Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne Lets It Loose

A few years ago I was sent a CD by West Coast pianist Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne, that was a superb disc of hot R&B and jump blues in the vein of such legends as Amos Milburn, Floyd Dixon and Little Willie Littlefield. Subsequently he has started to play top festivals and clubs, and the Canadian Electro-Fi label since issued Let It Loose, Waynes second disc for that label.

Let it Loose opens with a hard rocking Blackberry Wine, a tune musically derived from Milburn’s Chicken Shack Boogie. Milburn is clearly a major influence on Wayne, who plays strong jump boogie piano that would have served Milburn well in his heyday. Joogie to the Boogie is an easy rocking number with strong tenor sax from Pat Carey. A trio of songs, Bewildered; Let Me Go Home Whiskey; and Memphis Slim’s Blue and Lonesome, provide a mini-tribute to MIlburn, one of the top-selling R&B acts between 1948 and 1953.

A more modern and a funk groove mark the slow, reflective Wishing Well, while the title track is a high-stepping tune that should prove irresistible to swing dancers with its quick, but not frenzied, tempo. A more contemporary feel also characterizes the closing Carry Me Home, which is perhaps not as striking as some of the other songs here.

Russell Jackson on bass anchors a solid rhythm section that never rushes the tempo and Brandon Issak plays solid idiomatic guitar to complement Wayne. Wayne also contributed most of the songs here and his songwriting is first-rate. With all the albums that are supposedly extending the blues, its nice to find a terrific recording that is rooted in some undeservedly forgotten giants of the blues.

The above review appeared in the June 2005 DC Blues Calendar, the newsletter of the DC Blues Society that I edited from 1988 to 2007. I have made a few minor stylistic changes from the original review, but the tenor remains the same. I have resurrected the review in light of the upcoming new Stony Plain release by him, An Old Rock On a Roll that I will be posting a review of in a few days.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sean Nowell's "The Seeker"

Saxophonist, flautist, composer and more, Sean Nowell is among new voices in the New York jazz Scene making an impact. The Birmingham, Alabama native is rooted in swing, blues, gospel and soul, and has studied and earned degrees at Berklee and the Manhattan School of Music. He has composed in a variety of genres including modern classical, big band and ballet, as well as composed and improvised film scores. He has collaborated with actors, poets, dancers, and acrobats from around the world and served as Musical Director for the New York based Bond Street Theater. He has just issued his second CD as a leader, The Seeker,” (Posi-Tone). His saxophone, clarinet and flute is supported by pianist Art Hirahara, bassist Thomas Kneeland, drummer Joe Abbatantuono, cellist Dave Eggar and guitarist Nir Felder on a collection of originals and classic ballads. 

The Seeker opens with Nowell displaying his fervid attack and hard tone on a hard bop original, New York Scene. It is followed by his ballad playing on the standard You Don’t Known What Love Is, where drummer Abbatantuono stands out with his responsive playing. The traditional Oy Matze Matze, has a klezmer flavor evidenced by the vibrato in Nowell’s tenor playing. Nowell’s Dunavski Park, is an atmospheric ballad with some tart playing , while Jaqmie’s Decision, has a dreamy flow to it and more of Nowell’s hard tone. The tempo picks up a bit on For All Intensive Purposes, on which guitarist Felder help state the theme before Nowell digs in. There is also some strong playing by pianist Hirahara. A lovely rendition of Lennon & McCartney’s I Will, with Eggar’s cello adding musical color, follows before Nowell and the band swings out with an imaginative romp through I Remember You, closing this striking recording disc on a energetic note.

Sean’s website is
http://www.seannowell.com/ and The Seeker is available from itunes, amazon, emusic and Posi-Tone Records itself.

I believe I received my review copy from Jazz & Blues Report in which publication this review originally ran (the March 1- April 15, 2010 issue (issue 324)).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Steve Turre's Bright Musical Rainbow

Trombonist Steve Turre’s latest album, Rainbow People, is his third under the HighNote imprint and brings the veteran together with pianist Mulgrew Miller and saxophonist Kenny Garrett with whom he performed together with in Woody Shaw’s Band, along with longtime Dizzy Gillespie drummer, Ignacio Berroa (who played with Turre in the United Nation Orchestra); bassist Peter Washington and youngblood trumpeter, Sean Jones, who has toured with Turre. Percussionist Pedro Martinez, a guest here, has played in Turre’s Latin jazz Ensembles and in the Shell Choir.

Six of the nine performances are Turre originals, starting with the title track, a number that recalls some of the late Shaw’s marvelous compositions and opens with some warm trombone by the leader along with marvelous group playing throughout and a nice solo by Garrett. Turre’s tone is sublime, ranging from buttery smooth to a gruff blues bluster, and Turre’s rhythm section is wonderful throughout this date.

Turre is the sole horn on a tribute to Ray Charles, Brother Ray, with a bluesy flavor, followed the funky Groove Blues, with Garrett taking the first solo followed by Miller’s down-in-the alley piano. Midnight in Madrid, which also features trumpeter Jones, is a tone poem which conjures up thoughts of bullfighting and flamenco dancers. McCoy Tyner’s ballad, Search For Peace, may be a special highpoint in terms of not simply displaying Turre’s tone but his fertile musical mind.

Charlie Parker’s Segment, is crisply delivered bebop with crisp playing by him and Garrett. The closing Para el Comandante, is dedicated to Mario Rivera and is the only selection with all of the participants. This Latin jazz number sparkles with Garrett, Jones and Miller providing strong solos before Turre is heard on the shells.

Another excellent addition to Steve Turre’s body of recordings.

