Friday, March 25, 2022

Kurt Crandall - Starts on the Stops - YesterYear Records

Kurt Crandall - Starts on the Stops - YesterYear Records

Kurt Crandall mailed his new CD (I believe his fourth album to me), and after giving it a couple of spins, I checked out his website and discovered he is well-traveled as well as a seasoned performer. Currently living in the Richmond, Virginia area, Crandall has had stops in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Macon Georgia, Chicago, and Seattle. While living in Washington, he played with Jesse James & the Raiders, a band led by the late Jesse James Johnson, who played with Bo Diddley when the music legend lived in Washington.

Crandall has penned five original songs, and three instrumental. He also performs two covers. Two different bands back Crandall's harp and vocals. Guitarist Karl Angerer is on nine of the ten selections. There is a rhythm section of Bill Heid on piano, Aaron Binder on drums, and Rusty Farmer on upright bass on the first five tracks. On the other selections, Reid Doughten plays guitar on four songs with a rhythm section of Johnny Hott on drums, John Sheppard on electric bass, Clark Stern on piano, and Carl Bender on saxophones.

Crandall is a very appealing, unforced vocalist and a gifted harp player who at different times evokes William Clarke, Toots Thielemans, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Junior Wells. Crandall also crafts some very appealing songs filled with honesty and humor as he leads his musicians in a set that might be described as West Coast Swing, a fusion of classic Chicago blues, West Coast Jump Blues with a dash of Memphis blues blasters. Things kick off with the lively "Skedaddle," with some Williams Clarke-styled chromatic harp, swing band drumming from Binder, and a dazzling, jazz-inflected solo from Heid, who mixes the sophistication of a Teddy Wilson with Junior Mance's funky blues. Heid's piano also shines on "Early Bird Special," a humorous tune centered on food specials some restaurants direct at the elderly. Crandall's Toots Thielemans styled chromatic playing is exemplary. There is some splendid diatonic harp on "Razz My Berries," an easy swinging shuffle. Another instrumental, "Beignets and Coffee," sounds like a variation on "La Cucaracha." After Crandall's harp solo, Angerer quotes Ray Charle's "Mary Ann" in his sterling solo.

With his opening harp solo evoking the second Sonny Boy, Crandall does a solid cover of the Little Willie John hit, "Home at Last," on an arrangement based on Junior Wells version (titled "Country Girl"). This track is one of Doughten's guitar features, and he scintillates here. Musically "Go Without Saying" evokes classic Johnny Guitar Watson recordings with some slashing Angerer guitar and some relaxed singing in the manner of a Roy Milton. After evoking "Sloppy Drunk" while singing about his "Bull Headed Woman," Crandall musically reworks John Lee Williamson's "Blue Bird Blues" as well as modifies some of the lyrics changing references to Jackson, Tennessee to Macon, Georgia.

Another well-paced and played instrumental, "Sidecramp," caps an album that will appeal to anyone who has enjoyed the music of William Clarke, Rod Piazza, Mark Hummel, Little Charly Baty, James Harman, and others in the vein. Kurt Crandall certainly has hit a musical grand slam with this outstanding recording.

I received my review copy from Kurt. This review has appeared in the March-April 2022 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 401). I made a correction of Jesse James Johnson's name that was wrongly listed in that review. Here is a very recent video of Kurt Crandall performing.


Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Jose Ramirez - Major League Blues


Jose Ramirez - Major League Blues - Delmark

Originally from Costa Rica, singer-guitarist-songwriter Jose Ramirez has been making a name for himself in the Blues World. While residing in the Washington, DC area, he won the 2019 DC Blues Society's Battle of the Bands. He then competed in the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge, where he finished second overall. Ramirez was poised to start touring in support of his debut album "Here I Come" when the Covid-19 pandemic put a wrench in his plans. He now lives in Florida and makes his Delmark debut with "Major League Blues," which he will be touring in support of. 

Of "Here I Come," I wrote that it was "not merely an impressive debut of a promising artist. Anson Funderburgh's top-flight production and a fabulous studio band provide the foundation for Jose Ramirez to showcase his gifted songwriting along with his terrific vocals and guitar playing. It is a superb recording." Much can be said about the present recording, full of solid idiomatic originals and a couple of choice covers. Six songs were recorded in September 2020 with Antonio Reyes on drums, Kenny Watson Jr. on bass, and Andre Reyes Jr on keyboards. Evan Hoffman is on Latin percussion on one track, and Shelly Bonet provides backing vocals on one track. The other four selections were recorded in Chicago in August 2021 with The Delmark All-Star Band of Bob Stroger on bass, Willie 'The Touch' Hayes on drums, Roosevelt Purifoy on Hammond B3, and Billy Flynn on guitar. Jimmy Johnson appears on one track for what was his final studio recording.

