Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Anna Mette Iversen Quartet + 1 Racing a Butterfly

Anna Mette Iversen Quartet + 1
Racing a Butterfly
Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records
The Danish bassist-composer-bandleader Anne Mette Iversen has established herself as one of international jazz's prominent bassists and composers. She moved to New York in 1998, where she flourished until moving to Berlin in 2012 to pursue other opportunities. She remains a member of the Brooklyn Jazz Underground (BJU), she continues to record for the BJU Records label. On her latest album, the bassist is joined by her longest-running group, with John Ellis (tenor saxophone), Peter Dahlgren (trombone), Danny Grissett (piano), and Otis Brown III (drums & cymbals).

In the brief liner notes, she explains that "the title track on this album was inspired by a literal race with a butterfly I had during a run one summer morning in Provence, France. Running along the lavender fields on a dirt road, while the temperature was quickly rising, a colorful butterfly came out of the wild flowers that grow on the roadside; having apparently decided to keep me company. We stayed side by side for a moment and then it started to play. It flew ahead, dropped back, caught up with me again, spun circles, twisted and turned in a kind of a dance. This went on for a surprising long while until the butterfly finally took off. It was the fun, the enjoyment, the playfulness and lightness that was so beautiful and which nature displayed so naturally, that made me feel that I really ought to celebrate those sides of life more than I have previously done in my music." In the manner of that experience, there is a playfulness permeating not only this track but the entire album.

This playfulness is evident on the opening "Triangular Waves," where Grissett, Ellis, and Brown are featured on a performance that grows out of the leader's catchy bass figure. Also noteworthy is the interplay between Ellis and Dahlgren here and throughout. There is an effervescent quality to the title track with the intriguing interaction between Ellis and Dahlgren, who introduce an especially charming and lyrical composition. There is also an exceptional Grissett solo here. Iversen solos to open up the first of the two parts of "Parallel Flying," the first part of which is performed andante while showcasing Dahlgren's wooly trombone. The tempo is kicked up quite a notch with Ellis and Grissett dazzling with their energetic soloing. This is simply a sampling of the superb performances on this recording by Iversen's Quartet + 1.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here the Anna Mette Iversen Quartet + 1 are heard performing.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Hurricane Ruth Good Life

Hurricane Ruth
Good Life
American Showplace Music

Reviewing Hurricane Ruth LaMaster’s “Ain’t Ready For The Grave,” I wrote, “Ruth LeMaster earned her name because of her huge voice in a small package  … .” I found that album to be a “solidly performed collection of blues and rock that displays Hurricane Ruth as a powerful and expressive vocalist.” Much the same can be said about this new recording whose ten tracks include eight written or co-written by her. Backing her on this recording are Scott Holt on guitar, Bruce Katz on keyboards, Calvin Johnson on bass, and Tony Braunagel on drums.

The songs are a mix of bluesy rock and roll to soulful ballads that demonstrate her vocal and emotional range. She certainly comes off with cyclonic force on the rollicking rock of “Like Wildfire.” She might be shouting the blues here, but never gets histrionic or shrill. Katz is terrific here while Holt has a hot short guitar break.  “Dirty Blues” has another powerful vocal, although Holt’s nasty tone lends this a blues-rock flavor.  It is followed by one of the strongest songs here, “What You Never Had.” Written with Tom Hambridge, this is a relaxed shuffle with Katz smoking on the organ. The lyrics derive from a comment her late mother made about not worrying about one never had as life is about living. The vocal is as stunning as the song.  Even better is the title track, which was based on a conversation with her mother a year before she passed. Again, the lyrics stand out as does the atmospheric vocal and backing. Holt’s solo is striking set against Katz’s organ. One might easily recommend this album based on just these two tracks.

 Other tracks of note include the rendition of Gary Nicholson’s “Torn in Two,” with searing blues-rock guitar behind her vigorous singing. “Black Sheep” is a fun bluesy rock performance where Ruth celebrates being a bit of a badass. “Who I Am” is about leaving behind her previous life of partying and addiction and no longer who she was. There is a conviction in her singing that comes from her living what she is singing about.  It is another terrific track on an outstanding blues and rock recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Hurricane Ruth in performance.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Muddy Waters Blues Band Mud In Your Ear

Muddy Waters Blues Band
Mud In Your Ear

Douglas Records has made available on compact disc, “Mud In Your Ear”, 15 selections by the Muddy Waters Blues Band originally issued on two vinyl albums issued back over forty years ago on what was then Alan Douglas’ new label. Muddy Waters is on the session, but limited to backing guitar although taking a few recognizable slide solos. His band at that time included Luther ‘Snake Boy’ Johnson on vocals and guitar; George ‘Mojo’ Buford on harmonica and vocals; Otis Spann on piano; Sammy lawhorn on guitar; Lawrence ‘Sonny’ Wimberly on bass and Francis Clay on drums. 

