Saturday, June 30, 2012

Clifton Chenier Was Zydeco Dynamite

Rhino has issued Zydeco Dynamite, The Clifton Chenier Anthology, which is a two compact disc, 40 track retrospective of Clifton Chenier’s recording career (thirty two tracks on two cassettes). Compiler Greg Durst observes, “If these scorchers don’t make you move like an alligator in a pond of hot sauce, you’d better consult a physician,...…Clifton Chenier will always be the one who makes the Bon Ton Roulet.”

And the good times sure roll on here from Louisiana Stomp, Clifton’s first record for the Elko label, through some of his Specialty recordings that rocked almost as hard as the hottest Little Richard numbers (although Clifton was more down in the alley, and less flamboyant), his lengthy association with Arhoolie Records (from which about half of the recordings are derived), to rarities made for a variety of labels including I’m a Zydeco Man, the title track of his Grammy Award winning album.

One cannot underestimate the importance of Clifton Chenier. He is to zydeco what Bill Monroe is to bluegrass. His french recasting of blues, and rock and roll songs, mixed with adaptations of cajun and creole themes, made the language barrier less imposing. Like Fats Domino, his creole accent, and the total sincerity manifest in his vocals, gave his songs a certain irresistible appeal for those exposed to them. He was a first rate blues singer as well as a person that could get the house rocking for a marathon zydeco live dance.

The compilation opens with a good helping of his rare recordings for Specialty, Chess (the Argo and Checker subsidiaries) and Zynn (one of Jay Miller’s labels), and with the exception of Eh Petite Fille, many of these early recordings are hot rock and roll songs not far removed from the recordings of Fats Domino and Little Richard. Ay Ai Ai is the first of the many Arhoolie recordings represented. Others include Bon Ton Roulet (his French reworking of Louis Jordan’s Let the Good Times Roll), I Am Coming Home, an adaptation of a Charles Brown recording that was Clifton’s favorite recording, the hot live Zydeco Cha Cha where brother Cleveland and drummer Robert St. Judy take a somewhat irresistible percussion break, and I’m on the Wonder, from a session with Elvin Bishop.

Bogalusa Boogie, which many consider Clifton’s finest album, is represented by four selections. One thing that set these recordings apart is the saxophone of John Hart, probably the greatest blues saxophonist since J.T. Brown. Hart is also present from on a number of other selections including Easy, Easy, Baby from an album that also included Stanley Dural (Buckwheat Zydeco) on keyboards and several selections albums on Floyd Soileau’s Maison de Soul label including Hot Tamale Baby.
There is a wealth of material here although there are some gems that were omitted like You Used to Call Me, a bluesy waltz, Ma Negresse, with uncle Morris Chenier contributing alley fiddle, and the country blues flavor of Black Snake Blues. With compiler Durst’s cogent discussion of the man and his music, this is a fine reissue.

For those wanting more Clifton Chenier, Arhoolie has issued Clifton Sings the Blues. It includes 12 recordings that Roy Ames produced in 1969 that have appeared on several labels including Prophesy, Home Cooking and Arhoolie, along with seven cuts from the album Clifton Chenier and his Red Hot Louisiana Band, an album with John Hart and Stanley ‘Buckwheat ‘ Dural. Easy Easy Baby appears to be the only duplication with the Rhino collection. Other songs include Ain’t No Need of Crying, a song Clifton sang in French on Arhoolie as Louisiana Blues; a rocking version of Fats Domino’s Rosemary; Be My Chauffeur which is derived from Memphis Minnie; the standard Trouble in Mind; Worried Life Blues, and a rocking version of Boozoo Chavis’ Paper in My Shoe. Outstanding cuts from The Red Hot Louisiana Band include Hungry Man Blues, which uses the Hootchie Kootchie Man melody, and Grand Prix, a wonderful bilingual tune with Clifton’s lament about the price he paid for loving his woman.

By all means get the Rhino, but don’t stop there. Clifton was one of the true greats of the blues, not simply zydeco, and even with 40 cuts, Rhino merely skims the surface of his musical legacy. With his music, the good times continue to roll.

This review originally appeared in the July/August 1993 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 183) and I have made some stylistic edits. I likely received review copies from the record label or a publicist. Both are available as used (with the Rhino apparently being easier to find). The Arhoolie is also available as digital downloads. Here is the King of Zydeco singing I'm A Hog for You.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Blues Foundation's Hall Of Fame Merits Your Supporty

As stated on its website,, The Blues Foundation is currently engaged in a capital campaign to build a physical Blues Hall of Fame. On the website, the Foundation notes the history of the Blues Hall of Fame and its plans:

“Since 1980, The Blues Foundation has been inducting individuals, recordings and literature into the Blues Hall of Fame, but until now there has not been a physical Blues Hall of Fame. Establishing a Blues Hall of Fame enhances one of the founding programs of The Blues Foundation. The campaign calls for up to $3.5 million to create a hall of fame that will be the place to: honor inductees year-round; listen to and learn about the music; and enjoy historic mementos of this all-American art form. The new Blues Music Hall of Fame will be the place for serious blues fans, casual visitors, and wide-eyed students. It will facilitate audience development and membership growth. It will expose, enlighten, educate, and entertain.”

It is a substantial amount to raise but certainly would provide a way to have more than a virtual Hall of Fame to honor the legendary performers, recordings and related individuals of the Blues. More information including the making of pledges and donations can be found at the website with a link on the Blues Foundation’s home-page. I encourage all the blues lovers in the blues community to honor the legends and history of the music and support the Foundation’s fund-raising efforts.

By the way, the graphic is taken from the Blues Foundation's website. The donate button on the graphic here does not work. The donate button at does work.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Excellent If Not The Essential Magic Slim

Morris Holt, best known as Magic Slim, has had a celebrated recording career over 40 years, and rarely produced a blues record that was merely good. It is misleading for Blind Pig to call the compilation of some of the best tracks from his half dozen or so Blind Pig albums, The Essential Magic Slim since any compilation of Slim’s recordings that do not span his entire career including the superb records that have been issued on Rooster Blues, Alligator and the Austrian Wolf label can hardly be called Essential. Best of Magic Slim on Blind Pig would be more accurate.

This is not to say that the music here is substandard. In fact the music here is typical of the hard-driving rocking Chicago blues that Slim has been producing since his 1966 45 of Scufflin’. Opening with a rocking rendition of Bo Diddley’s Before You Accuse Me, rocketing through the terrific shuffle, Mind Your Own Business and continuing with a driving updating of Jimmy McCracklin’s Think, Magic Slim forcefully delivers his lyrics while laying down some stringing guitar. He is one of the few who can produce a listenable Mustang Sally while going down in the alley on the slow groove of Crazy Woman. Those backing him here include guitarists John Primer, Steve Freund, Michael Dotson and Jon McDonald, with brother Nick Holt handling the bass on most of the 15 tracks.