The present album is of a similar quality to "Here I Come," opening with the title track on which Ramirez trades licks with Jimmy Johnson. The title song alludes to him reaching the major league of blues by signing with Delmark. The lyric also notes some of his influences, including Johnson and Lurrie Bell. It is followed by the blue lament "I Saw It Coming" with Purifoy taking a chicken fried steak organ solo along with Ramirez's heartfelt singing. The other two tracks with the Delmark All-Star Band are fresh renditions of Eddie Taylor's "Bad Boy" and Magic Sam's "My Love Is Your Love." There is plenty of solid fretwork to go with the tight, complementary backing.

The others songs are similarly entertaining. Ramirez is a skilled songwriter who handles traditional themes of relationships quite well. There is a neat melodic hook to "Whatever She Wants," where his heart, soul, and pride belong to her. In addition to a pleading vocal, Ramirez's solo is striking with his phrasing and development. Also outstanding is the Latin-flavored "Are We Really Different" that might evoke early Santana with a bilingual vocal from his Ramirez. The other selections similarly display why Jose Ramirez has become a Major League Blues artist.

I received a review copy from Delmark Records. It has been a while since I posted new reviews, so happy to get this one up. Jose is currently touring in support of this album which you can check out on his Facebook page. Here is Jose Ramirez in performance.


Saturday, March 05, 2022

Introducing Juanita Williams Big Mo

This one is a totally unexpected release that is likely to be one of my favorite records of 1994. A  singer who this reviewer had never heard of prior to this recording, Juanita Williams has been the lead vocalist for the Airmen of Note (U.S. Air Force) for the past 20 years and traveled around the world, as well as regularly singing with her church choir.  She grew up listening to Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, and Ruth Brown and sees herself as partly carrying their torch.  

The wide-ranging repertoire on her initial release gives an idea of her breadth and power as a singer.  She handles tough Stax soul, like Mabel John’s Another Man’s Place with as much authority as T-Bone Walker’s blues-ballad I‘m Still in Love With You.  Producers Pete Ragusa,  Ed Eastridge, and Mitch Collins took their time recording this over a year and a half, mixing in some of the best Washington, D.C. talents, including Nighthawks’ Mark Wenner and Danny Morris, Jimmy Thackery, and Chuck Underwood in addition to the three producers.  Jazz guitar legend Joe Pass is present on the superb reading given to I’m Still in Love With You, which along with the Bobby Bland classic, Two Steps From the Blues, receive warm readings. 

There are solid renditions of Little Walter’s Crazy ‘Bout You Baby, which is patterned after the Ike and Tina Turner reworking of this classic, and One More Heartache, which touches up on the Paul Butterfield arrangement (from The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw album).  The arrangements on Ms. Williams' renditions of Little Milton’s That Will Never Do, and Chuck Willis’ It’s Too Late (S)he’s Gone, have touches of the King Curtis arrangements for Freddie King.  

There’s great playing, and generally great singing. She is a powerful singer, and while there are a few moments when she sounds a bit strident, that is a minor point.  And on Two Steps From the Blues and I’m Still in Love With You, she is compelling. Having been introduced to Juanita Williams, this reviewer is awaiting her next recording.

This was a terrific recording, and unfortunately, Juanita Williams has not enjoyed a more prominent musical career although still a riveting performer. I have been a bit slack in posting to the blog, and hope to remedy this. The review I posted today originally appeared in the June 1994 Jazz & Blues Report. I likely ran this review in the DC Blues Society newsletter. I have made minor stylistic and grammatical changes and corrections. I likely received a review copy from Big Mo. Here is a relatively recent performance from Juanita Williams.


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Happy Birthday James Reese Europe

 James Reese Europe was born on February 22, 1981 in Mobile Alabama. "The Porduct of Our Souls" is one of several books about him that gives an indication of how important he is in American Music History and highly recommended.

Then a recording by Reese and his Orchestra shortly after World War1.


 Finally, here is a performance in Reese's honor led by Jason Moran at the Kennedy Center.

