Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Our Thing By Roni Ben-Hur and Santi Debraino

Our Thing (Motéma Music) is the first time studio collaboration between Israeli-born guitarist/composer Roni Ben-Hur and Panamanian-born bassist/composer Santi Debraino. The idea and inspiration for the collaboration started in the summer of 2011 within the walls of the beautiful Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Sardaigne, a 12th century church atop the tiny village of Saint Cezaire, France, where Ben-Hur and Debraino co-lead a much-lauded annual jazz camp. The pair also give an eagerly awaited annual concert as a centerpiece event of Festi-Jazz.

Our Thing brought them in the studio with the Brazilian born drummer Duduka Da Fonseca who like them is part of the vibrant New York scene. And there is considerable magic heard in this trio from the opening moments of their spirited interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s Green Chimney, to the closing moments of Irving Berlin’s Let's Face The Music And Dance. Seven of the eleven tracks are originals form the trio and bring together a blend of sounds and rhythms as expected from their diverse backgrounds.

Debraino’s Milonga For Mami, for example is a lovely ballad with the bass up front after Ben-Hur states the theme accented by De Fonseca’s parade like cadence. Debraino also contributed the title track, a lively Bossa Nova with Ben-Hur delighting with imaginative single note lines as the rhythm deftly propelling the performance along. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Fontographia is a lovely performance that further displays the trio’s rapport and how well they complement each other. 

Ben-Hur’s Anna’s Dance, is another original with a Brazilian cast which Da Fonseca effectively drives with an understated attack, while his Ear’s Key, is a lively blues that the guitarist takes the lead with his crisp attack followed by Debraino’s assertive solo before trading fours with Da Fonseca. Irving Berlin’s Let's Face The Music And Dance, is given a spicy latin accent that again showcases Ben-Hur’s propulsive playing and musical invention that Debraino and Da Fonseca support thoroughly.

The musical delights of this trio is captured in a beautifully engineered recording. It is a performance that merits listening to on headphones to catch the nuances of the three. This superb recording is also one of the better jazz guitar recordings this listener has heard recently.

I received my review copy from a publicist.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Charlie Parker Live At Jiyayr Zorthian’s Ranch

The following review was written in fall 2006 for Jazz & Blues Report, although I do not believe it was published. I received my review copy from the publication.

The release of previously unissued performances by Charlie Parker will certainly be a cause of celebration for fans of jazz history. The release, At Jiyayr Zorthian’s Ranch, July 14, 1952 (RLR Records), makes available what admittedly is not a high fidelity recording of Bird at a party held at the ranch of painter and sculptor Jiyayr H. Zorthian and was one of many he hosted of “intellectuals, artists and naked nymphs” over a half-century’s time. 

A pretty wild time was had by the attendees including, quoting the back cover “a massive strip-tease was performed and during Bird’s playing of Embraceable You. Whatever wild things were going on, the music was recorded privately and the sound is hollow and some portions had too much noise or distortion to be used and at other points, the performance is cut off, such as after Bird’s solo on Embraceable You. Also the bass and piano are not very audible. 

Playing with Bird at the party was Don Wilkerson on tenor sax, Frank Morgan on alto, Amos Trice on piano, Dave Bryant on bass and Lawrence Marable on drums with Chet Baker sitting in on one of the two versions of Scrapple From the Apple. Its interesting to hear A Night in Tunisia without someone handling Gillespie’s trumpet part and Parker sounds very good even if the sound is muffled before Wilkerson takes a solo which microphone problems required some editing before he is followed by Frank Morgan who sounds pretty good. 

The beginning of Ornithology was edited out for technical reasons with Parker caught in high flight as the track opens. Frankly the exhortations for people to take it all off could have been edited off Embraceable You, which has Parker in fine form on the ballad, while Parker and Marable trade fours on Tadd Dameron’s Hot House. The first version of Scrapple From the Apple, has a couple of nice Parker solos and Baker’s only appearance which suffers from the audio quality, while Cool Blues is a nice lengthy performance which includes Parker and Morgan trading fours as well as exchanges by all three saxophonists. 

The rest of the performances are also notable although the music will not be for casual listeners. This music has never been available in any format and while Parker is first-rate here, the audio quality will limit its overall appeal. For some, this will be a priceless addition to the known work of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artists.