The review copy was likely provided by Jazz & Blues Report.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Davis Coen's Bright Blues Lights

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, now resident in Charleston, South Carolina with time spent in among various places New York City and Connecticut, Davis Coen brings a variety of musical elements to his thoroughly engaging Blues Lights For Yours and Mine (Soundview). Influences that can be detected include Tom Waits, Professor Longhair, Eric Von Schmidt, John Hurt, Bob Dylan, and John Lee Hooker, which he incorporates in this album that gets down in the alley at times as well as takes us to a rollicking barrelhouse.

The opening
Basement With the Blue Light, is a blues and soul tinged ballad with an appealing vocal and a nice understated guitar break, whereas Mambo Jambo, is a lively Crescent City flavored rocker. Jack Of Diamonds takes the classic country blues from Texas (think Blind Lemon Jefferson and Black Ace) and adds a Mississippi Hill Country groove for a rocking original take on this theme, while Accelerated Woman, is a stunning stomp-boogie that is clearly inspired by early John Lee Hooker.

With a small group backing he then delights us with a Piedmont rag,
Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down, that crosses Dave Van Ronk with a light juke joint groove, followed by a return to New Orleans for his rendition of, Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand, derived from Professor Longhair’s recording of this traditional blues theme and sporting some rollicking piano, while Lordy Lord, sounds to these ears like a reworking of an old Frankie Lee Sims tune. A bit of traditional spiritual flavor is found on Since I Left My Burden Down, with his deft acoustic guitar supported by the rhythm.

Down in the Alley, is another rollicking number featuring some barrelhouse flavored piano, before he closes this set with a solo rendition of CC Rider. What totally impresses about this disc is how even at its most traditional, Coen never simply copies but adds his own seasoning and his heartfelt, yet restrained performances come across so much more compelling than artists who are superficially more emotional. Not having heard of Davis Coen prior to this CD, this writer emphasizes how impressed he was by this and how the music has stayed fresh even after several hearings.

One can download this at itunes and
cdbaby.com and amazon.com are among those carrying this CD. Coen’s website is www.daviscoen.com.

This review was submitted to a publication a few years ago, but apparently never ran. My review copy came from a publicist.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tiempo Libre's Secret Radio Grooves

The Cuban band, Tiempo Libre had the acclaimed fusion of Bach with Afro-Cuban rhythms, Bach in Havana and now return with a new spirited release of their timba music, – the mix of Latin jazz and danceable Afro-Cuban rhythms on the new Sony Masterworks release, My Secret Radio. According to publicity for this release, the title evokes their teenage years when living in Cuba they would listen to the forbidden American radio. The lyrics to the songs here deal with both sides of the immigrant experience – from the secret radio sessions which fueled dreams of life in America to the perplexities of starting life in a new country. Guest appearances are made by Cuban songstress Albita with whom they are reunited, and vocalist Rachelle Fleming.

They cite a variety of influences in their music including Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan and Gloria Esteban while citing Earth Wind & Fire as an inspiration. Equally impressive is the hot roots of their time growing up in Cuba that results in hot rhythms, blistering horns and exuberant vocals. Not conversant in Spanish, I was unable to understand the lyrical themes, but from the opening Lo Mio Primero - (My Turn), with the crisp horns and tight rhythms to the hot trumpet and ensemble vocals of the closing Mi Antena (My Antenna), with leader’s Jorge Gomez strong piano setting the tone, one will be hard-pressed to keep from dancing.

Guest vocalist Albita joins for a reflective ballad Como Hace Años - (Just Like Years Ago), displaying a lovely voice with Gomez marvelous in his accompaniment as well as arrangement. Rachelle Fleming sings a duet with Joaquin Diaz, Fleming in English and Diaz in Spanish, as Earth Wind and Fire’s After the Love Is Gone, in a playful cha cha rendition. One instrumental, Aceite - (Oil), is a lively tribute to the marvelous musical association between Dizzy Gillespie and the great Chano Pozo, with the sizzling playing doing justice to the legacies of the two legends.

My Secret Radio continues the musical odyssey of Tiempo Libre that exhibits their superb artistry and ability the move the body and soul.

My review copy was provided by a publicist for the release.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Saluting 35 Years of Stony Plain Records - 35 More Please

Arhoolie Records and Alligator Records are not the only important independent labels that are celebrating an important milestone this year. Canadian Stony Plain Records is 35 years young and the label has a double CD celebration 35 Years of Stony Plain to celebrate that fact. In addition to the 41 varied performances, there is also a bonus DVD with some performances, such as Jay McShann and Johnnie Johnson together and special material such as a tour of Stony Plain’s headquarters. The booklet that comes with this release contains an essay from Richard Flohil that provides a concise overview of Stony Plain and the remarkable Holger Petersen who has been the force behind this remarkable label. The booklet also provides a concise overview of the marvelous contexts of the two CDs and the DVD.

I am not as familiar with the Stony Plain catalog, particularly since it’s catalog is not devoted to simply blues. Calling it a roots label is accurate and the first of the two CDs is subtitled “Singers, songwriters and much, much more …” The contents include folk, country and some swing jazz. Maria Muldaur is heard on a Dan Hicks song with backing that includes David Grisman and John Sebastian. Other highlights is the one of the explorations by the late Jeff Healy into early jazz with a wonderful revival of
The Wildcat by Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti; country-folk troubadour Steve Earl; Canadian legend Ian Tyson; Tim Hus’ Country Music Lament on the sad state of today’s country music; Asleep at the Wheel’s Western Swing version of a Count Basie hit, That’s Your Red Wagon; the New Guitar Summit of Duke Robilliard, Jay Geils and Garry Beaudoin; Emmylou Harris singing Gram Parsons’ Wheels; Rodney Crowell; and three previously unissued Bob Carpenter demos. Most of this disc was totally new to me and delightful.