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

Trix Blues From Muse Records

Trix Blues Reissues

Here are four more releases from the reactivated Trix label. The albums by Big Chief Ellis, Honeyboy Edwards and Willie Trice are reissues of the original albums with producer Pete Lowry adding an update to the original liner notes. While these are straight reissues of the vinyl albums, the Trix albums were generous with their playing times. The Big Chief Ellis is close to an hour while Willie Trice’s album is about 53 minutes. Trix has also issued a splendid new Homesick James recording. ( I had reviewed several other Trix reissues in prior issues of Jazz & Blues Report. One might need to check eBay or sellers of out-of-print recordings for availability).


It was releases like the Big Chief Ellis (Trix 3316) album that made Trix such a singular label back in the seventies. Ellis, a strong pianist, played and sang introspectively, so his blues often are reminiscent of Walter Davis. His performances here are all at slow or moderate tempos and marked by a firm, rumbling left-hand bass that creates a somber cast to the performances. Often playing simple accompaniments he sometimes throws in hesitating sounding right-hand runs and fills while delivering the lyrics with a smoky, gritty voice. He eschews playing any showcase boogies here. Playing it as a minor-key slow blues, Chief transforms the well-known Sweet Home Chicago into what sounds like a totally different song. While all the songs are credited to Ellis, several are piano blues classics that suit his pensive approach, including Leroy Carr’s Prison Bound and How Long Blues, and Walter Davis’ Come Back, Baby, (here titled Let’s Talk It Over). Brownie McGhee, who shares the vocal on Come Back, Baby, makes his presence felt on the terrific gambling blues, Dices # 2, a remake of one of Ellis’ few fifties’ recordings. In addition to McGhee, the late Tarheel Slim is heard on guitar on a couple tracks, as is John Cephas (on what may be his first issued recordings) who is present on four selections. Some may be put off by the lack of fast-tempoed piano romps and might find difficulty listening to this in one sitting. However, all of these performances are tasty gems of blues piano, and for discerning listeners make a refreshing change from some of the hyper-kinetic recordings that pass for blues today.  (I discovered this blog post from Peter Lowry on this recording, https://peterblowry.com/2015/06/11/trix-3316-big-chief-ellis/).

Blue and Rag’d (
Trix 3305) features Willie Trice, a Carolina bluesman who lived all his life near Durham and was associated with such legendary figures as Gary Davis, Floyd Council and Blind Boy Fuller. Like his brother Richard, Willie Trice recorded for Decca in 1937, but whereas Richard moved north and recorded in 1949 as Little Fuller, Willie Trice remained in Durham holding a variety of day jobs
and only playing outside the tobacco warehouses occasionally - unlike Fuller and the rest. While he stopped playing by the mid- sixties, after losing his legs to diabetes, he started playing again and Pete Lowry recorded him several times between 1971 and 1973 for the recordings issued here. He also recorded later for Lowry and others. Trice’s music is in the classic mode of Fuller and others. His National steel guitar provides a slightly clipped sound to his playing, but (despite his serious illness) his playing only occasionally sounds rusty. His vocals are also generally robust, although his range is obviously not what it once must have been. Included are original adaptations of songs associated with Blind Blake (New Diddey Wah Diddey) and Blind Boy Fuller (New Careless Love), along with his adaptations of traditional themes. For example, Shine On is a bouncy performance using the Crow Jane/ Red River Blues melody. Fuller’s music is also suggested by a number of other tracks, including the slow Fuller styled blues, You Have Treated Me and I’ve Had Troubled, with moving vocals. I Love You, Sweet Baby sports a bouncy accompaniment, while he adds a recitation behind his good-time fingerpicking on Good Time Boogie. It is too bad that we don’t have more recordings of Willie Trice in his prime. However, even though it was recorded while he was recuperating from a serious hospital illness, Blue and Rag’d provides a generous set of classic Piedmont blues performances and there are few recordings in this vein as good as these being made any more.