This may not be “The Essential” Magic Slim, but it is an excellent introduction to his music if you are not familiar with his distinctive and recognizable style.

I wrote this review in 2007 for the DC Blues Calendar and Jazz & Blues Report but I am not sure if either publication ran it. I likely received a review copy from Blind Pig.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

James Cotton Always Was Deep In The Blues

James Cotton’s new Verve release, Deep in the Blues, has the legendary harmonica player and blues singer accompanied by Joe Louis Walker and jazz bassist Charlie Haden. Also, longtime Cotton collaborator, pianist Dave Maxwell is present on three of the 14 tracks.

The album is an acoustic “unplugged” session, and a total delight. Cotton has had health problems in recent years, and the most evident toll has been on his voice which has come across as a ghost of its former husky self, but little effect is evident in his still splendid harp playing. Not straining against a full electric band backing, Cotton’s vocals sound comfortable in the setting. The songs are mostly blues standards, including Sonny Boy Williamson’s Dealin’ With the Devil; Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Play With Your Poodle; Percy Mayfield’s Strange Things Happenin’ and Big Maceo’s Worried Life Blues (two splendid duets with pianist Maxwell); and Muddy Water’s Sad Letter.

Both Walker and Haden each have a solo instrumental, with Walker’s spotlighting his considerable skills using a slide. Walker forcefully sings on Muddy’s Two Trains Runnin’ with Cotton’s harp providing the crying harp commentary. Blues in My Sleep, a fine moody harmonica instrumental is the only selection where all four play together.

There’s no new musical ground here, but rather musicians, friends and peers that have come to play some blues together. It’s a very congenial, low-key effort that will delight fans of Cotton and many others.

This review originally appeared in the November 1996 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 216). I likely received a review copy from the record label. Here is Cotton with Eric Clapton unplugged.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jimmy Rushing's Classic Blues Shouting

Avid Jazz is one of several European Public Domain reissue labels that have compiled reissues of vintage jazz albums primarily from the 1950s and among recent reissues is Four Classic Albums Plus by Jimmy Rushing. Rushing is best known as a vocalist with the classic Count Basie Band of the swing era. His career of course started prior to that and his first recording was made with the legendary Blue Devils. Later he was associated with the Bennie Moten Orchestra which after the leader's death eventually morphed into The Count Basie Band. While more than simply a blues singer, his vocals on such songs as Boogie Woogie, Good Morning Blues, Goin' To Chicago, Sent For You Yesterday, and Don't You Miss Your Baby, led him to be cast as a blues singer. Of course he did sing more than just blues as exemplified by the Hoagie Carmichael classic New Orleans, with Moten as well as such pop tunes and novelties as as Exactly Like You, Boo Hoo, Georgiana, and Mama Don't Want No Peas 'N' Rice 'N' Coconut Oil. Like his blues vocals, he always swung hard with his phrasing and his full-throated and ebullient delivery.

By the 1950s he had established himself as a single artist. He had recorded for Vanguard Records under John Hammond's direction in the early 1950s with members of the Count Basie band and boogie woogie legends like Pete Johnson and Sammy Price. Subsequently he recorded a number of albums for Columbia of which four are featured on this Avid Jazz compilation: Jimmy Rushing and the Smith Gals, Little Jimmy and The Big Brass, Brubeck & Rushing and The Jazz Odyssey of James Rushing Esq. In addition to the music from those albums, these reissues also include a performance from the legendary TV show The Sound of Jazz and a rare British EP, The Way I Feel.

Altogether there are 49 songs over the two CDs included here so there is plenty of music. Some of the recordings are familiar to me from a Columbia vinyl reissue of the 1970s, but many of these specific recorded performances are fresh to the ears. On much of the recordings he is backed by some of the cream of the swing era musicians including Basie veterans like Walter Page, Buck Clayton, Dickey Wells, Sweet sEdison, Jo Jones, Vic Dickenson, and Buddy Tate, along with such other legends like Coleman Hawkins, Budd Johnson, Hank Jones, Milt Hinton, Hilton Jefferson, Doc Cheatham, Danny Barker and Zutty Singleton. And of course one of the albums included here had Rushing backed by Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright and Joe Morello.

From the opening moments of Arkansas Blues to the closing The Way I Feel, one is treated to some wonderful renditions of blues and classic pop songs that are sung with heart and humor. He can sound world weary on the blues like Down Hearted Blues, and Jimmy's Blues, yet wink about the fact Somebody Stole My Gal. He provides his own personal signature on classic blues like T'aint Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do, and I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts of Town as well as interpretations of Louis Jordan's hit, Knock Me a Kiss, and the classic Earl Hines tune Rosetta. And we should not neglect to mention the welcome reissue of the rare EP with the terrific blues Go Get Some More.

While most of the recording has him with big band (or little big band in some cases), the album with Brubeck has its own charm with a bit more intimacy in the setting and the somewhat lighter backing provided on a revival of Evenin', one of the songs he recorded with Basie, Fats Waller's Ain't Misbehavin', and the torch song Am I Blue. There is a definite appeal to Brubeck's understated piano and Desmond's dry martini alto sound and if Brubeck may have been skeptical when Rushing first suggested they collaborate, the result was another stellar showcase of a vocalist who touched many years ago and whose singing still sounds fresh today.

Like other similar reissues, the liner notes are reproduced in the accompanying booklet (although in some cases only portions are). The music also sounds good to these deafening ears. There is not a solid overview of Rushing's Columbia recordings available on CD. This makes this reissue even more valuable in addition to the wonderful music contained here.

This was a purchase. Here Jimmy sings I Left My Baby, from the legendary TV show, The Sound Of Jazz.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Debbie Davies Debut Picture This

Debbie Davies has a new release on M.C. Records I will be reviewing soon. It has been nearly 20 years since she had her first album, Picture This on Blind Pig. The following review appeared in the July/August 1993 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 183) although I have made a few minor stylistic changes. I received my review copy from Blind Pig Records.

Debbie Davies spent three years on the road as part of Albert Collins’ band before branching out into a solo career. Picture This (Blind Pig) is her debut album, and is more than a promising set of blues by a new female blues guitarist and vocalist. Obvious comparisons are to Joanna Connor and Sue Foley, however her music lacks the hard rock aspects of Joanna Connor and, unlike Sue Foley, she sings with authority on a program of modern blues, that include several tasty covers and a couple of solid originals.

The title track gets off to a rocking groove, as her dryly delivered vocal leads to a solid solo. Albert Collins guests on I Wonder Why with a typical solo from him. The following number, Livin’ on Lies, is her best original song with memorable lyrics, a New Orleans rhythm and a biting solo as she effectively plays off the groove. Another fine original, How Long Till I Win Your Love, has a Magic Sam flavor. Another influence is Freddie King and she plays relaxed versions of King’s instrumentals Sidetracked and San-Ho-Zay.