The second disc is subtitled “Blues, R&B, swing, jazz, and even more …” and contains more familiar material with some nice highlights from Joe Louis Walker, Jay McShann, Kenny ‘Blues Boy’ Wayne (this is a preview of his upcoming album) and Rosco Gordon from various recordings Duke Robillard has produced for the label. There is a terrific instrumental by Ronnie Earl from his most recent CD,
Spread the Word, as well as a Rory Block song from her marvelous Mississippi Fred McDowell album. Its nice to hear selections from Sonny Rhodes and Billy Boy Arnold. This disc closes with a strong, unissued recording by the late Richard ‘King Biscuit Boy’ Newell, a fine harp player and singer; and four unissued sides from 1965 by Robert Nighthawk that likely were his last recordings. Nighthawk’s performance of Tampa Red’s You Missed a Good Man features particularly superb slide guitar.

This is a fine celebration of an important label that I will be returning to listen to. Stony Plain may be slightly cutting back on its release schedule compared to past years because of the changing nature of music and recording distribution. This reflects the hard reality of the fact few mortar and brick record stores still exist and digital downloads are increasingly important. Fans of blues, folk, country and other similar music need to support labels like Stony Plain that produce much terrific music that otherwise would not be so readily available.
35 Years of Stony Plain is well worth obtaining to savor the music, videos and the booklet. Here is to Stony Plain having another 35 years.

My copy was provided by the record company or a publicist for the label.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Elvin Bishop Raises Hell With Blues Revue

As part of participating on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, Elvin Bishop, led the Raisin’ Hell Revue. This writer suspects this was modeled on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue that Tommy Castro fronted and featured several artists in addition to Castro and enabled greater exposure for some of what were perhaps lesser known acts to the Blues Cruisers. Delta Groove has just issued Elvin Bishop’s Raisin’ Hell Revue, from performances on the Cruise.

In addition to Bishop, the performances on this showcase vocalist Finis Tasby: vocalist and harp player, John Nemeth; saxophonist and vocalist Terry Hanck; guitarist Kid Andersen, and Bishop’s fine band that included Ruth Davies (some may remember from Charles Brown’s Band) on bass, drummer Bobby Cochran and the varied keyboards of Steve Willis.

Thirteen tunes with almost an hour of music opens with a good-natured Bishop take on Lazy Bill Lucas’
Callin’ All Cows with hot guitar from Andersen and accordion from Willis. It is followed by the gravelly vocals of Tasby on B.B. King’s Whole Lotta Lovin’ as Anderson and Bishop blaze away. Nemeth takes the vocal mike as Bishop reprises his big hit, Fooled Around And Fell In Love. What the Hell Is Goin’ On, has Bishop spin a topical lyric to a Funky Chicago Blues groove as Kid Andersen taking the first guitar solo, while Nemeth revives Nappy Brown’s Night Time Is the Right Time, based on Ray Charles recording, with Nemeth playing harp as well as singing. It is followed by Tasby, who reworks Jimmy Reed’s Down in Virginia.

Saxophonist Hanck handles the fine vocal on
Cryin’ Fool, a terrific New Orleans -Swamp Pop styled number with nice guitar that evokes Robert Ward and Lonnie Mack. There is choice tenor sax solo from Hanck on Tasby’s rendition of River’s Invitation. Bishop does a nice rendition of Albert Collins’ Dyin’ Flu, while recalling the late Master of Telecaster. Hank Ballard’s rocking Tore Up Over You, is revived with a terrific Nemeth vocal while Tasby gets to us with It Hurts Me Too, with Bishop on slide.

Nemeth leads everybody on the closing
Bye Bye Baby, concluding a most entertaining revue of blues and rhythm songs. The material does include some familiar songs but mostly some rarely performed songs, the level of the performances is high, and the recording quality is fine. Recommended.

A review copy was provided by a publicist.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Meet Me on Frenchman Street

Mystery Street Records is an affiliate of the fan-funded Threadhead Records, that was established after Hurricane Katrina, as a way for lovers of New Orleans, its food, culture, architecture and music, to assist in the recovery of the city and its musical scene. It issued earlier this year Frenchman Street, an anthology of New Orleans music mostly derived from Threadhead Records, but also including rare material from other sources.

Frenchman Street is itself in the Bywater area just outside the French Quarter and the location of music venues such as Snug Harbor, d.b.a., The Spotted Cat, Blue Nile, and other music venues where one can hear Jazz Bands, Trad bands, Funk bands and more to paraphrase Shamarr Allen’s delightful Meet Me on Frenchman Street on which fellow trumpeter Kermit Ruffins joins for a celebration of the scene there. Songwriter Alex McMurray perhaps echoes what many might think when he sings You’ve Got to Be Crazy to Live In This Town, while blues and R&B singer Jesse Moore is heard on When the Hoodoo Come Down from a pre-Katrina CD. Glen David Andrews may be better known for gospel but his Dumaine Street Blues is a blues with brass band seasoning followed by The New Orleans Night Crawlers” with the invocation to party, Alright Alright.

Margie Perez & the King Cake Babies celebrate Mardi Gras Carnival, while Holley Bendtsen & Amasa Miller, joined by the Pfister Singers take us Down to Jazz Fest. Echoes of trad jazz support Paul Sanchez on his Exit to Mystery Street, while he is joined by John Boutté for their collaboration Stew Called New Orleans from a fine Threadhead disc by the two. The disc closes with Boutté’s updated take (from the 2006 JazzFest) of Randy Newman’s Louisiana 1927 with his biting new lyrics about President Bush’s response to Katrina and the levees failing in addition to Newman’s lyrics about floods in cajun Louisiana. Previously it was available on a limited edition WWOZ fundraiser but this release makes this available to a larger audience and would almost be reason enough to buy this varied compilation by itself. But there are 11 other additional reasons for obtaining this lively collection.