Monday, October 29, 2012

In Turkey Mitch Woods Discovers Blues Without Borders

Mitch Woods has been pounding the 88s for a few decades now and his latest recording of jump blues and boogie woogie is Blues Beyond Borders on Woods own Club 88 label. This is a combined CD/DVD release that was recorded in the fall of 2010 at the Efes Blues Festival in the Republic of Turkey, as part of a tour where Mitch and his band played 26 shows in 20 cities over five weeks in that country. In addition to containing video of the performances the DVD also includes insightful extras of the band’s adventures on the road, a travelogue of Turkey, impressions of the Turkish culture and the group’s experiences as “blues ambassadors” around the world. Joining Mitch Woods (piano, vocals) are His Rocket 88s: New Orleans all-stars Amadee Castenell (sax/background vocals) and Cornell Williams (bass,/vocals), as well as Adam Gabriel (guitar/background vocals) and Larry Vann (drums).

Mitch Woods is a terrific person as well as a splendid pianist and singer in the jump blues vein. His playing can get deep into the blues as well as rollicking with the general tenor of the performances being let's have a good time and party. Things kick off with Woods’ original Solid Gold Cadillac, a boogie rocker taken at a nice tempo with the band providing crisp support (Castenell adding tenor riffs behind Woods unhurried, rolling boogie woogie solo). Besides being a fine idiomatic performance, Woods lyrics ring true like we are hearing a revival of a fifties jump blues classic. The same can be held about another original, Boogie Woogie BBQ, where again Woods demonstrates his flair for lyrics that sound like they were decades old. Its a rollicking number as Woods sings about BBQ, fried chicken and oyster stew while Castenell takes off on his solo. 

A favorite Woods original is Mojo Mambo, which takes us to New Orleans with melody and whistling lifted from Earl King’s Big Chief, before Woods sings that if you want to have a ball good down to New Orleans and do the mojo mambo with a voodoo queen as bassist Williams and drummer Vann kick out that hot second-line groove while Woods channels Professor Longhair.

Of course there are some choice interpretations, most of which are relatively obscure such as Down Boy Down, which the legendary Henry Glover co-wrote and features some riveting saxophone. Then there is a rocking Roy Milton revival What Can I Do, where Mitch sings he will do anything to prove his love, with a some guitar fireworks from Gabriel. Clarence Garlow’s Crawfishin’ is another rocking vehicle for Woods and in the DVD one can see Mitch show the crowd to signify a crawfish with their hands when he sings ‘crawfishing.’ Gabriel rips off another storming solo as does Castenell on the second break. Bassist Williams shows off his gospel roots on a stunning vocal on Eddie Boyd’s Third Degree that evoked Johnny Adams. This man is that good and should be recorded on his own. Castenell stands out again with some bluesy saxophone 

Before taking the concert out on The House of Blues Lights, Woods and the band do a medley of Professor Longhair’s In The Night with a popular Turkish song, Lambaya Puf De, that certainly is received enthusiastically with Gabriel taking the vocal for this local favorite. The DVD of the concert has a few spoken overlays in which Mitch adds his reminisces of the tour, experiencing the country of Turkey and the warmth of the folk he met. The video production and editing is really well done with focus on the musicians. The is also a DVD extra that has video of the band on the road along with Kenny Neal and his band who shared the tour with Mitch’s recollections added. Mitch also introduces each of his band members, tells about celebrating Turkish Independence Day, and introduces us to the crew that arranged and produced their tour, along with a photo slide show.

As Mitch states in the liner notes “[M]usic truly crosses all boundaries and Blues certainly beyond borders.” The enthusiasm his performances received attests to the truth of that comment. Blues Beyond Borders documents one night of a magical blues and boogie woogie tour with Mitch and his band in terrific form.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a clip from the video to whet your appetite for this.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Carras Paton Expressive Saxophone on Fortune

Born in Southern California but now resident in Brooklyn, New York, Carras Paton has become a strong new voice on the Big Apple’s jazz scene. He has played alongside Bobby Rodriguez, been part of pit bands for theater productions of Kiss Me Kate and Bye Bye Birdie, and appearing as a leader at various New York venues including the Knitting Factory and Iridium. A multi-instrumentalist, he focuses on tenor and soprano saxophone for the debut disc by The Carras Paton Quartet, Fortune (CarrasJazz). 

Backed by a strong band that includes Max Haymer on piano and electric piano; Ryan Berg on upright bass; and Shinnosuke Takahashi on drums, Paton displays himself to be a forceful, audacious player. The track opens with the burner title track with Paton making his presence felt immediately over Haymer’s shimmering electric keyboards. 

Next up is January with a definite Coltrane feel with Haymer, at the beginning, evoking Tyner with his thunderous piano opening before Paton unleashes his fully-throated playing with the rhythm pushing the performance on. Berg’s bass-line kicks off Open, with Paton prancing on tenor as the tempo shifts down a bit as the band gets into a funky groove and Paton starts bearing down with his hard driving attack over a somewhat dreamy backing. 