Johnson and Mojo, along with Spann, would have been featured on the Band’s opening selections before Muddy would be brought up. This recording allows Johnson and Buford to have more of the spotlight then they would live as well as allows us to hear this edition of Waters Band upfront. Johnson takes the bulk of the vocals including a nice rendition of Washboard Sam’s “Diggin’ My Potatoes,” and Muddy’s “Long Distance Call,” with his take on the “another mule kicking in my stall” climax. The title track, heard in a lengthy version and a brief reprise, is an rocking instrumental rendition of “Got My Mojo Working.” There are also solid renditions of “Coming Home Baby” and Jimmy Smith’s “Chicken Shack,” songs that were typical opening numbers. 

Johnson’s “I’m So Glad” is a pretty strong original with Muddy adding some stinging slide. Also nice are his interpretations of a couple lesser known Waters numbers, the brooding “Remember Me,” and Waters’ “Evil,” where he sings that when you see him coming better run and hide. Spann is particularly superb on these and Buford adds some nice harp. Buford comes across well on the first-rate “I’m So Glad,” and “Watch Dog.” The latter number is a slow blues with a clever lyric about needing a watch dog to look after things when he goes away on business. 

This was a tight band and these are solid performances. Johnson did record overseas after leaving Muddy Waters but died much too young while Buford made several albums until his passing a few years back. This is a good document of the Muddy Waters band of the time before Spann left, and while this is not an essential reissue, it is a welcome one.

This was a purchase. This review originally appeared in the September-October 2012 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 344). Here is a performance from Luther ‘Snake Boy’ Johnson.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Take 5 With Barney Bigard

New Orleans clarinetist Barney Bigard is best known for his tenure with Duke Elllington, and later with Louis Armstrong. Today’s Take 5 will showcase several gems of his silky bluesy clarinet style.

First we have him in a small Ellington group with the original recording of “Caravan.”

Next is another recording from his Ellington days, “Clarinet Lament.”

Here is Bigard leading a group on the swing era classic, “Rose Room.”

With pianist Art Hodes he recorded “Hesitating Blues.”

Finally he lead a group, with singer Etta Jones, performing Dinah Washington’s hit “Blow Top Blues.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Louise Cappi Mélange

Louise Cappi

New Orleans is home to many singers and performers who cross genres such as John Boutté, Davell Crawford, and the late James Booker. Daughter of a New York Jazz guitarist, singer-songwriter Louise Cappi is another Crescent City artist who mixes Afro-Cuban, soul, rock, funk, bossa nova, and blues in her performances as evidenced by this album. She is supported by a variety of musicians including pianist Jenna McSwain (who also arranged the four Cappi originals here), Paul Longstreth, who adds keyboards, and trombonist Russell Ramirez.

Cappi is not a dreamy chanteuse. She establishes her vocal personality with clean enunciation, horn-like phrasing, and tunefulness. This is evident on her original, “Talk To Me," that opens this recording with pianist McSwain soloing. There is a country-soul flavor to Randy Newman's "Guilty" with Alex Krahe adding some twangy guitar. One of the high points of this album is her paean to New Orleans, "Bella Nola” with Ramirez's growling trombone embellishing her lyrics. Another stunning original "It Is What It Is" that starts as a lament with a jubilant Afro-Cuban section before returning to a  close. Also of note is her rendition of “Summertime," during which she scats and interpolates Van Morrison's "Moondance."

Accompanied solely by pianist McSwain, she closes this album with a marvelous rendition of Leon Russell's "A Song For You." There are a couple of spots when I might have preferred if she had tempered her vocal, but that is a matter of personal taste. "Mélange" is a terrific recording showcasing Louise Cappi's dynamic vocals and musical personality.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of her in performance.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Swingadelic Bluesville

Zoho Music ZM 202008

It has been about three years when I reviewed "Mercerville," by the swing little big band, Swingadelic. Swingadelic was formed in 1998 when the neo-swing movement was cresting. Bassist Dave Post gathered his jazz & blues playing friends together to play engagements at various New York City venues. About that recording, I concluded, "Dancers and listeners will find much to enjoy in this lively, appealing recording."

In his notes for "Bluesville," Dave Post observes, "'The blues' has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different folks. Are they the acoustic blues of Bukka White, the electric blues of Muddy Waters, or the sophisticated sounds of Count Basie, Duke Ellington or Ray Charles? It could be more like a state of mind, like the mood and atmosphere created by Red Garland's beautifully mellow LP 'Red In Bluesville.'"

He further states, "Here's a collection of tunes we do at concerts and dances, in bands both large and small, all of which evoke a blues attitude. Jazz people often call us a blues band, and Blues people will call us a jazz band. It's a mixed up, nebulous world we inhabit, and I wouldn't have it any other way." Post is the only person on every selection here. The collective personnel on this recording includes Dave Post, bass; Colby Inzer, drums; Jimmy Coleman, drums; John Bauers, piano & vocals; Mitch Woods, piano & vocals; Kyle Koehler, Hammond B3 organ; John Martin, trumpet; Bryan Davis, trumpet; Carlos Francis, trumpet; Robert Edwards, trombone; Alex Jeun, trombone; Neal Pawley, trombone & vocals; Audrey Welber, alto sax; Ken Robinson, alto sax & flute; Michael Weisberger, tenor sax; Bill Easley, tenor sax; John DiSanto, baritone sax & piccolo; Vanessa Perea, vocals; Andy Riedel, guitar & vocals; Boo Reiners, guitar; and Joe Taino, guitar. Most of the tracks have a little big band, one a piano quartet, and a few with a full big band.