Previously I ran my review of the Mystery Street compilation Vieux Carre and this is a companion to it. I purchased this disc.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Memphis vocalist Joyce Cobb's Diverse Set of Tunes

Memphis based vocalist Joyce Cobb has been a part of that city’s scene for decades, first signing with Stax, later having a hot for Cream Records (later Hi Records) and shared stages with numerous musical legends. Her rhythm ’n’ blues stylings decades ago was always imbued with jazzy elements and in more recent years her focus has been more on the jazz side. She has a fascinating new release on Archer Records, the eponymous Joyce Cobb with the Michael Jefry Stevens Trio, Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens is a New Yorker who moved to Memphis and his trio consists of Jonathan Wires and drummer Renardo Ward.

Thee may be some who may find Ms. Cobb’s vocals, described on the publicity materials as “honey sweet,” an acquired taste with her sometimes less than precise diction. Her vocals here suggest was Jimmy Scott and if the performances may not quite pull at the heart strings as much as Scott, her performances still struct these ears in a most positive fashion. It helped that the Stevens Trio provide excellent support and Stevens takes any number of fine solos in addition to his harmonious accompaniments.

She sings classic standards mixed with vocal-ese adaptations of jazz classics including Bobby Timmons’
Moanin’, Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz, Hoagie Carmichael and Johnny Mercer’s Skylark, the juxtaposition of I’m in the Mood For Love with Moody’s Mood For Love, the Ellington-Strayhorn ballad Daydream, and My Heart Belongs to Daddy. Cobb contributes some atmospheric bluesy harmonica, before launching into Moanin’, delivering the Jon Hendricks lyrics with her overdubbing a backing vocal chorus that perhaps lends a sense that her vocal should have been a bit looser. Jitterbug Waltz is a delightful performance with Stevens accenting her horn like delivery of the lyrics with Wires taking a solo. Skylark opens with several choruses from Stevens in a reflective, lyrical mode before Cobb wistfully sings about her yearning for her lover. Like a horn, she chants Jon Hendricks’ lyric for Thelonious Monk’s Well That Was a Dream, capturing the angular aspects of Monk’s tune.

A bit more mainstream vocally is her rendition of
My Heart Belongs to Daddy, with the trio’s delicious tango accompaniment. There is a delightful extending of the lyrics of I’m in the Mood For Love which deftly transitions into Moody’s Mood For Love, with a more staccato, trumpet-like vocal delivery. Another delightful medley is Blues Skies and In Walked Bud, with a peppy delivery of Blues Skies with bass and piano solos followed by the concise rendition of In Walked Bud. If You Know Love, is a marvelously delivered lament. followed by a wistful If You Never Come to Me, from the pen of Antonio Carlos Jobim and others. The rendition I Thought About You, opens pensively before before the tempo and vocal heat up. She delivers a hauntingly beautiful vocal on the Ellington-Strayhorn Daydream, before closing with another playful nod to Thelonious Monk, It’s Over Now (Well You Needn’t).

It is an ambitious and diverse group of songs/tunes that Joyce Cobb has selected here for a strong vocal jazz compilation on which she reveals how comfortable she is with a ballad as with Jon Hendricks lyrical adaptation to a classic Thelonious Monk number. Joyce Cobb has a myspace page,
http://www.myspace.com/joycecobb and the label has a website http://archer-records.com from which this may be purchased as well as from cdbaby.

This review first appeared in the March 15-May 1 2011 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 334). I received my review copy from a publicist.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Butch Warren's French Album Debut

I have become aware that Butch Warren, a bassist who was a Washington native, who five decades ago was a vital part of the New York City and a regular on Blue Note album dates along with pianist Sonny Clark and drummer Billy Higgins (think about some sessions by Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Booker Ervin, Jackie McLean, Kenny Dorham and McCoy Tyner), was playing regularly in the area, although having a number of issues including spells of homelessness. Pianist Peter Edelman has been part of groups that featured Warren at Washington.

Russonello, at the excellent DC jazz website, www.capitalbop.com had a review of several recent releases by DC area artists and Warren’s first date as a leader, French 5Tet (Black & Blue) was one of them. The album was a result of French saxophonist Pierrick Menuau, in Washington for a concert at the French Embassy, catching Warren playing at a club and then putting together a brief tour of France including a a public concert for Radio France that was broadcast and then issued on French 5Tet.

Menuau and Warren are joined on this recording by Jean-Phillipe Border on guitar, Pierre Christophe on piano and Mourad Behammou on drums. The recording has the same flavor as those classic Blue Note recodings warren was just a part of. it opens up with Warren’s bass on the original,
A Little Chippie, before Menuau displays a strong fluid tenor sax style (and like Dexter Gordon inserting some musical quotations) followed by some fleet guitar as the rhythm section swings. Hank Mobley’s East of The Sun follows with nice cymbal work by Benhammou, and then the classic ballad Laura with more lovely tenor (Menuau perhaps sounding some like Long Tall Dexter).

There are three more Warren originals and one might wonder whether the performances titled
I Remember Monk and Eric Walks are correctly titled. The tune labelled I Remember Monk is somewhat suggestive to these ears of Mingus’ So Long Eric, while Eric Walks is a swinging performance that kicks off with terrific guitar before another nice sax solo.  Really nice sax in the vein of Booker Ervin on I Remember Monk. I enjoyed the other original, Barack Obama, apparently a more recent composition of Warren with a samba tinge. Giovanni Russelonello was disappointed in the performance, and references a performance by Warren with a group that included pianist Freddie Redd (another Blue Note legend) and drummer Nasar Abadey, noting “
With a talented three-saxophone line carrying Barack Obama’s melody, the band sauntered and flowed, swinging deeply and proudly through the brief “B” section.” I certainly appreciate Russenello’s perspective and one certainly echoes his hope that Warren have a chance to record it again. It was Kenny Dorham who took Warren out of Washington and to New York and after a brief statement of The Theme, the 5Tet concludes with the classic Blue Bossa, another classic Warren played on the original. This is a thoroughly enjoyable recording and it is worth seeking out. It certainly is heartening that it is available and perhaps a domestically produced follow-up will be coming shortly.