Aristotle is a lovely number on which Paton displays a clean tone on the soprano saxophone as he starts in a pensive mode before his playing becomes more insistent before Berg takes a solid solo with Paton taking it out in a more reflective manner. Takahashi kicks off Into the Deep, with a simple groove before Paton states the theme on tenor. While not cited as his main sax guys, Paton’s passionate playing is suggestive of the hard blues edge of such players as Oliver Lake and Hamiett Bluett. His charged, extroverted style mixed with his fertile musical mind and a strong band makes his debut quite noteworthy, and explains why he is getting in demand as a leader. 

His website is, and as he is only 25, one can expect to hear much more about him in the future.

This review originally appeared in the January 15-March 1, 2010 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 323). I received my review copy from a publicist.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rob Mazurek's Pulsar Quartet's Stellar Pulsations

Chicago cornetist and composer Rob Mazurek brings seven compositions to a new recording by his Pulsar Quartet, Stellar Pulsations (Delmark) . Like Mazurek, pianist Angelica Sanchez, bass guitarist Matthew Lux and drummer John Herndon on drums, all are members of the acclaimed Exploding Star Orchestra and bring their talents to the compositions that mix melodic freedom in shifting contexts that range from emphasizing lyricism as well as bring order to what sounds like chaos. In his liner notes, Jeff Parker observes “The music is all about sound: sound as matter, visual sound,sound as motion, sound in motion. This music is four individuals moving together through and within time, creating color that is sound.”

The titles of the seven compositions on Stellar Pulsations refer to the various planets in our solar system although one does not have to be a science fiction disciple to appreciate the performances. Mazurek has a bright tone, although often playing in an introspective manner. Still he is capable of blazing furies as on the opening Primitive Jupiter, with pianist Sanchez’s use of chords and thundering lines adding aural contrast to the leaders play while the rhythm duo rumbles underneath. In contrast Magic Saturn displays a more lyrical side to Mazurek and his quartet with him making very nice use of a mute. 

Spiritual Mars opens in a free manner with the leader floating over the free backing. Drummer Herndon takes a solo break on this before the group rides this out quite energetically. Its perhaps the most ‘out’ performance on Stellar Pulsations. Spiral Mercury, features more vibrant playing with excellent solos form Sanchez and Mazurek, while Spanish Venus has a relaxed feel with more lyricism from the leader’s use of a mute as well as Sanchez’s spare piano. 

Mazurek's imaginative music and the Pulsar Quartet’s mix of lyricism and fire result in the strong, fresh and energetic performances of Stellar Pulsations.

I received a review copy from Delmark Records.  Here is a video of the Pulsar Quartet in performance.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Phillip Walker Live at Biscuits & Blues

It has been a little over two years since Phillip Walker passed away. The Texas-born, West Coast based blues singer and guitarist came a long way from his days playing with Clifton Chenier, and then later Bruce Bromberg produced an album for Playboy Records. The following review appeared in the September 2002 DC Blues Calendar to which I have made a few minor stylistic edits.

Its been several years since Phillip Walker had an album under his name (even the Lone Star Shootout album he made with Long John Hunter and Lonnie Brooks is at least three years old). Walker has a new disc with his big band on MC Records, Live at Biscuits & Blues. This recording features his longtime working band augmented by a full horn section along with guest appearances by Charlie Musselwhite, Angela Strehli and Rick Estrin. 

Its a solid set, if not quite as good as Walker’s best studio recordings, Walker performs his own Hello My Darling, as well as Jimmy McCracklin’s Think, Harold Burrage’s Crying For My Baby, the classic Breaking up Somebody’s Home and Dennis Walkers Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark on which Walker performs a bit more grittier version than Cray’s original. 

Its nice to have a new album by Walker whose grainy voice and raspy guitar playing is a distinctive blues voice. Some of his best stuff is out of print or hard to find so even if this is not quite his best stuff, it will make due for his fans or others not familiar with this grossly underrated blues veteran. 

Here is Phillip in performance.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mighty Sam McClain Finds Too Much Jesus and Not Enough Whiskey

One of the finest of the blues and soul vocalists that are working in the vein pioneered by great singers like Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland and the late Solomon Burke is Mighty Sam McClain. McClain had a new CD Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whiskey) (Mighty Music) that was produced by Gerry Putnam, Pat Herlehy and Mighty Sam McClain. The 14 originals have the singer backed by a band that includes a killer band that includes Pat Herlehy – guitar, tenor sax, flute, clavinet, Hammond B-3, strings, percussion and drums; Chad Owen – bass; Rick Page – drums; Joe Deleault – piano, organ, Fender Rhodes; Scott Shetler – tenor sax, baritone sax; Russell Jewell – trombone; Grayson Farmer – trumpet; and Concetta – background vocals. The recording features arrangements by Herlehy, with horn arrangements by Shetler and Herlehy.