Admittedly there is nothing startlingly new here, just a set of modern blues that is well played and sung. Horns are added to several selections that help frame her playing and vocals as well as add variety. This reviewer was impressed when he saw her live, and this well-produced debut recording reinforces that impression. Recommended.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Big Time Sarah Lays It On 'Em Girls

Big Time Sarah is another blues woman from Chicago who has never received the acclaim her talents merit. The following review appeared in the September 1993 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 184) to which I made minor stylistic changes. Lay It On ‘Em Girls is the first of three albums she recorded for Delmark. I will be posting in a week or so a 1996 review of another Delmark CD by her. This CD is still available.

A woman blues singer with a strong release is Big Time Sarah with her brand new release on Delmark, Lay It On ‘Em Girls. One-time a protege of Sunnyland Slim, she is one of a number of tough women Chicago blues singers (others include Bonnie Lee and Zora Young) . I’ve been told that live, Big Time Sarah is an especially bawdy performer.

She previously recorded in France on an album shared with Zora Young and Bonnie Lee, and later had an album out on the Blues R&B label. Delmark has issued the nicely produced album with a good mix of material which includes several Willie Dixon numbers (I Make Love, Hootchie Kootchie Woman, Lay It On ‘Em Girls, and Every Man I See), and unusual material such as Summertime, and Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine.

She possesses a husky voice, and sings in a somewhat dry fashion, although she growls on occasion like on Evil Gal Blues. Her performances of the Dixon songs are first rate, perhaps being the high points of the set with the opening I Make Love and the title cut being especially sassy performances. Other performances are entertaining although her Evil Gal Blues and Summertime, while refreshing choices, are less successful.

Her band, The BTS Express, is excellent and adds a jazz and funk sensibility to its blues playing. Guitarist Rico McFarland impresses with his fleet, jazzy attack and imaginative soloing while Rodney Brown’s tenor sax work is especially tasty. Certainly another blues woman to be reckoned with.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shirley Brown's Classic Woman to Woman

Amongst recent reissues in Concord’s Stax Remasters reissues is the classic album Woman To Woman by Shirley Brown. Brown had one of the last big records for Stax (although on the Truth subsidiary) and the title track with an opening rap about calling this woman that Shirley found her number on a piece of paper in her man’s pants and then singing to tell the woman she will do everything to keep her man. Exhibiting a powerful gospel-rooted vocal, she delivers a commanding vocal performance.

The Arkansas native was brought to Stax by Albert King with whom she he performed shows with. On the album she was backed by a band that included Al Jackson Jr. on drums; Bobby Manuel on guitar; Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn on bass; Marvell Thomas on piano; and Lester Snell or organ with the Memphis Horns, and supporting vocals and orchestra. And they are present for varied material including It Ain’t No Fun, where she sings about her man coming home and acting just like a friend and that it ain’t much fun living by oneself and the one you love loves another. The song incorporates a rap in the middle.

A different mood is present on the Caribbean flavored groove of Long As You Love Me, as she lets us know she’ll be all right and she delivers this in a bit more relaxed vein. Jerry Ragovoy penned Stay With Me Baby, and Brown’s strong cover of the Lorraine Ellison original leads one to speculate how she might have handled other Ragavoy songs such as Piece Of My Heart and Cry Baby. More heat is present on Frederick Knight’s I Can’t Give You Up, with a relaxed rhythm.

Five tracks are appended to the original release. Yes Sir Brother, with a strong dance groove, is from the same sessions that produced the original album. There are three covers of Aretha Franklin recordings of which Ain’t No Way benefits from being less familiar than Respect or Rock Steady. Not that these are bad recordings, but they are overshadowed by Aretha’s original recordings and influence. The disc closes on a lengthy reworking of Signed, Sealed, and Delivered, I’m Yours, opening with a rap before she starts digging into the Stevie Wonder classic at a lumbering tempo and pouring out all her heart into her vocal. The tempo picks about 2/3 of the way through with the brass adding fuel to her vocal fire.

Included are the brief original notes as well as Lee Hildebrand’s notes to a 2008 English reissue and a more recent consideration from Billboard’s Gail Ellison that add background to what is contained but as Ellison whote “Stop reading and start listening.” Fans of Stax and souther soul who don’t have this in previous reissues will certainly want this excellent reissue.

I received a review copy from a publicist or the record label. In more recent years Shirley recorded for Malaco and here is a video of her performing.

Friday, June 22, 2012

James Cotton in 1967 Seems Like Yesterday

The Canadian Just a Memory label continues its documentation of live blues performances in Montreal in the late 1960s. The latest release, Seems Like Yesterday is by James Cotton from a September 28, 1967 appearance at the New Penelope Cafe, which was around the time when this writer saw Cotton at La Cave in Cleveland. I do not believe Cotton had the same band when I saw him. I believe that Alberto Gianquinto, who is on piano, had left Cotton, being replaced by a saxophonist, but I definitely recall the late, highly underrated Luther Tucker on guitar, drummer Francis Clay and bassist Bobby Anderson backing James at La Cave.

Musically, this release mixes the blues and soul repertoire that characterized Cotton’s first Verve-Forecast album with renditions of songs from James Brown (I Feel Good); Big Jay McNeely (There is Something on Your Mind, although Cotton’s vocal is based on Bobby Marchan’s hit version, not McNeely’s original with Sonny Warner on vocals); and Bobby Bland (Good Time Charlie), along with classic Chicago Blues themes from Willie Mabon (I Don’t Know) and Little Walter (It Ain’t Right).

Likely recorded from the soundboard, this may not be high fidelity, but one can hear what is going on. In addition to his first-rate harp, Cotton was in strong voice back then and sounds particularly convincing on Stormy Monday on which Tucker plays in an especially striking fashion. Cotton’s openness to a variety of sources is shown by his rendition of Nat Adderly’s Work Song. This may have been inspired by Paul Butterfield’s famous recording of the tune.

Because of the less than perfect sound, casual listeners may pass on this. Others who remember this particular band, or are fans of Cotton will want this for historical and other reasons.

This review appeared originally in the July-August 1998 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 233) and I probably received a review copy from a publicist or the label. Here is James Cotton from 1969 in a low-fidelity and slightly washed out video.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Magic Sam Had The Magic Touch

One of the blues artists I discovered when I first started listening to blues was Samuel Maghett, better known as Magic Sam. The release of West Side Soul on Delmark was quite an important album and highly acclaimed. Alas Sam died only a few years after despite the promise of a career that might have taken off. The following review of some club recordings appeared in the April, 1993 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 180) and I have made minor stylistic revisions. I likely received a review copy from the label. It is out-of-print but is available used. It should be noted that this was released originally on vinyl on the Dutch Black Magic label around 1984 and they likely issued it on CD as well.

Black Top’s release of Magic Touch makes available a live club recording by the legendary Magic Sam that was originally on the Black Magic label. Recorded at Sylvio’s (Howlin’ Wolf’s home base and it is Wolf that introduces Sam and Shakey Jake) by the Belgium blues and jazz collector George Adins, it complements the recordings from the Alex Club that Delmark issued on Magic Sam Live and is valuable as additional documentation of him.