The Capital Bop review is at http://www.capitalbop.com/2011/05/12/album-review-the-debut-of-a-legend-butch-warrens-french-5tet/. Information on ordering can be found at http://concertsonthehill.info/bw/index.html and for US orders, $18.00. One can send payment through PayPal to the address concertsonthehill@gmail.com. One can also send email questions to that address and request an invoice and it is available at amazon but perhaps through the same source.

As a bonus from youtube, here is Butch Warren and his French FTet performing Blue Bossa, from his tour of France.

Capital Bop will be presenting The DC JazzLoft series as part of the upcoming DC Jazz Festival, http://www.capitalbop.com/dcjazzloft/ which folks can support through Kickstarter, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/capitalbop/capitalbops-dc-jazz-loft-series-at-the-dc-jazz-fes.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Deacon John Jumps the Blues Again

2011-0501 New Orleans JazzFest Day 3-1220117 by NoVARon
2011-0501 New Orleans JazzFest Day 3-1220117, a photo by NoVARon on Flickr.

From the first time I had the pleasure of hearing Deacon John Moore on a WWOZ compilation ripping through a terrific rendition of Elmore James'  Happy Home, I have been a fan of this New Orleans Rhythm and Blues Legend. Then the entire JazzFest set was made available on CD which showcased his ability to take classics from Elmore, J.B. Lenoir, B.B. King and Jimmy Rogers his own. After that came the release of Deacon John's Jump Blues, an album of classic rhythm and blues with Deacon John and others turning in a spectacular performance of songs associated with Ray Charles, Erma Franklin, The Spiders, Smiley Lewis, Johnny Adams and Joe Liggins with superb Big Band Arrangements by the Creole Beethoven, Wardell Querzergue. Tricia Boutté joined him for a Shirley & Lee Medley as well as handing Aretha's baby sister's Piece of My Heart. On the latter tune Allen Toussaint gusted on piano, while Henry Butler pounded the 88s behind Jumpin' in the Morning, an early Ray Charles classic and Dr. John was on piano for Joe Liggins' Goin' Back to New Orleans. In addition to this great recording, there was also a concert DVD of a concert of these artists and these songs. Since then, Deacon John is a must see for me at JazzFest if he is performing while I am there.

Sunday, July 1, Deacon John was featured on the Gentilly Stage, where he led his revue for a hour of super music with some surprises but also displayed his range as a performer. His Big Band included not only his brother Charles on bass guitar, but a sister on percussion and his daughter joining in on vocals. While I would not be unsympathetic with Deacon John playing slide guitar for an hour, the mix of music here included features for his backing singers as well as classic rhythm and blues and soul, his renditions of some standards and, an unexpected delight, a terrific rendition of a Steely Dan number. Then there were strong renditions of songs from Deacon John's Jump Blues and other songs of the genre (a rendition of Joe Liggins' "The Honey Dripper"), before he took out the slide and launched into "Happy Home" and followed with some modern urban blues. 

It was a well-paced set that displayed just how good and diverse a performer he is. I wish he could have played for at least another half hour. Deacon John is special to these eyes and ears. Here is a link to a documentary on him on Snag Films.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Prelude By Deodato More Than Theme From 2001

Brazilian born Emuir Deodato is primarily remembered for his 1972 orchestral recording of Also Sprach Zarathustra, the Richard Strauss composition that was known as the theme from the Movie 2001. Deodato adapted the Strauss composition from symphonic form to more contemporary tastes with his insistent and creative electronic piano, John Tropea’s twisting, rock-toned guitar solo, Stanley Clarke’s electric bass solo, and the latin flavored percussion of Airto and Ray Barretto.

Deodato’s recording of the Strauss theme was a Grammy winner in 1974 for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. Not a bad achievement for someone who as a teenager working for a local rock band was asked to arrange for a recording session orchestra. By 1967, he had moved to the United States, and wrote for American studios and was contributing arrangements for Astrud Gilberto, contributed three charts to Wes Montgomery's
Down Here on the Ground, and was soon working for major names in several fields including Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, Frank Sinatra.

As part of the celebration of CTI’s 40th Anniversary, Sony Masterworks has issued
Prelude, the album that included Also Sprach Zarathustra and was CTI’s biggest hit. Remastered from the original two-track audio tapes, it presents the familiar Strauss number with five other instrumentals. Spirit of Summer is one of his compositions that is a lovely big band number with an Jay Berliner acoustic guitar solo and I( assume Hubert Laws taking) a short flute break. Carly and Carole, has a playful feel opening with a lovely flute ensemble and Deodato’s electric piano to state the theme over the percussion before Deodato takes an engaging and dreamy solo.

Ron Carter in on acoustic bass for much of this release except is on electric bass for the bouncy
Baubles, Bangles and Beads as Billy Cobham, on drums, keeps the groove moving while Tropea adds some driving guitar in addition to Deodato’s imaginative and lively arrangement. Hubert Laws is featured on Claude Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, first setting the mood on the opening moments and taking the initial solo when the performance speeds up. The disc concludes with the funky September 13 that Deodato and Billy Cobham collaborated on. The rhythm section provides a strong, percolating groove over which the horns and guitarist Tropea make statements.

