Turner, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Lemmon, Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, and Muhammad Ali.

These pictures range from concert and nightclub shots, backstage images, and informal ones taken outside. We see Cannonball Adderly relaxing and smoking a cigar backstage, Roberta Flack both performing and sitting on a garbage pile. There are street scenes such as a boy on a bicycle in Washington DC as well as a Man on a bicycle. Redd Foxx is shown at the microphone and back stage, and Wilson Pickett with a fan in Ghana. Then there are some contact sheets such as those of Dizzy and Bobby Streisand in performance, and one contact sheet has pictures from the Los Angeles Lakers (Jerry West-Elgin Baylor years) playing the Boston Celtics with also off-court pictures of Johnny Mathis with Red Auerbach and Bill Russell. The negative size shots suggest that he was a more than capable sports photographer as indicated by a terrific picture of then San Francisco Warrior Wilt Chamberlin going up against Lakers Gene Wiley, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.

Interspersed  are  comments on some of the famous people and others. There are so many pictures that brim with their subject's personality whether capturing them informally or in performance. The reproduction strikes my amateur eye as quote good and having looked at this for the first-time in months, I am reminded how much I enjoyed this after I purchased it. Les McCann joins Milt Hinton among  jazz musicians to have their photography documented so well. Highly recommended.

I purchased this. You can check online sites like Barnes and Noble and Amazon for prices. Barnes and Noble has preview of some the images on the page for the book.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Shemekia Copeland and Bobby Rush Headline Blues-Filled Catskill Weekend

(Shemekia Copeland)

“Bluzin’ in the Catskills” brings the blues to the Villa Roma Resort in Calicoon, NY, the weekend of March 24–26, 2017. This will be an all-inclusive weekend of great blues Shemekia Copeland and Bobby Rush Headline Blues-Filled Catskill Weekend Shemekia Copeland (photo by Ron Weinstock) performers including Shemekia Copeland, The Bobby Rush Revue, John Primer, Johnny Rawls, Teeny Tucker, Slam Allen, Alexis Suter & the Ministers of sound and much more. This blues land cruise is being produced by Michael Cloeren who has produced Blues Festivals in the Poconos for 25 years and produced other events including the Philadelphia Folk Festival for four years. 
(John Primer)

When Bluzin’ attendees arrive Friday, March 24, they will be greeted by keyboard wizard Dave Keyes. That night they will feature the music of The Slam Allen Band (Slam fronted as vocalist with James Cotton for many years and now exciting crowds everywhere with his music); The Teeny Tucker Band (the daughter of Tommy Tucker evokes blues women greats like Big Mama Thornton and Etta James); and The Bobby Rush Revue, with the Blues Hall of Famer who has been singing and performing for over 50 years. That Night concludes a blues jam hosted by Bobby Kyle and the Administers with Vanessa Collier, Mikey Junior and others. 
(Teeny Tucker)

There is a full day of music on Saturday, March 25 starting with a Centennial Celebration with Bobby Kyle and the Administers with Teeny Tucker, Mikey Junior and Vanessa Collier. It will be followed by John Primer & Steve Bell (Primer is one of the great straight Chicago Blues Guitarists and vocalists and Steve Bell is Carey Bell’s son); Johnny Rawls & Dave Keller (the great soul-blues singer and guitarist as well former member of OV Wright’s band is joined by strong Vermont-based soul-blues singer-guitarist) and followed by pianist Dave Keyes and Friends. Also happening Saturday Afternoon, Guy Davis will perform his one-man show, “The Adventures of Fishy Waters: In Bed With the Blues,” an acclaimed mix of storytelling and musical performance. 
(Johnny Rawls)

Saturday evening opens with Johnny Rawls & the Dave Keller Band, followed by a Tribute to Johnny Clyde Copeland with Bobby Kyle, Randy Lippincott, Joel Perry and Barry Harrison, all former members of the late Blues Legend’s Band. John Primer follows and Shemekia Copeland, a consistent Blues Award nominee and winner finishes up the main show. The late night jam that evening will feature the Dave Keyes Band with guests including Vanessa Collier and Mikey Junior. 