Magic Sam was joined by Shakey Jake Harris on harp and vocals on six of the fourteen selections, the bass of Mack Thompson, and the drums of Odie Payne. These are location recordings, and not hi-fi. The sound on this is better than on the Delmark, Adins source recordings likely being better. However, the editing is not as clean as the Delmark, so instead of the banter with the audience between songs on the Delmark, tracks get cut off abruptly as the song ends and the applause begins.

The music is extraordinary, and there are some songs that Sam didn’t record elsewhere including Just Like a Fish, Dirty Work Going On, and I Just Can’t Please You. Shakey Jake sounds as good as he ever did on record on She’s Nineteen Years Old, and Juke. Thompson and Payne would play on Sam’s Delmark studio recordings, and add a tight, bottom to the music.

Sam’s studio albums, West Side Soul, and Black Magic, are the logical places for persons unfamiliar with Magic Sam. Those hooked on his music will certainly want this and the Delmark live recordings. This is great stuff that shows why forty odd years later he is still revered by the musicians he worked with and blues enthusiasts everywhere.

Here is the cover of the original Black Magic release of this material.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wild Child Butler Knew These Mean Old Blues

These Mean Old Blues by George ‘Wild Child’ Butler appeared on Bullseye Blues in the early 1990s. The following review appeared in the June 1992 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 171), although I have made slight stylistic revisions. This release is still available as a CD or as digital downloads. I received my review copy from Rounder Records, Bullseye’s parent company.

A fine set for harmonica blues fans, George ‘Wild Child’ Butler’s These Mean Old Blues (Bullseye Blues, are his first recordings since Funky Butt Lover in 1976 (now available on Rooster Blues). This London session captures some of the flavor of a Willie Dixon session. Some of these songs, The Devil Made Me Do It, and No One Woman’s Man, sound like songs Dixon wrote for Howlin’ Wolf.

Butler is a capable, harmonica player who best suggests Sonny Boy Williamson, and he is a solid, ebullient, vocalist. He is particularly effective in a solo, country-blues mode (where he recalls the second Sonny Boy) such as on Walkin’ the Little Girl Home, where the mix of harp and narrative is very effective. Wild Child’s It’s a Pity is a nice Dixon-like topical minor-key blues.

Wild Child Butler may not be among the first-rank of post-war blues singers or harp-players, but he puts on a good show, and makes a good record. Overall, this is a tasty blues morsel.

Here is a video of the Wild Child performing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

WIlliam Clarke Live In Germany

The late William Clarke is still greatly missed by those who knew him since he passed over a decade and a half ago. One of the first posthumous new releases of his music was Live in Germany. The following review appeared back in the February 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 279). I purchased this recording.

The late William Clarke had established himself as among the premiere harmonica players and performers in blues when he passed in 1996. His widow, Jeanette Clarke Lodovici, has previously issued some unreleased studio recordings for Clarke’s many fans and has just produced a new CD, Live in Germany, (Watch Dog) that should be welcome by Clarke fans and those who love great blues harp.

From the opening notes of Blown’ Like Hell, a torrid instrumental showcasing his strong driving play and full tone, to the closing moments of Lollipop Mama, Clarke was in top form. He was backed by a terrific band that included on guitar (and vocal on Charles Brown’s I Cried Last Night), Willie Brittle on bass and Eddie Clark on drums. Most of the performances are interpretations of some terrific, but not over-recorded numbers from Muddy Waters, Walter Horton and Mercy Dee Walton.

Clarke’s strength as a singer is such that he can make a classic like One Room Country Shack, his own. New releases of Clarke are very welcome, but it’s a bonus that the music is as good as it is here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Otis Spann Lived The Bluesman's Life

Otis Spann is among my favorites as a blues performer, not simply as a blues pianist. I had the pleasure of doing this review which appeared in the October 1997 (Issue 225) Jazz & Blues Report. I likely received the review copy from the record label or a publicist. It is most available used or as mp3 downloads. 

Otis Spann’s star shined all too briefly in the blues world and the release of previously unissued recordings by one of the greatest of all blues pianists (with Muddy Waters and band), Live the Life (Testament/Hightone) is something for longtime blues enthusiasts to take notice of.

This collection of 16 mostly live performances includes five with Muddy Waters on acoustic guitar (and possibly Willie Dixon on bass) which offer a wonderful rendition of his Tribute to Martin Luther King as well as a stunning rendition of Big Maceo’s Worried Life Blues. These are followed by seven concert performances by Muddy Waters. After Spann opens up with Kansas City and a very impassioned vocal on Tin Pan Alley, he steps back to an accompanist role behind Waters’ four vocals, including a fine 5 Long Years, Willie Dixon’s Live the Life I Love, and Waters’ own Can’t Lose What You Never Had.

One would not characterize any of these twelve recordings as high fidelity, but all the vocals are quite audible, and Spann’s piano accompaniments and solos are quite prominent in the mix. These performances with the Waters band are particularly interesting in that Muddy’s vocals are not as mannered as some of his later vocals, and Spann’s playing is marvelous. In his brief liner notes, Dick Shurman notes one aspect of Spann’s brilliance may be an outgrowth of his low-key approach. In this day of over amplified in-your-face guitarists, the subtlety and pacing of Spann’s piano stands out even more so. Furthermore, his own smokey vocals are perhaps more ingratiating today when few can sing this material with Spann’s natural authority.

With the uneven quality of the sound, one cannot recommend this without reservations for the casual listener, although it is a very important addition to his discography.

Here is Spann performing with the Muddy Waters Band

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Liza Minelli's Classic Winter Garden Performances

Liza Minnelli’s legendary Columbia album Live at the Winter Garden album has long been unavailable because of contractual conflicts over performance of songs from the Cabaret score infringed on the then-current soundtrack album. Under the Masterworks Broadway imprint Sony has issued this album with a few previously unissued selections in its Legends of Broadway series of recordings.

Minnelli, like her mother Judy Garland, is one of the great singers of theater and stage and on this recording she is supported by a superb orchestra with terrific arrangements that certainly made for a smashing show on Broadway from which these performances represented a slice of her month long stay at the Broadway theatre.

Clive Barnes contemporaneous New York Times remarked about Minnelli having a “voice that can purr, whisper, snarl and soar.” Listening to this recording, one finds Barnes description quite apt. There are some terrific renditions of standards like Shine On Harvest Moon, and More Than You Know, along with interpretations of Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind, Bobby Hebb’s Natural Man, Johnny Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now, and Stevie Wonder’s You and I, selections from Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour, and songs from John Kander and Fred Ebb including new ones in addition to selections from Cabaret.

There is a brilliance and so much personality invested in the music by Minnelli. This is not simply a lovely, sweet rendition of classic songs, but interpretations Minnelli not simply places her own interpretative stamp, but provides us with a recording that is timeless like other great interpreters of song like Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand. Liza Minnelli’s Live at the Winter Garden is a classic American recording that is lovingly restored and available again.