Prelude was Deodato’s most successful recording displaying his marvelous arrangements in addition to a superb studio orchestra. He would produce other albums, none as successful as this and later worked more as an arranger and producer with the likes of Kool & the Gang. While this reissue is relatively short (a tad over 32 minutes for the six performances), it is another example of the wonderful audio qualities of CTI recordings that enhance listening to the music included.

My review copy was provided by a publicist for the release.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lloyd Jones is Highway Bound

I was familiar with Northwest bluesman Lloyd Jones from his recordings that mixed funky R&B and modern urban blues such as his excellent Audioquest CD Trouble Monkey. His latest album, Highway Bound (Underworld Records), is a definite change of pace as he is playing solo acoustic with the exception of one selection when he is joined by the harmonica of Charlie Musselwhite. He states this on this recording he is playing some of his favorite folk songs and that listeners will enjoy it as much as he did performing them.

Vocally Jones might suggest Delbert McClinton but here he brings a driving acoustic guitar style, sometimes just a driving groove on his original with some nifty finger picking in his short solo breaks. There is an interesting mix of material covered ranging from a briskly tempoed
Careless Love, to the wistful When I’m Gone, which I believe was written by Elisabeth Cotton. On John Brim’s Ice Cream Man, Musselwhite joins in for a lively unplugged Chicago blues duo while on Blind Willie McTell’s Broke Down Engine Jones renders a performance in a manner that Taj Mahal might have done if he performed it as a Piedmont rag for a very original performance.

Jones picks up electric guitar for a percussively oriented rendition of Robert Johnson’s
Last Fair Deal Gone Down, followed by a reflective take of Big Bill Broonzy’s Southbound Train. Mixed in with originals is an amiable take on John Hurt’s Don’t Want Me Baby, and Make Me a Pallet on the Floor. A take of Cry For Me Baby, that Elmore James originally recorded, comes off like a John Lee Hooker boogie, while Good Night Irene comes off as a gentle lullaby. Curtis Salgado adds harp to the closing tune, a treatment of the Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer Lazy Bones, given a nice low-key spin.

Jones does indeed play some favorite songs here. His skilled playing and vocals makes for  delightful listening.

My review copy was provided by a publicist for the release.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Booker T and MGs Classic Tribute To The Beatles

Part of the latest batch of Stax Remasters is “McLemore Avenue,” the Booker T and The MGs album inspired by The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” with the cover showing thegroup walking across the Memphis location in a manner echoing The Beatles on the cover of “Abbey Road.” Ashley Kahn, in the accompanying booklet, observes how the album was conceived by Jones after hearing the Beatles recording. He was struck by the recording and its unbridled musicality, especially the “unusual musical snippets”that dominated side B of the album.

“McLemore Avenue” was the first time that the four had not recorded together as guitarist Steve Cropper was involved in another project, so after Jones, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn and Al Jackson Jr recorded the basic tracks, Cropper joined Jones at Wally Heider Studios in Hollywood to overdub his parts and then to Memphis where he mixed the recording with John Fry at Ardent Studios.

The album comprised of three medleys based primarily on the melodic snippets but also incorporating one of the songs from side A so the album opens with various snippets such as “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry the Weight,” along with “Here Comes The Sun.” and concludes with a medley including snippets “Hello Mr.Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” along with “She Came In The Bathroom Window. On the original album, there was a self-contained rendition of “Something” that was also issued as a single. Its fascinating to listen to them shift tempo and mood as they work through the medleys and also appreciate how spare, yet full their playing was. Cropper’s stinging guitar runs set against the sometimes lush organ of Jones.

This reissue is augmented by the reissue of six Beatle covers that they had recorded prior to McLemore Avenue, including interpretations of “Day Tripper,” “Michelle” and “Lady Madonna.” Listening to these one is struck how restrained the interpretations are and how melodic they were. An interesting chapter in the group’s history.

My review copy provided by publicist for the record company.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jeffery Broussard's Mines Zydeco Roots

While some of today’s zydeco sounds not far removed from hip hop and rap, it is a joy to find artists who music is still inspired and shaped by the creole music’s roots and traditions. Not to say that they simply recreate old recordings, but rather they bring their youth and passion to the more traditionally oriented songs perhaps, but they play with a zest that makes the music sound as fresh as any ‘contemporary’ zydeco.

One such artist is Jeffery Broussard, whose late father Delton led the Lawtell Playboys. Broussard and his band, The Creole Cowboys, have a terrific new release on Maison de Soul, Return of the Creole, that reaches back into zydeco roots for a throughly entertaining and lively recording. Broussard is quite an accordion player, playing the button or diatonic accordion while supported a solid backing band that includes Classie Ballou Jr. on bass.

The recording has quite a varied repertoire with interpretations of songs associated with Clifton Chenier and Boozoo Chavis, cajun classics and originals including one instrumental on which he plays fiddle. The set opens with a nice take on a Clifton Chenier waltz, Tante Nana, taken at a nice tempo and sung wonderfully. It is followed by a spicy rendition of Allons a Lafayette, with a solid creole rhythm replacing a cajun band’s less syncopated attack. Baton Rouge bluesman, Tabby Thomas is the source of the bluesy zydeco shuffle I Love Big Fat Women, as he celebrates the meat shaking on their bones.

The title track is an instrumental old-style waltz that morphs into a hot two-step whose melody evokes Clifton Chenier’s Zydeco Cha Cha. Another original, the mid-tempo lament, Tu Connaitre Ça Fait Mal (Oh You Know It Hurt), follows after which a lovely instrumental Pinky’s Heavenly Waltz, follows with some nice guitar from Scott Ardoin. A lively Boozoo Chavis rocker Prier Pour Moi (Pray For Me), is followed by a feature for Broussard’s old-fashioned sounding zydeco fiddle on Canray Fontenot’s Old Carpenter’s Waltz.