David “Honeyboy” Edwards’ disc, I’ve Been Around (Trix 3319), was the first American album by the Mississippi born blues artist who will have turned 80 by the time this review appears. One of the last links to such Mississippi blues greats as Charlie Patton, Big Joe Williams, Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson, Edwards has been of interest to blues fans as much for his recollections of these artists as his music. In the company of Walter Horton (on four tracks) and guitarist Eddie El (on three), Honeyboy sings songs associated with Patton - Pony Blues, and Banty Rooster, Howlin’ Wolf - Ride With Me Tonight, and Tommy Johnson - Big Fat Mama, and Big Road Blues. Also, he renders his own songs Sad & Lonesome and I Feel Good So Today. Playing a rhythmic guitar style reminiscent of his main mentor, Big Joe Williams, Honeyboy displays a unique sense of time. While he sings in a sometimes hesitant, brittle voice, Edwards provides a distinct tint on these musical indigos, although his performances may lack the charisma of those by his mentors. I’ve Been Around stands well up compared his other recent recordings. When featured, Walter Horton adds some strong harp that sympathetically supports Edwards without overpowering him. It is valuable to have this available again, and stacks up against most of Honeyboy’s other albums, although | would recommend the Earwig album containing Honeyboy’s Library of Congress recordings first.

Like Honeyboy Edwards, Homesick James Williamson is noted for an unusual sense of time, but on his fourth new recording in the past few years, he shows that his music possesses plenty of vitality. On Got to Move (Trix 3320) he is given steadfast support by a band that includes guitarist Ron Thompson (formerly with John Lee Hooker and part of Mick Fleetwood’s Blue Whale). Homesick James renders solid versions of songs by his famous cousin, Elmore James (Baby Please Set a Date, Hawaiian Boogie and Got to Move), and by Arthur Crudup (That's All Right), and Bob Geddins’ Tin Pan Alley, along with several originals. His broomdusting and his gravelly vocals are crisply delivered, if not as upfront as the recordings by his famous cousin. There are three solo tracks, including a fresh sounding Dust My Broom, in addition to the solid band performances. While several songs are ones Homesick James has recorded before, he does not give any of them a run of the mill performance making for a collection of particularly vital performances.

This review originally appeared in 1995 in Issue 201 of Jazz & Blues Report. I received review copies from the record label or a distributor. I note that this review appeared in a slightly different form in the May 1995 DC Blues Calendar. In that review I note about the four selections in the Big Chief Ellis album with John Cephas, that they were produced by Joe Wilson and Dick Spottswood and were the best recorded sides on the album. "The interplay between Ellis and Cephas on the closing Blues For Moot is worth noting.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

That Houserocking Slide Guitarist Lil Ed Williams

This is the text of an article I wrote about Lil Ed that appeared in the August 1998 DC Blues Calendar, the the newsletter of the DC Blues Society. Ed was one of the featured artists at the 1998 DC BLues Festival, and this article was to promote that appearance. I believe I interviewed Ed when he was appearing at Bethesda Maryland's Twist & Shout, a club memorialized in a Mary Chapin Carpenter song. Twist & Shout unfortunately closed many years ago. All the photos are from the 2009 Pocono Blues Festival at Big Boulder Ski Area in Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania. © Ron Weinstock.


There are certain sounds that characterize the blues, and slide guitar is one of them. particularly in the vein of the legendary Elmore James who made a number of pioneering recordings in the fifties and early sixties including Dust My Broom, The Sky Is Crying, and Shake Your Moneymaker. James’ houserocking style has been emulated by countless blues players including Hound Dog Taylor, J.B. Hutto, and Homesick James. One of the modern masters of this tradition is Lil' Ed Williams, nephew of the late J.B. Hutto, who tears into his blues with the ferocious joy that marked his uncle's music. Williams will bring his houserocking music to this year’s D.C. Blues Festival.

A Chicago native, Ed is 42 years old, and he takes great pride in playing in the vein of his uncle. “My uncle was J.B. Hutto. He taught me basically everything |know. He'd come around and play for the family.”Growing up, Ed remembers listening to a lot of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and a lot of the older guys on records. “My uncle introduced me to his first album, which the one I know of, “Hawk Squat. That really fascinated me. We sat down and we played it over and over and over. He laughed about it.“

He remembered parties in the yard where J.B. and his band would come by and play. "My family, my aunts, my uncles. We had a really big backyard, and they would get out there and Uncle J.B. came over with his band. ° They would barbecue and just have cases of beer, and whiskey, and they'd be out there. It was all dirt yard. And they'd be out there — kicking that dirt up.

... He'd be playing so loud everybody in the neighborhood came aon by. Everybody coming in and we stayed. like our house was this side of big yard. And right by us was a big, they call it a honeymoon building then, but it was a big project, and there was an alley between us. And people would line up in this alley coming up to the fence shaky their bodies. It was so wonderful and you know I was real young then. I think I was about 8 or 9 years old. And I thought it was  the most wonderful thing in the world. | wish I could do this."