I received my review copy from a publicist.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Muddy Waters in Mississippi and Paris

Muddy Waters was a towering perfumer who I had the opportunity to see a number of times ranging from him opening for Moby Grape at Central Park (where one could not hear Otis Spann’s piano) to touring with the band that had Pinetop Perkins, Luther ‘Guitar Jr.’ Johnson, and Bob Margolin outside of Buffalo. Here are a couple of older reviews I have done of his recordings over the years. The first review appeared in the April 1994 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 190) while the second one appeared in July/August 1997 (Issue 223) issue.

The Complete Plantation Recordings 

If Muddy Waters had never made it to Chicago, and was simply some person who had only recorded for Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress, he would still be regarded as one of the great delta blues musicians. MCA/Chess’ The Complete Plantation Recordings makes available all the extant Library of Congress recordings, including 4 interview segments.

Whether magnificent solo blues like the two versions of Country Blues adapted from Walking Blues, I Be’s Troubled, the spiritual You Got to Take Sick and Die Some of These Days, Ramblin’ Kid Blues with the Son Sims Four or You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone, these performances are significant not simply as a harbinger of his Chess recordings, but as among the greatest country blues recordings.

The mastering of rough source material is as good as one can get, and while some may fine this noisy, it is unreservedly recommended.

Paris 1972

A part of Norman Granz’ Jazz at the Philharmonic Series of recordings (that includes albums by Ray Charles and Cannonball Adderley) Paris 1972 (Pablo) is a valuable new live recording of Muddy Waters from a quarter-century past. He’s with his then working band of Pinetop Perkins/piano, Mojo Buford/harp, Calvin Jones/bass, Willie Smith/drums and Louis Myers on guitar, filling in for then ailing Sammy Lawhorn, and relegating himself to a mostly supporting role.

This is a “what you see is what you get” sort of recording. Muddy sounds in good form, singing robustly and plays a fair amount of slide guitar , Pinetop Perkins shows what a fine backing pianist he is, and even Mojo Buford, not my favorite of Waters’ harp players, acquits himself well on his steady, if unspectacular accompaniments. The material should be fairly familiar, with Clouds in My Heart, Hootchie Cootchie Man, Blow Wind Blow, Honey Bee, Walkin’ Blues and Got My Mojo Workin’.

Produced in cooperation with the Waters’ estate, this is a lively, highly entertaining addition to Waters’ discography.

Now here is  Muddy a few years later after Bob Margolin and Luther 'Guitar Jr. Johnson joined the band and the great Clark Terry sitting in.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Don't Mess With Mister Turrentine

Another new remastered CD celebrating 40 years of CTI Records is the CTI Masterworks release of Stanley Turrentine’s Don’t Mess With Mister T. Backed by a Big Band Orchestra (horns and strings) arranged and conducted by Bob James, the original album has been augmented by 4 additional tracks for a full hour of music. James along with Harold Mabern, Richard Tee and Johnny Hammond handle the keyboards, Ron Carter is on bass, Eric Gale on guitar and Irdis Muhammed and Billy Cobham can be heard on drums.

Turrentine had come a long way from the days of touring with Lowell Fulson (Ray Charles on piano), but his music never lost its blues roots and its present in his playing on the title track, a soulful Marvin Gaye composition followed by Turrentine’s mid-tempo groover, Two For T. that has the feel of an organ combo with Gale chording while Mabern takes a nice electric piano solo with carter and Muhammed (with a short break) laying down the steady groove. Turrentine’s Too Blue is another medium tempo blues groover with Richard Tee’s organ and backing horns to support Mr. T’s blues playing and Gale’s jazzy single note solo also benefits from spare use of horn riffs. Turrentine’s warm ballad playing and Gale’s bluesy fretwork and Tee’s churchy organ are heard on Bruce Hawes’ I Could Never Repay Your Love. James arrangement merits mention as the employment of horns and strings complement Turrentine on this and do not get syrupy.

Pieces of Dreams is the first of the bonus selections and the strings are a bit too prominent although Turrentine and rhythm section sounds fine when the strings lay out. The alternate take of the Marvin Gaye title track has Billy Cobham on drums and Johnny Hammond on organ and has more of blowing feel as the horn section and strings lay out. Hammond and Gale really tear into their solos while Turrentine exhibits considerable passion. Hammond, Gale and Turrentine exhibit more fire in Cobham’s Mississippi City Strut, and while James’ Harlem Dawn is not a striking a composition perhaps, it is a nice moody performance with more robust tenor saxophone.

Certainly there is nothing wrong with the first four tracks that constituted the original album. The addition of the bonus tracks (especially the last three) makes the CTI Masterworks reissue of Don’t Mess With Mister T., an even stronger showcase for Stanley Turrentine’s tender yet muscular, bluesy and soulful tenor saxophone.

A publicist sent me the review copy. And here is Mr. Turrentine playing the title track

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Not the Last Time To See Microwave Dave

I have been familiar with the name Microwave Dave & the Nukes, nut do not recall hearing his prior recordings. He has a new self-issued one entitled Last Time I Saw You, that has him in a power trio with Rick Godfrey on bass and harmonica and James Irvin on drums. Dave Gallaher was born in Chicago, raised in Texas, served in Vietnam, attended Berklee in Boston and moved to Alabama where he was mentored by Johnny Shines. He founded the Nukes in 1989 after touring with jerry McCain for three years as well as backing Bo Diddley.

The music here is simple hard-driving blues and rock’n’roll, delivered simply and directly. His gritty, gravelly singing may evoke Omar Dykes but does not distract from his oft witty lyrics. Drinkin’ Wine Since Nine is a simple bluesy rocker as he sings about feeling fine drinking wine with some simple, insistent guitar and driving drums. Jesus Was Smart, has Dave describes some of the complaints about himself (horny and hairy) as he notes Jesus was smart not to marry, with a nicely done rocking guitar solo. The hard rock flavor of I’ve Got a Bet With Myself (recalling the 70’s Rolling Stones) contrasts with the wistful The Worst Thing, about someone who is the worst thing to happen to the blues. His precise guitar playing and low-key vocal enhances the mood of this performance.

Tire Man is a very amusing, mid-tempo number played with restrain with some amusing metaphors about the rubber and the road. Here, Dave sings about being like his daddy, being a tire man and “that must be why I am tired of you,” while Dave gets revved up when his woman spins her pretty wheel but then she makes him shimmy when he puts on the brakes and squeals. Billy C. Farlow’s Alabama Saturday Night is a Bo Diddley rooted celebration of Alabama Women and dancing with some raw harp from Godfrey. More Bo Diddley flavor can be heard in the guitar on the title track with him singing lyrics about leaving his woman as Irvin’s slightly behind the beat drumming pushes the groove. All Nite Boogie is rollicking and relentless as he sings about having the all night boogie with no place to stay.