Madeleine is a lively updating of Adam Hebert’s cajun recording and followed by covers of Boozoo Chavis and Buckwheat Zydeco (Hard to Stop is a nice rocker) before his driving original, Ole Blue, an adaptation of Nathan Abshire’s Pinegrove Blues. The disc closes on a bluesy note as he provides a strong zydeco twist on Sam Cooke’s Bring it On Home to Me. It is a solid end of the 15 strong performances contained here. I don’t believe I have had the pleasure of seeing Jeffery Broussard perform, but this is a terrific recording to appeal to fans of zydeco everywhere. His website is

This was a purchase. Image of Jeffery Broussard courtesy of his website.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Resurrection of the Man in Black Chronicled

The Resurrection of Johnny Cash: Hurt, Redemption and American Recordings
by Graeme Thomson
2011 - London:Jawbone Press (254 pages)

While not a full biography, Graeme Thomson’s “The
Resurrection of Johnny Cash” is a remarkably thorough examination of the revival of Johnny Cash’s musical and career fortunes in the last years of his life. Cash of course emerged with Sun Records in the mid-fifties and then had a lengthy career on Columbia Records which included some major recordings, both thematic albums and “Live at Folsom Prison.” The Man in Black also had a weekly television show where he had an intriguing mix of performers from Louis Armstrong to Bob Dylan.

But as the 1980s came, and shifting personnel at Columbia as well as shifting musical trends and tastes, Cash found himself without a record contract as sales on his recordings dropped to the tens of thousands, well below what was required by the bean counters that were running the major labels. And as a concert act, he was increasingly a country oldies act, playing to older crowds that might flock to the Cash Theater in Branson, Missouri, or county and state fairs. And lets not talk about country radio, to which a new Cash release was no longer a must play. At the same time, Cash was having other personal battles including health issues and ongoing battles with addiction and a career that seemed directionless.

Thomson traces how the what superficially would seem to be the odd linkage between Cash and Rick Rubin, the head of Def Jam and Def American Records and known as the producer of hip hop and metal records. But it was a partnership that enabled Cash to return to prominence with nothing more simple than having him sing some songs accompanied solely by his own guitar. This simple idea recognized that Cash’s strength was his personality as a performer, undiluted by lavish accompaniments and production. This was evident with his Sun Records and the best of his Columbia recordings. His music had an integrity that resonated with listeners that transcended fans of country music that had been diluted. Many high moments and who can ever forget, having seen, the video for “Hurt.”

Interviews with countless interviews including Rosanne Cash, Nick Lowe, Rodney Crowell, Will Oldham, ‘Cowboy’ Jack Clement, Adam Clayton of U2, Bruce Lundvall and others helps Thomson put together the story, taking us from the depths, to a show at the Viper Room in Hollywood, shortly after completing the “American Recordings,” and to an unforgettable set in Glastonbury in 1994. The recordings with what seemed as the time, unusual choices of material, are detailed as well as his health struggles that he fought through the final recordings with Rubin which includes a discussion of the production of Cash’s posthumous recordings and how they were compiled.

Thomson is to be thanked for this terrific chronicle of Johnny Cash’s last years. It is an excellent biography that is thoroughly researched, well written, handsomely published and certainly appeal to fans of Cash as well as contemporary popular music.

I received a review copy from a publicist.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Classic Johnnie Taylor Is Taylored In Silk

One of the latest of the Stax Remasters coming out from Concord, who currently owns the Stax Catalog, is a reissue of Johnnie Taylor’s Taylored in Silk. The eight tunes on the original 1973 album have been supplemented by six additional tracks. Taylor already had several hits and albums on Stax before Don Davis joined the label from Detroit where he helped give a different twist than the more strictly Memphis sound of Taylor’s earlier recordings that often were anchored by Booker T. and the MGs. Bill Dahl provides the historic overview in the annotation to the booklet.

Davis’ use of strings add a definite urbane sheen to selections like the remake of Little Willie John’s Talk To Me, as well as revisiting Mel & Tim’s Starting All Over Again. One of the centerpieces for this album was the Sir Mack Rice gem, Cheaper to Keep Her, with its infectious bass line and the streetwise cynicism of a lifetime of alimony. Another gem is Davis’ ballad We’re Getting Careless With Our Love, which, along with the beautiful I Believe In You, displays why Taylor was getting past being simply known as a blues belter (although a great one) and becoming “The Soul Philosopher.” A lush arrangement supports Taylor’s wonderful reading of This Bitter Earth, known from Dinah Washington’s recording.

The bonus tracks include “Hijackin’ Love, with its insistent groove; Standing in For Jody, another installment in the “Jody” saga; Shackin’ Up, a funky groove underlying its straightforward, unapologetic lyric and the bluesy two-part “Doing My Own Thing” with Eddie Hinton and the Muscles Shoals Jimmy Johnson sharing the guitar.  This is pretty strong stuff in addition to the original recording. Taylor was one of the great soul and blues singers, which this remastered reissue makes that clear.

My review copy was provided by the record company.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

After All These Years McDermott and Christopher are Almost Native

It is easy to label both pianist Tom McDermott and clarinetist Evan Christopher as traditional jazz musicians, but both transcend that simple label.McDermott, a pianist rooted in ragtime and Jelly Roll Morton, has also become renown for his interpretations of the Brazilian choro idiom and the music of New Orleans legend James Booker. Christopher has become one of the most highly regarded clarinet players today and is a 2011 Jazz Journalists Association nominee, who has also exhibited abilities to excel beyond traditional jazz as evident by his European gypsy jazz recordings and his intriguing interpretations of modern jazz including a marvelous medley of Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman and Ramblin’, and John Coltrane’s After The Rain.