Too young to get into the clubs his uncle played (Wise Fool or Biddy Milligan’s), the he name often would sneak him in. "Paing a mustache on me, put a big wide hat on me , sneak me in." At the time was playing with Lee Jackson on second guitar, J.D, Buckner on drums and Bombay Carter on bass. It was fascinating to see him play, step on a stage with 100 foot chords. ... A lot easier without a child, but the chord is much more because people get involved, make sure you don’t trip."

When 17, Ed played in a soul group, displaying an unusual chording technique he learned from from Hutto. “This one guy used to play a lot of Temptations, Aretha Franklin, stuff like that. | wind up trying to do chords for him, but by me (being) an unorthodox player, my chords for him was not the same as his and he got upset with me. But it was the same chord, but I wouldn't do it the way (he wanted). He told me I was playing right, he couldn’t understand that when I do the chord, it sounded like his but I was doing like him, but doing a different motion.”

Ed started playing blues around 19. “I started forming my own band. I was going with a girl and her brother. I teached him to play drums ‘cause I knew how to play drums. That was my first instrument, was drums." As a drummer he was self-taught. “I did not look to anybody, I just used to listen to J.B.’s drummer when they came over to play. That’s where I got me feel from.”

Ed writes a lot of material but leaves a lot of room for his band members to develop their parts. He may add a bass part “and my brother, he'll take it (and from it). I like them to improvise themselves. I like them to take control of what they want to do and that way it all blends together. When you have to real deal with a person all you have to a special run, then it gets to be more work, but when they can improvise it and play it the way they feel it, then it’s fun.”

He also doesn't spend too much time rehearsing tunes. “The way I do me it, I kinda surprise my guys. I'll come up with something and I'll let them hear it one time and before they know it, I'll lay it on them.”

Ed’s first recording was for an Alligator anthology Roughousin' that came out in the 1980's, but the session led to a release of a full album. He recalled how it happened. "| used to see Bruce (Iglauer) come in. We used to play at BLUES on Halstead. And he used to come in.He just come in and walk out. But I didn't know who this guy was. My old rhythm player, Dave Weld, know who he was. Dave would grab me by the arm, 'There’s Bruce, There’s Bruce from Alligator records.' I said 'So what man. You know just a man.’

One day Bruce came in real late that night. We were finishing off the last song. He came up, walked up to me. "How ya doing?' 'Yeah, how ya doing?' He introduced himself. I shook his hand.He said, 'How do you guys feel about coming down to the studio and do a collection song.' 'Sure.' Dave was having a fit. Dave knew what was going on. We knew we wanted to make a record. We were going to save our money and go into one of those studios and own the collection. That was me Dave was talking about. I had no construction, no idea what this was all about.

So the next morning we had to get up real early that morning.  | never forget it. I had to go to work. I was working at the car wash and I had to leave the car wash I think at about 10 or 11 o'clock. Pookie was working the car wash, he had to leave and Dave and our drummer met us at the studio. We walked in with our car wash suits on and Bruce laughed and we said we looked funny and we all laughed.

I was kinda shaky. I was kinda scared. so we got in and we started warming up. Bruce said, 'Well, do something.' I had already been writing songs at that point and I started playing some of the old-time stuff that I learned from B.B., Muddy, all then guys. He said, 'That's good. What about some of your stuff.' And I started playing my stuff and everybody that was in the studio started clapping, having a good time and I got excited ‘cause it was like I was in a club. And I started to doing my club antics walking around, walking on my toes, crawling on my knees ‘cause we were all having fun.

“I had never heard studio sound. That’s what really got to me, ‘cause I never heard it coming from. the headphones sounding so good. Sounded really good. Bruce came out after we did 5 or 6 songs. 'You know it sounds real good. Let’s do an album. OK.' Right then, I freaked out. That was the happiest day of my life. ... We cut 30 songs in 3 hours.”

When I mentioned some acts do 4 songs in 3 hours Ed told me about someone once asked him about artists who do a lot of overdubbing and whatever. “I said well that’s their thing, if that's what they want to do. But to me, for me, Number one, time is money. Number two by me working in the car wash I've got that fecling of getting my job done. “Cause I was buffer. So I had to finish, I had to buff cars in 15 minutes. I had to buff it, and detail it In 30 minutes, So that’s the way I work even in the studio, get it done.” If a take is not right they'll try it again not overdub it. However, if they do it three times and still  can't get it right, they drop that song. “Cause you're going to lose it. Not gonna sound no better, it's only gonna get worse. The more you play it, the more you get tired of it.”