Goin’ Downtown is a one-chord rocker about going downtown to strut one’s stuff played with an forceful beat that suggests Hill Country Blues while “Cadillac Ride” with him playing a resophonic guitar (and a real nice solo) has Irvin using brushes, as the melody conjures up the country trucker’s song Six Days on the Road. Dick Dale meets Tex-Mex on the spirited Vagabundos as Dave sings in Spanish against the driving playing. The closing Rafferty is an instrumental that makes use of tone and dynamics to set a mood and evokes to an extent the Allman Brothers.

This is a fun recording. One would be hard-pressed to call the music on Last Time I Saw You profound. It is however full of wit and employs a wide musical pallet for some very appealing performances that bridge the blues and rock realms quite nicely. It is a recording I will be returning to listen to. It is available from

A publicist provided me with the review copy. Here he is in performance.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Long Tall Dexter's Night Ballad Mastery

This writer remembers a weekend of performances by the great Dexter Gordon at the Tralfamadore Cafe in Buffalo in Spring 1977 with a local rhythm section. It was a weekend of music that brought together folk of all ages and ethnicity to see one of the greats of jazz. The tenor saxophonist who influenced Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, but who had been living for several years in Europe was making what was still a rare US tour before moving back.

Gordon was a commanding presence as well as one of the greatest of the post-war musicians to come up during the bebop era. It wasn't simply his playing, but his suave and sophisticated manner when speaking with folks or the audience. Around this time, he was be signed to Columbia Records and made a number of memorable recordings for them, continuing to perform and make music until his passing as well as be acclaimed for his acting in the movie "Round Midnight."

Dr. Robert E. Sunnenblick has produced for his Uptown label a new Dexter Gordon live recording, Night Ballads Montreal 1977. This was recorded at Rising Sun during an engagement in November of 1977 (the music on this recorded between November 9 and November 12). It had Dexter with his working band of George Cables on piano, Rufus Reid on bass and Eddie Gladden on drums who wouldn't record their first studio album until half a year later.

As suggested from the title, the focus on this set is on ballads which include Lover Man, You've Changed, Old Folks and Polka Dots and Moonbeams, along with a brief rendition of LTD, his theme song to close the release. These are, with the exception of the closing theme, lengthy ballad performances. Gordon of course is in the spotlight with his lengthy improvisations that caress the songs with warmth, wit and soul as he would explore the themes, incorporate musical quotes and let the magic develop.

Gordon, like Lester Young, believed in the importance of the lyrics andhe introduces the songs with his recitation of the lyrics in his deep, sonorous voice. In his playing, there is a hint of his idol, Ben Webster, in some of his playing here mixed in with his more lengthy bop inflected choruses. Pianist Cables also gets a fair share of solo space that allowed him to explore the melody in his distinctive style, with his playing on Old Folks being especially memorable.

The CD comes with a booklet with extensive annotation from Gordon's widow, Maxine alone with pianist Cables who provides astute and detailed comments on each of the performances. As wonderful as the music on Night Ballads is, over 70 minutes of ballads may be a bit much for some folks in one sitting, but that quibble doesn't change the view that the terrific music makes it a highly recommended addition to the body of Long Tall Dexter's recordings.

This was a purchase.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rick Germanson Quartet Live at Smalls

Among the latest batch of recordings of Live at Smalls on the Smalls Live label is one by the Rick Germanson Quartet. Pianist Germanson was joined that night by the trumpet of Dr. Eddie Henderson, the bass of Paul Gill and the drums of Lewis Nash. Germanson, best know for his association with Louis Hayes (especially the Cannonball Legacy Band), displays the influence of McCoy Tyner among others in his energetic playing.

On this date, backed by an excellent rhythm section, and benefiting from Henderson’s bright playing (in a Freddie Hubbard vein), he leads off with a driving interpretation of Bobby Timmons’ So Tired. Henderson employs a mute for a fresh and imaginative take on Surrey With A Fringe On Top, lending more of a Miles Davis’ tone here although the performances allude to the melody and chord structure of Surrey with little direct rephrasing or embellishment of the familiar melody.

Shorter’s Waltz is a Germanson original evocative of some of Shorter’s compositions with some strong work by Gill and Nash providing the base supporting more fine playing Henderson and Germanson. Playing solo, Germanson provides a lovely impressionistic rendering of Duke Ellington’s The Single Petal of a Rose, which is followed by another appealing ballad, Say It (Over & Over Gain), with Gill and Nash adding light, understated support.

A Germanson original, Edge brings Henderson back who plays in a fiery mode on this hard bop cooker. It closes another strong live recording of straight ahead hard bop from the Greenwich Village jazz club.

I purchased this. Here is Rick performing Bebop.

Monday, June 11, 2012

An Engaging Evening With Paul Jones and Dave Kelly

Members of the British group, The Blues Band, guitarist Dave Kelly and harmonica player Paul Jones, go unplugged for a live performance captured on a new DVD, An Evening With Paul Jones and Dave Kelly (SPV Blue). Jones, who was one-time member of the British group, Manfred Mann may be best known, but Kelly, brother of the great Jo-Ann Kelly had pretty strong credentials in playing blues. Given over four and a half decades experience by both, one isn’t surprised by how engaging they are not simply in their musical performances but their banter to the audience.

Songs range from adaptations of classic country blues like Charlie Patton’s Moon Going Down, to originals like Without You, which Paul Jones notes had an unusual musical structure but more importantly was a B side of a Manfred Mann single. Not all the performances are in a strict blues song form such as Velocity and Love, a spirited performance, but Kelly’s Mr. Estes Said is a strong original blues that incorporates some classic lines in this moving tribute to the late blues poet. Paul Jones does a moving interpretation of Blind Willie Johnson’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine, with his harp prominent and Kelly adding some spare guitar. There is nice use of split screen on this. A washboard player backs Kelly on a driving interpretation of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s Few Short Lines.

Paul Jones’ contributes his moving tribute to Sonny Boy Williamson, that was composed after Williamson’s passing. It segues into a lively Dust My Blues, modeled after one of Elmore James’ recordings. You’re Wrong, was a recent composition of Jones performed solo. It is followed by Kelly nicely handling Robert Johnson’s When You Got a Good Friend. Erskine Hawkins’ swing classic Tuxedo Junction, serves as a showcase for Jones’ skilled harmonica playing and exhibits the influence of Sonny Boy Williamson on his approach.

The two trade verses on a powerful rendition of Muddy Waters’ I Can’t Be Satisfied, and then this DVD closes with a relaxed pace with Kelly taking the lead vocal on Jimmy Reed’s Baby What You Want Me To Do. It is an amiable close to a very enjoyable concert DVD. This was recorded in 2004 and there is a second volume available, which on the basis of watching and listening to this, is worth checking out as well.

I was provided a review copy by a publicist. To whet your appetite, here are the two in recent performance.