The new album by the pair,
Almost Native (Threadhead Records) takes it title from the fact that someone asked Tom if he was born in New Orleans, and after he answers he moved there in 1984, they respond, “”Oh, well you’re almost a native then.” This latest recording is a duo recording of originals by the pair, eight by McDermott, and two by Christopher that displays the considerable empathy between them which enhances the lyricism at root of both their styles.

The music moves from the wistfulness of the opening
Tango Ambiguo (Ambiguous Tango), the indigo charm of Christopher’s slow Waltz For All Souls which evokes George Lewis’ bluesy playing, the raggy playfulness of Le Manège Rouge (The Red Merry-Go-Round), to the the atmospheric Spooky Blues (For Booker)/Quite Enough Blues, with McDermott’s spare, restrained playing effectively setting the mood. There is a bit of cheeky humor for “The Don’t-Mess-With-My Two-Step, a piano solo, followed by a delightful and playful, Chorando Em Paris (Playing Choro In Paris). The last original recording here is a march, March of the Pony Girls, which exhibits all the warmth and humor the two exhibit throughout this.

A bonus track, the lively
Irresistível (Irresistible), derives from McDermott’s New Orleans Duets and concludes a thoroughly charming recording. It is available from
www.louisianamusicfactory.com, cdbaby, itunes and other sources. Tom McDermott’s website is www.mcdermottmusic.com and Evan Christopher's website is www.clarinetroad.net

Evan Christopher and Tom McDermott doing an in-store performance
at the Louisiana Music Factory on Decatur Street in New Orleans.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chicago Blues A Living History: The Revolution Continues

It was a couple years ago that Raisin’ Music issued the first double CD, Chicago Blues: A Living History, a superb CD that revived some classic and lesser known Chicago blues by the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Memphis Slim, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Earl Hooker and Magic Sam. Well, now comes a sequel, Chicago Blues A Living History: The (R)evolution Continues. The Two CDs contain 23 selections and a bit over 80 minutes.

Like the prior release, the solid backing band, The Living History Band, returns with guitarist Billy Flynn, Pianist Johnny Iguana, bassist Felton Crews and drummer Kenny Smith. With the support by this band, the spotlight is focused on Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Lurrie Bell, Billy Branch and Carlos Johnson with featured guest appearances by Buddy Guy, Magic Slim, James Cotton, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Zora Young and Mike Avery. The CD opens with three performances by Billy Boy Arnold of artists associated with the forties Chicago scene, Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red and Sonny Boy Williamson before we move on to the post-war era with more emphasis on the post mid-fifties scene and extending to the nineties.

Arnold is really good, with the rendition of Tampa Red’s I’ll Be Up Again Someday, being especially fine. With just bass and drums, John Primer does a solid Muddy Waters copy on Canary Bird before taking a lighter tack on the Jimmy Rogers shuffle, Chicago Bound. Floyd Jones was one of the artists whose recordings were skipped on the earlier disc, but Lurrie Bell does a strong rendition of Stockyard Blues, with Matthew Skoller adding harmonica (the late Snooky Pryor played on the original). Billy Branch and James Cotton both play harmonica on a rendition of the Jackie Brenston hit, Rocket 88, that Cotton recorded for Vanguard. Branch takes the vocal here as he does on a medley of Little Walter and Bo Diddley songs, while Primer handles the vocal on Chuck Berry’s Reelin’ and Rockin’, on which Billy Flynn emulates Berry’s guitar style.

The second disc opens with Buddy Guy doing a straight remake of his classic Chess recording T he First Time I Met the Blues, which is followed by John Primer being reunited with Magic Slim for a chugging rendition of Chuck Willis’ Keep a Drivin’. Magic Sam’s cousin Michael Avery was a revelation on the initial release and continues to impress as he reprises Easy Baby. Primer handles Howlin’ Wolf’s Howlin’ For My Baby, while Billy Boy Arnold handles the vocal on Robert Lockwood, Jr.’s My Daily Wish, that Lockwood waxed originally with Otis Spann in 1960. Pianist Iguana is excellent here as is Flynn who evokes Lockwood’s jazzy style on this.

Yonder’s Wall is based on the recording of it by Junior Wells, with Billy Branch honoring one of his mentors and evoking Wells’ harp style, while Zora Young takes the vocal on the late Sunnyland Slim’s Be Careful How You Vote. Its nice that Fenton robinson is remembered by Carlos Johnson who provides a fresh arrangement of Somebody Loan Me a Dime. Johnson also does his take on the title track of Otis Rush’s Grammy Award winning album Ain’t Enough Comin’ In. A couple of sons pay respects to their dads with Lurrie doing his own Got To Leave Chi-Town, as a tribute to Carey Bell (with Billy Branch playing some tough harp here) while Ronnie Baker Brooks salutes his father Lonnie Brooks on the mix of Chicago blues, funk and bayou boogie, Don’t Take Advantage of Me. Ronnie also does his plea “Make These Blues Survive, as he worries about the music’s future. The recording concludes with a rendition of Brownie McGhee’s lively shuffle, The Blues Had a Baby, with vocals by Bell, Arnold, Branch and Primer.

This is another satisfying salute to the Chicago Blues tradition that covers a wide spectrum of performers, that is package in a double CD digipack and contains a booklet with producer Larry Skoller’s notes, commentary on the selections and an illustrated Chicago Blues History timeline which is provides an overview of the artists whose recordings are mined and the performers heard on this. Fans of the prior release will have similar feelings about this sequel. And there is so much of the Chicago Blues History that they have yet to explore that hopefully might merit a third release in this series. Recommended. 

This review originally appeared in the May 1-June 15
Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 335) which can be downloaded at jazz-blues.com. My review copy was supplied by a publicist for this release.