The Festival winds down on Sunday, March 26 with Shemekia Copeland talking about her music and career during the brunch. Dave Keyes will be playing solo piano later and the powerhouse vocalist Alexis Suter & The Ministers of Sound will be performing in the afternoon. Those still at the resort that evening can see the Chris Bergson Band with special guest Ellis Hooks. 
(Alexis Suter)

The all-inclusive packages include Friday dinner, three meals on Saturday and Sunday Brunch, on-site lodging, meet and greet, a movie screening and more. The Villa Roma has an indoor pool, fitness center, Bowling Alley and more. The package does not include adult beverages. Deposits to get the lowest rate must be received by December 5 with the balance due by January 23, 2017. For more information, visit, click on the Festivals pull down menu and click on the Bluzin’ in the Catskills button. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

John Mayall Live in 1967 Vol. 2

"Live in 1967 - Volume 2" by John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (Forty Below Records), is the second set of club recordings made by Tom Huisson, a Dutch fan of Mayall that captured the edition of the Bluesbreakers that were together for three months with Peter Green was on guitar, John McVie on bass and Mick Fleetwood were on drums. As I wrote reviewing the prior review "Eric Corne engineered and remastered these recordings that Huisson recorded on a single track tape recorder to result in a listenable if not hi-fidelity release. Mick Fleetwood suffers the most in the audio as it almost sounds like he is playing wood blocks."

There is a mix of covers along with some Mayall originals including the opening "Tears in My Eyes," with some spectacular, if lengthy, Green guitar. A cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Your Funeral and My Trial," is taken too fast and comes off as a bar band romp. Mayall's love of Otis Rush is heard on "So Many Roads" and the closing "Double Trouble." Of course as a vocalist Mayall is nowhere in Rush's league, but invests feeling in these with Green stretching out. Sonny Boy's "Bye Bye Bird" is a showcase for Mayall on harp with a little Ray Charles interpolated into the performance. "Please Don't Tell" is a messy sounding original (with rough sound) while covering B.B. King's "Sweet Little Angel" provides another showcase for Green. There is a cover of J.B. Lenoir, whose blues Mayall championed, along with a rendition of Eddie Taylor's "Bad Boy," while Ronnie Jones handles the vocal on "Stormy Monday." Green's original "Greeny," is an instrumental showcase while Lionel Hampton's "Ridin' on the L&N" is hot rock and roll.

I stated regarding the prior album, that it was indispensable for fans of Mayall, Peter Green and early Fleetwood Mac. It has been awhile since I listened to that, but the sound is pretty rough on some of this and this will deter many listeners, which is unfortunate as the music here does seem more interesting than his most recent studio album.

I received my review copy from a publicist. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

John Lee Hooker The Modern, Chess & Veejay Singles Collection 1949-1962

John Lee Hooker
The Modern, Chess & Veejay Singles Collection 1949-1962

 There have been so many reissues of John Lee Hooker's amazingly prolific recording career, especially those of his early recording career, to which a four-disc set from Acrobat is another addition. The title of this collection, "The Modern, Chess & Veejay Singles Collection 1949-1962," fairly describes its contents. It is not an exhaustive reissue of Hooker's early recordings, but one simply organized around those commercially issued 78s and 45 of Hooker's music that was released on the Bihari Brothers Modern label, recordings issued on Chess, and then a good selection of Hooker' s Vee-Jay recordings ending in 1962. That date likely reflects that those recordings were not affected by European copyright law changes that extended the period for copyright of recordings for recordings issued in 1963 and after, so that they were not in the public domain in Europe. 

This is one of a number of recent public domain reissues that have compiled complete A and B sides of various musical performers. In the case of performers like Eddie Boyd who have not exactly been over-represented by reissues, this has been very valuable and hopefully made more folks aware of the artist's importance. In Hooker's case where so much has been reissued, and whose importance is undeniable, perhaps there is less value, but one cannot dismiss having such a nice chunk of his early, pre-Endless Boogie recordings available. The value of this release is such even if some of Hooker's most gripping recorded performances are excluded because they were issued on other labels like Specialty, King, Sensation, and other small labels, some of which might have been unavailable for copyright or contractual reasons per the liner notes from Paul Watts.

So we get to hear the original classic Hooker recordings including "Boogie Chillun," "Hobo Blues," "Crawlin' King Snake," "Drifting From Door To Door," "Women in My Life," "I'm in the Mood," "It's My Own Fault," "Dimples," and "Boom Boom," some heard in several versions. The chronological presentation of the material allows one to hear the evolution of Hooker's recordings, including the increasing presence of small groups backing him, along with a few recordings from performances he made originally for the folk market that Vee-Jay released. Generally the sound is quite acceptable although a couple of the tracks apparently came from worn originals. It is also fascinating to listen to the early Vee-Jay recordings where the group and Hooker sometimes seemed not totally together. There is simply too much music here to go into depth about specific performances but it does provide a generous sampling of his music directed towards the commercial record buying public.