Lenny Robinson and Mad Curious

DC drummer Lenny Robinson led his band, Mad Curious as part of @capitalbop's DC Jazz Loft Series MegaFest, Saturday. With tenor saxophonist Brian Settles and Tarus Mateen on electric bass, the band performed a terrific original blues by Robinson and a couple of jazz standard's including a rollicking rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimney," that Robinson licked off on drums followed by Mateen's funky bass before Settles joined for a spirited treatment of this latter Monk composition. It was the second time this week that I heard a rendition of this composition (the other was by Jonathan Batiste at The Hamilton last Monday night. Anyway Robinson's trio was superb.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rockin' Johnny Has A Date With The Grim Reaper

Rockin' Johnny Burgin has been playing the blues for a couple decades, having a regular residency on Monday nights at a Chicago club while also honing his skills playing with a variety of blues folks such as Pinetop Perkins, Tail Dragger, Jimmy Burns, Sam Lay and Billy Boy Arnold. Delmark has just issued Grim Reaper, the second album by the Rockin' Johnny Band. The band is comprised of Rick Kreher on rhythm guitar; John Sefner on bass; Steve Bass on drums and Big D on harmonica with Kenny Anderson, Dudley Owens and Jerry DiMuzzio adding horns on occasion.

Comprised of several originals and interpretations of generally blues that have not been overly covered, Rockin’ Johnny has put together a solid album of Chicago blues. One can hear a variety of influences in his approach. On guitar, the West Side styling of Magic Sam and Eddie C. Campbell can be heard while Billy Boy Arnold’s low-power singing (to use Johnny’s characterization) is a strong influence on his vocals.

The title track is an original, co-authored with Ken Kemawshima, is a solid West Side Chicago styled blues with plenty of nice guitar and his earnest singing. It also displays his approach which is to not overplay and let the silences speak as much as what he plays. The band provides the appropriate support without laying down things too heavy. Johnny’s Window To Your Soul channels a bit of Magic Sam with a more low-key vocal and impressive, imaginative fretwork. On I Was Fooled, he channels Billy Boy Arnold vocally on a Jody Williams number that Arnold recorded for Vee-Jay. A swamp blues feel marks Lousy Dimes as he worries about his money problems and on which Big D takes a strong solo with Johnny adding chords and jazzy fills.

The venerable Rollin’ and Tumblin’ is given an understated treatment in a performance that owes as much to Sleepy John Estes (singing about of the river was whiskey and I was a diving duck) as Muddy Waters. Its Expensive To Be Broke is a laid back urban blues with the horn section, while the cover of Otis Rush’s My Baby Is a Good ‘Un, is taken a very leisurely tempo. He takes out the slide for some broom dusting on My Sweet Baby, where DiMuzzio adds his baritone sax behind Rockin’ Johnny’s vocal and guitar and then channels Fenton Robinson in a nice rendition of Robinson’s Somebody Loan Me a Dime with some nice guitar and a heartfelt vocal. Shoe Leather and Tire Rubber is about wearing out shoes and tires looking for some blues gigs as Big D contributes another solid harmonica solo.

Rockin’ Johnny is an engaging, low-key singer as well as a consistently imaginative and tasty guitarist backed by a sympathetic band. With a nice varied collection of songs he has produced a very appealing album.

Delmark provided me with a review copy. He he performs Fenton Robinson's I Hear Some Blues Upstairs.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

DC Jazz Festival Picks for June 10

This is the last post I am making to highlight some of the shows associated with this year’s DC Jazz Festival. I am posting this a day ahead of the date of performances, and being a bit less verbose. For more information visit

The Hamilton features The John Scofeld Trio, featuring the well-known guitarist.

Saxophonist Brad Collins Trio at Georgia Brown’s at 10 AM

Tiacoh Sadia Afro-Jazz (4:00 PM) at the African Heritage Center (1320 Good Hope Road Southeast, Washington, DC) part of the East River Jazz Festival series.

DC Choro at 7:00PM at Grill From Ipanema (1858 Columbia Road NW, Wash. DC.) Choro is a Brazilian musical style that bears similarities to classic ragtime.

Guitarist Pino Daniele is at the Howard Theatre.

Freedom Children Celebration with Reginald Cyntje (seen above) at Twins Lounge

Friday, June 08, 2012

Doris Day Is Always With a Smile and a Song

Sony Masterworks through the Turner Classic Movies imprint has issued a double CD reissue of recordings by Doris Day, With a Smile and a Song. It is a collection of 30 songs which Ms. Day played a role in selecting the 30 songs (for about 90 minutes of music). Turner Classic Movies has issued separately a collection of Doris Day Movies.David Foil provides an appreciation, and notes how she started off as a singer in the bands and her lovely and adorable voice certainly had great appeal.

At the same time as her notable film career, Doris Day also enjoyed a recording career surveyed on this generally backed by lush orchestral accompaniments with occasional vocal choirs. So on this sampling of mostly sentimental ballads and love songs we hear the Paul Weston Orchestra, Percy Faith, Frank Duvol, the Norman Luboff Choir, and Mort Garson with a couple sessions have more intimate backing by the Andre Previn.

Some of the songs include On Moonlight Bay, It Had To Be You, I’ll See You In My Dreams, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera), Pillow Talk, Little Boy Blue, But Beautiful, Our Love Is Here to Stay, Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread, and the title track. These certainly are attractive, often dreamy and romantic performances, and wonderfully restored here.

As a matter of personal taste, the performances (including the arrangements) are a bit too sweet for my taste to listen to in more than a few selections at a time. My tastes go perhaps to jazzier and more interpretative vocal stylings like Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington and the like. This is not to dismiss superb performances here like Secret Love, or some lightweight material (Pillow Talk) that is the musical equivalent of cotton candy. And the selections with Andre Previn (“including Fools Rush In) provide a more intimate setting for her. It is certainly valuable to have this available and if this style of music appeals to you, then I have little doubt that you will warmly enjoy this compilation of Doris Day’s recordings.

I received a review copy from a publicist. Here is Doris Day singing Que Sera, Sera.

DC Jazz Festival Picks for June 9

This is the ninth post I am making to highlight some of the shows associated with this year’s DC Jazz Festival. I am specifically not highlighting the DC JazzLoft Fest (the Loft Mega-Fest is today) since I have posted on this already. I will may also pick a few other shows around the DC Virginia area that should not be overlooked. I am posting this a day ahead of the date of performances, and being a bit less verbose.  For more information visit

Warre Wolf at 2012 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival
The terrific vibraphonist Warren Wolf leads his Quartet at Faith Presbyterian Church (5PM show) as part of the East River Jazz Festival.

Gallery O on H Street (1354 H Street, NE Washington) has a day and evening of music starting with a student ensemble at 5:30. Saxophonist and composer Brad Linde Quintet is on at 6:40PM; Lennard Jack & Fusion are on at 7:50PM and the Afro-Bop Alliance is on at 9:15PM.