Ed has recorded four albums, three for Alligator, and when we spoke in June, was getting ready  to do another album for Alligator. Musically he continues to grow. "I'm improvising more, more different lyrics cause I'm listening to everybody. Then I was just  listening to Muddy Waters. John Lee Hooker, Elmore James. But I'm a music type of guy and I listen to all types. … I've got some stuff I'm working on in [a reggae] groove. When I do songs like that, put those types of tunes. I want to make my own so I have to really improvise, feel it out, You know I got into Chuck Berry about two months ago and I already came up with a couple songs in his style. I've got into Ruth Brown. I see her on the boat when I was on the boat going to the Bahamas. It amazed to see this woman,'cause I never hear her before. However, my wife know who this was. All I knew was about Etta James, Koko Taylor, Billie Holiday. How did I miss Ruth Brown. She is fantastic. I do one of her songs, 'If you want to live happy, don't listen to your so-called friends.' | do that."

While J.B. Hutto is Ed's biggest influence, he only has recorded Hutto's 20% Alcohol. "What I really want to do is make a tribute album to him, because I  know all his songs." J.B. influenced Ed not simply as a guitarist but also as a singer. He mentioned others, "I like Muddy Waters. That's why I hit those deep tones. And stuff like thal.”

Ed got the opportunity to play with J.B. once before his uncle passed at a club Vegetable Biddies in Indiana, "It was so wonderful. he was walking on tables and he gave me a long chord too and he made me jump off the stage. It was just great. I said then. I told him I wanted to play. One thing he told me, ‘You promise me your gonna keep the blues alive then I'll teach you.’ He did. I promised him that and he said 'You keep my tradition going, cause you’re the next one In line' He knew that."

Here is Lil Ed Williams and the Blues Imperials in performance from a Blues Festival in 2008.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Ledisi Sings Nina

Ledisi
Ledisi Sings Nina
Listen Back

Ledisi remembers waking up in New Orleans hearing her mother sing, "…and everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam!" Later she learned it was Nina Simone. While in Oakland in her 20s, she was depressed and hearing Simone sing "Trouble in Mind" over the radio. It woke me up. I was feeling discouraged for being different, for being the oddball that liked every style—blues and jazz and Broadway and hip-hop. I had sung every club in the Bay Area, done every gig. Nina's voice said to me I was not alone. Her voice saved my life and woke me up and taught me to be fearless. I had two pieces of luggage and moved to New York City after that."

In the past eight years, Ledisi has produced and toured popular tribute shows to Simone and performed concerts on television, in major concert halls, and at music festivals, featuring her interpreting Simone's songs and explaining her importance and history. This EP album is the culmination of these projects that reveal the depth of Ledisi's continuing sense of gratitude and debt to Simone. The world-renowned Metropole Orkest conducted by Jules Buckley with arrangements by Jochen Neufer and others provides the backing for the majority of the seven songs she brings her voice to. "I'm Going Back Home" features the all-star New Orleans Jazz Orchestra directed by Adonis Rose. "Four Women" is powered by Ledisi in the company of other vocalists of similar stature: Lisa Fisher, Lizz Wright, and Alice Smith. "Wild Is The Wind"—with Spanish guitar, piano, and drums—is the album's sole live recording taken from the 2020 PBS special broadcast Ledisi "Live: A Tribute to Nina Simone."

Listening to Ledisi here, one can perhaps detect Simone's influence as well as Ledesi's own voice with her rich vocal palette, impeccable pitch, diction, and phrasing, along with an impressive mastery of vocal dynamics. This is heard whether she is belting out "Feeling Good" with the full tonal colors provided by Metropole Orkest or the relaxed treatment of "My Baby Just Cares For Me." On the latter number she playfully updates cultural references to the likes of Lana Turner with references to Beyoncé and Halle Berry. There is some wooly, muted trombone of this track. Then there is a wonderful bilingual reading of Jacques' Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don't Leave Me)," with the Orkest's horns adding to the longing mood of this rendition. A driving arrangement propels The Metropole Orkest's backing on her full-throated singing on "Work Song" along with a terrific tenor sax solo.

The other tracks are equally striking, including the closing "I'm Going Back Home," with punchy gospel-infused backing and a second-live groove by the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Like Simone, Ledisi is a singer who defies categories, as is demonstrated throughout this release. The only complaint is that one wishes there was more music here.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is Ledisi singing a tribute to Nina Simone at the Apollo Theater in New York City.