Performances of "The Late, Late Show" from Basie's Atomic Basie band bookend twelve other performances. The opening performance has pianist Bauers very capable vocal along with Bryan Davis' blistering trumpet. At the same time, the closing instrumental version spotlights Bauers on the piano and Mike "The Iceberg" Weisberger on tenor sax. One of the best selections is trombonist Neal Pawley channeling Mose Allison on his vocal before a booting sax solo from former Ruth Brown saxophonist Bill Easley. Organist Kyle Koehler is outstanding here as an accompanist and soloist with the horns riffing in support. Johnny Otis' hit recording of "Harlem Nocturne" will be evoked by the performance here with Audrey Welber's vibrato lending her also sax a bluesy quality which is matched by Boo Reiners keen lap steel guitar.

Pianist Jon Bauers handles the vocals on a couple of Ray Charles classics, "Mary Ann,' and "Lonely Avenue." Alex Jeun is sensational on the trombone on the former song. There is a charming vocal by Vanessa Perea on the Mary Lou Williams' ballad, "What's Your Story, Morning Glory," that was initially recorded by Andy Kirk with Pha Terrell on vocal. Inspiration for this performance is an Ella Fitzgerald recording, with a terrific tenor sax solo from Michael Weisberger. Mitch Woods guests with his boogie inflected piano on a cover of Mose Allison's "Parchman Farm," with Andy Riedel adding his guitar.

Dave Post contributed an original, "El Blues Esa Muje," which he cites Cal Tjader and Quincy Jones as inspirations. There is some sparkling guitar from Joe Taino and robust trombone from Alex Jeun along with a bass break by the composer who contributed the arrangement with its infectious use of flute. Perea returns for a rendition of "I Don't Know," a Brook Benton composed blues that Ruth Brown first recorded. Against an arrangement with effective use of muted brass and braying saxophones, she delivers a superlative vocal. Carlos Francis takes an outstanding trumpet solo employing a plunger mute.

Among other pleasures is a cover of Charles Brown's "Fool Paradise," with vocalist Bauers with Ken Robinson's bluesy alto sax solo and John Edwards gutbucket trombone solo. The rendition of Duke Ellington's "The Mooche," includes more muted brass (including Carlos Francis channeling rubber Miley with the plunger mute) along with Boo Reiners intriguing steel guitar. With excellent playing, first-rate arrangements, and very capable singing, "Bluesville" is a terrific recording centered on the intersection of blues and jazz.

I received a review copy from a publicist. Here is an older video of Swingadelic performing "I Want a Little Girl."

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Scott Ellison Skyline Drive

Scott Ellison
Skyline Drive
Red Parlor Records

Hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, singer-songwriter-guitarist has this new release of blues and blues-rock that exhibit his gravelly vocals and energetic guitar. Others playing on this recording include Chris Campbell on lead and backing vocals, Ron Getman on guitar, Casey Van Beek or Jon Parris on bass, and Robbie Armstrong on drums. Ellison wrote or co-wrote all twelve songs, many in collaboration with Chris Campbell.

This recording opens with a shuffle "I'm Missing You," with some searing blues-rock guitar and subtle piano. The rhythm section helps provide a relaxed groove on a nicely paced performance. Like most of this recording, this has a standard lyric about relationships, and Ellison's crusty vocal is welcome. I live about an hour from Skyline Drive in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. I have no idea if Ellison is referring to this or another place in the title track. "Skyline Drive" is a marvelous track with a romantic lyric, a jazzy, loping feel, and an ingenious guitar solo before it fades out. Not as appealing is the graveling vocal, distorted blues-rock guitar, and somewhat ponderous rhythm on "Something About You." Given some fascinating wordplay, a lighter hand in performing this would have made this song stand out. The surging groove helps frame the urgency he sings with on "Obsession." David Bernston's harmonica and Ron Getman's slide guitar add to the attraction of this track.

"I'm All Wound Up" is driving bluesy rock'n'roll some rollicking piano and Getman's slightly frenzied slide guitar while "Women Got a Hold on Me" is a low-key, stripped-down solo acoustic performance. "Breath Underwater" is a nice bluesy rock tune with interesting guitar interplay between Ellison and Getman. Ellison intensely sings about a breakup on "The Blues Got a Hold On Me," followed by hints of 'Dust My Broom" on the frantic slide guitar and groove on "Overwhelmed."

Ellison crafts engaging songs, and he performs with energy and passion. There is a nice variety of material and musical settings, and this entertaining recording will have considerable appeal for those whose tastes lean towards blues-rock.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here Scott Ellison sings "The Blues Got a Hold On Me."