Full discographical information is provided and Paul Watts provides an nice overview of Hooker's biography and the recordings on this which as he observes provides a substantial chunk of the recordings during the period he established his reputation and made some of his most influential recordings. If one wanted a collection of early John Lee Hooker, one could do far worse this convenient set.

I received from a publicist. This review appeared in the November-December 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 369) although on the initial posting of the issue was labelled a DVD. Here is the King of the Boogie from the sixties doing one of his more famous numbers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Groove Legacy

Groove Legacy

Established as a tribute to soul-jazz such as represented by the legendary Crusaders, The Meters, JB Horns, and Stuff, Groove Legacy is led by established mainstay musicians of the road and studio: Saxophonist Paul Cerra and keys master Bill Steinway, alongside bassist Travis Carlton (Larry’s son). Blues guitar virtuoso Kirk Fletcher, emerging drum star Lemar Carter, rhythm guitarist Sam Meek and trombonist Andrew Lippman join Groove Legacy on stage and record, along with guest appearances from Robben Ford and Larry Carlton. Groove Legacy has not attempted to copy the classic funk and soul-jazz recordings, but rather provides us on the eponymously titled recording with ten originals that evoke this bygone musical era.

The mood is set by the opening "Sweetness (For Walter Payton)" with the twin horn lines of saxophonist Cerra and trombonist Lippman setting the mood over a funky groove with Travis Carlton's bass lines helping set the foundation with soulful tenor sax from Cerra followed by Fletcher's bluesy guitar. Sam Meek's guitar, along with  honking sax by Cerra and some blustery trombone, is featured on "Odd Couple." 

Cerra and Travis Carlton collaborated on the bluesy "Cornell," dedicated to Cornell Dupree, with appearances from Ricky Peterson on Hammond B-3 and Larry Carlton on guitar. Robben Ford's blues-rock guitar, along with Bill Steinway's Fender Rhodes piano and Cerra's tenor sax, is spotlighted on another bluesy number,"The Know It All." Having long been a fan of Kirk Fletcher, it is nice to hear him in the funky, non-blues, context on "Moneybags."

Nothing fancy about the music on this recording. Groove Legacy pretty straight R&B flavored jazz that should  appeal to those that want danceable, funk grooves and the husky solos that propel these performances.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the July-August Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 367), although I have made stylistic changes and corrections to what was run there. Here is Groove Legacy performing "Moneybags."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection

It has been 5 years since Alligator Records produced its last label retrospective/sampler, so now it has issued the two-disc "Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection," that allows Bruce Iglauer to mix some of the recordings from the label's history with tracks from more recent recordings. So a typical driving rocker from a 2008 Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials release is followed by some searing Son Seals from his 1973 debut recording.

Rather than go through every artist and track, let me say that there is plenty of fine music here, even if some of the performances are not to my taste. Listening to Shemekia Copeland's rendition of her father's "Devil's Hand," one is impressed by the freshness of her rendition, and roots artist JJ Grey and Mofro is one of the more compelling artists Alligator has promoted over the past decade or so. It certainly is a teat to hear fresh new (not necessarily young) voices such as Toronzo Cannon, Jarekus Singleton and Selwyn Birchwood, along with the bluesy roots of Moreland & Arbuckle. Then one has vintage Koko Taylor doing "Voodoo Woman" from her first Alligator album along with Jimmy Johnson's "Your Turn to Cry" from the "Living Chicago Blues" series.

The rockabilly of Lee Rocker is mixed in with the roadhouse blues-country of Delbert McClinton and the rollicking Gulf Coast boogie of Marcia Ball. And it certainly is a treat to listen to A.C. Reed with Bonnie Raitt guesting, along with some sizzling live Luther Allison and the gospel of Mavis Staples and the Holmes Brothers. Both Guitar Shorty and Joe Louis Walker have been prominent relatively recent additions to Alligator's catalog although I would suggest that these are not the best recordings of their career. Of course, lets not forget selections by Billy Boy Arnold, Lazy Lester and Charlie Musselwhite.

Bruce Iglauer provides both an overview on the label and all the performances included. With about two and half hours of music among the 37 performances on these two-discs, it is priced as if it was a single disc so it represents good value along with the good music.

I reeeived my review copy from Alligator. This review appeared in the July-August 2016 issue of Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 367).