The Hamilton has trumpeter Etienne Charles & Kaiso and pianist Monty Alexander & The Harlem-Kingston Express.

Bohemian Gardens hosts saxophonist Marcus Strickland once more.

Vocalist Dee Stone is at the Black Fox Lounge.

For blues fans, The Tinner Hill Blues Festival takes place in Falls Church.

Here is a video of Brad Linde Ensemble with guest Lee Konitz (who is not scheduled to appear at the DC Jazz Festival).

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Ralph Lalama's Hard Bop Bopjuice

A recent release by the SmallsLive label in its Live at Smalls series of recordings is one by the trio of tenor saxophonist Ralph Lalama, Bopjuice. Lalama, a veteran of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra is joined by Joel Forbes on bass and Clifford Barbaro on drums for six performances recorded live at Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village that last about an hour.

An obvious point of comparison to this might be Sonny Rollins classic Live at the Village Vanguard recordings on Blue Note. From the opening take on Wayne Shorter’s Lester Left Town, through the closing moments of Wonderful, Wonderful, one is impressed by Lalama’s robust tone, as well as his lengthy thematic and melodic improvisations and the support he receives from Forbes and Barbaro, both who get their own spotlight. On the lively original Da-Lamma’s Da-Lemma, Lalama and Barbaro engage in a spirited musical dialogue. A ballad like Thad Jones Mean What You Say, displays a different side of his playing and sound.

Victor Young’s classic ballad, Love Letters, is taken at a brisker tempo and the tone and thematic develop might be the strongest here, but the level of Bopjuice’s music and this entire recording is first-rate. This is another excellent addition to the SmallsLive catalog.

I purchased this. Here is a sample of Ralph Lalama's tenor sax.

DC Jazz Festival Picks for June 8

This is the eighth post I am making to highlight some of the shows associated with this year’s DC Jazz Festival. I am specifically not highlighting the DC JazzLoft Fest since I have posted on this already. I will may also pick a few other shows around the DC Virginia area that should not be overlooked. I am posting this a day ahead of the date of performances, and being a bit less verbose.  For more information visit

Mark Prince at 2012 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival
Drummer Mark Prince’s Aqua Leo is at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden at 5:00PM. Prince is an accomplished drummer who is able to transverse hip hop and rhythm & blues to contemporary and straight-ahead jazz.

At the Hamilton, The Brass-a-Holics will be performing a tribute to the late Chuck Brown with a mix of go go and New Orleans Brass Band.

Vocalist Lena Seikaly will be performing at the Mandarin Oriental

Acclaimed Saxophonist Marcus Strickland will be the Bohemian Caverns. Here he is in performance.

Donvonte McCoy, who Capital Bop calls perhaps the DC area’s leading trumpeter, is at the 18th Street Lounge.

For a non Jazz Festival show, Diunna Greenleaf and Blue Mercy along with Memphis Gold will be at the State Theatre for the opening event of the Tinner Hill Blues Festival. This evening I will be passing on the several excellent jazz programs to see this performance.
Diunna Greenleaf and Jonn Del Toro Richarson at 2010 DC Blues Festival at the Carter Barron

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

DC Jazz Festival Picks for June 7

Michael Thomas
This is the seventh post I am making to highlight some of the shows associated with this year’s DC Jazz Festival. I am specifically not highlighting the DC JazzLoft Fest since I have posted on this already. I will may also pick a few other shows around the DC Virginia area that should not be overlooked. I am posting this a day ahead of the date of performances.  For more information visit

At 1:00 PM, as part of the East River Jazz Festival, Todd Marcus Ensemble will be at the East River Washington Senior Wellness Center. Todd Marcus, one of the few who specialize in the bass clarinet, leads a little big band which displays his compositions and ability to make use of a variety of musical colors. Capital Bop notes that he leads a nine piece ensemble. “Thankfully, both Marcus’s oddball instrumentalism and his offbeat ensemble are astonishingly strong, modern and infectious. Few people improvise with more fervor or write music better than he does.”

At 5:00PM, trumpeter Michael Thomas will be featured at the Phillips Collection with their hard bop and blues inspired by such legendary figures as Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and Art Blakey. This is hard swinging music at its finest.
Roberta Gambarini
The Hamilton hosts the wonderful singer Roberta Gambarini along with the Cyrus Chestnut Trio, led by one of today’s most accomplished pianists.

The 6th and I Historic Synagogue will host the Anat Cohen Quartet. Proficient on saxophone as well as clarinet, Anat Cohen is a repeat poll winner on the clarinet and brings a contemporary approach to traditional jazz and Brazilian music as well as displays her mastery of the modern jazz canon.
Anat Cohen with guitarist Howard Alden

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Leroy Jones' Fond Memories of the Fairview & Hurricane Band

One of the pleasures for this writer at this year’s French Quarter Festival was to see and hear Leroy Jones and the Original Hurricane Brass Band. What was notable was they played more of a traditional Brass Band repertoire and what was notable was their clean intonation as well as the performance eschewed the funky style of most contemporary New Orleans Brass Band. But to hear a band that handles some of the traditional repertoire in the manner of the legendary bands like the Inward, Eureka, Olympia, Excelsior and Doc Paulin’s Band was a true delight, not to mention Jones own playing along with the others including trombonist Freddie Lonzo.

Back in 2005 Jones issued on his own label New Orleans Brass Band Music: Memories of the Fairview & Hurricane Band. In his notes he mentions his fond memories of the Fairview and Hurricane Brass bands. The former was under the leadership of Reverend Andrew Darby, pastor of the Fairview Baptist Church as well as church member and New Orleans legend, Danny Barker. Later the Hurricane Band came into existence and some of its members would form the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Anyway, Jones put together this recording to evoke the older bands with a fresh twist and flavor. He did the arrangements on familiar numbers and assembled a band that included Calvin Klein on trombone, Alonzo Bowens on tenor saxophone and clarinet; Ron Espino on sousaphone; Kerry ‘Fat Man’ Hunter on snare drum and Cayetano “Tanio’ Hingle on bass drum. On one selection, Jones wife, Katja Toivola handles the trombone solo.

This is a delightful recording which exhibits the same swinging grooves and clean, but spirited ensembles and solos that were exhibited at the festival. Most of the performances will be familiar from the opening Lily of the Valley, the slow drag tempo used for Just a Little Walk With You, the peppy Lord, Lord, Lord, Muskrat Ramble, and South Rampart Street Parade. They standard out with the relaxation in the performances and the lack of frenzy. Dixieland favorites like When the Saints Go Marching In and Back Home In Indiana, also share these virtues as the two drummers set forth the rhythm and then the band kicks in. Furthermore, all three horns are excellent soloists. I was most familiar with Jones playing on a variety of sources but Bowens saxophone also constantly impressed while Espino also proves his capabilities on the cumbersome sousaphone on Indiana.

This is available from the Louisiana Music factory, Leroy Jones own website is

I purchased this CD. Here is part of their French Quarter Festival performance.