This particular recording has more of a straight southern soul feel than some of his other recordings such his recent collaboration with Norwegian guitarist Knut Reiersrud, One Drop Is Plenty (Valley Vue). The grooves on this new release are funkier and the horns are more prominent with less blues-styled guitar. This tone is set on the opening Wish You Well, with a brief sax solo as McClain sings about wishing one well when their short romance has run. Missing You in contrast has him singing about his regrets about another relationship that ran its course although as he prays to God to make things clear about what went wrong. 

Feel So Good is a funky number where McClain sings about “grooving on your love and getting ready to land on your heart.” Stand Up! is a message song about standing up for the children, together and for love, with nice guitar fills and punchy horns. Real Thing has an intriguing mix of sacred and secular in its lyrics while Use Me is song of praise where Sam thanks the Lord for all he has given Sam. Other songs also deal with relationships as being what God planned such as So Into You, or a more direct gospel message on Wake Up Call, although the title song has an interesting take about someone losing their friends because the only thing on their mind was too much Jesus on their mind and not enough fun in their lives. Herlehy’s arrangement is quite ingenious with the atmospheric employment of strings. 

Even as he urges everyone to get on the floor on the closing Dance there is reference to the higher power. At the same time, there is never anything contrived or forced about the performances here. The songs are sung with completely authority and the backing is solid and full. The result is another marvelous Mighty Sam McClain recording.

I received a review copy from a publicist. Here is a clip of Might Sam in performance.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Joe Louis Walker In The Morning

 Joe Louis Walker is to me the most important modern blues artist to emerge over the past two decades. I reviewed his debut in Living Blues and have been following and writing his subsequent releases as he moved from Hightone to Verve and then to other labels including Telarc, JSP, Stony Plain and most recently Alligator. Here is a the first part of a review I did of two releases by him that came out in 2002 and that I reviewed in the September 2002 DC Blues Calendar. I believe I received a review copy of In The Morning and possibly the DVD, but I may have purchased the Guitar Brothers.

Few artists have emerged in the blues in the past two decades who have produced as distinguished a body of recordings as Joe Louis Walker. With his relationship to Verve (now Blue Thumb) terminated) he has two very different new discs to choose from, each with a slightly different flavor. 

In the Morning (Telarc Blues) is his debut for that label where he is backed by a studio band that includes G.E. Smith who used to lead the Saturday Night Live Band. Opening with a hot latin groove on You’re About to Lose Your Clown, this disc has perhaps a bittersweet lyrical and melodic flavor. This is not to take anything away from Walker’s typically strong singing and inventive playing. He can rock with the best of them, provide some stunning driving slide, insert some jazz inflections or solid acoustic all the while bring his gospel-rooted soulful singing to the front. 

The title track has a pop melodic tone and the use of a backing vocal chorus as he sings about rising and wiping the tears from his eyes. Joe’s Jump is a shuffle with a lyric about his women telling she loved him, told him a lie before they start to jam but the playing never really seems to find a focus. Much better is Leave That Girl Alone with nice jazzy touches to the playing.

Where Jesus Leads is a nice gospel number with a slightly downhome flavor to its relatively sparse accompaniment. Another highpoint is Strange Loving with a driving rhythm. There is a remake of the Rolling Stones instrumental 2120 Michigan Avenue that I would rather here Walker do with his own band than the band here which sounds a bit too controlled and the performance lacks some focus.

The JSP disc Guitar Brothers with his friend Otis Grand comes across as hotter and sounds more spontaneous. The opening Snake Bit, with Walker playing some nice slide, is followed with a shuffle, Imitation Ice Cream Blues whose lightweight lyric perhaps gets a strong vocal nonetheless.The tight shuffle groove allows the two guitarists to stretch out here. I Like It This Way has the two exchanging licks, Walker playing a phrase with Grand repeating it and Grand echoes Walker’s in a similar fashion. 

Better Off Alone is a Grand original that has the feel of some of Walker’s early albums with some terrific playing as well as Walker with a superb vocal performance. B.B. King’s Friends is one of two instrumentals to showcase the two trading choruses, the other being Bliss Street Blues which also has harp from George Bisharat. A nice R&B groove marks Johnny Guitar Watson’s I’m Getting Drunk as Walker takes a slashing Watson styled solo and Grand takes the song out with Walker joining at the end of this exciting performance. 

Rude Woman is built on an irresistible rock and roll (not hard rock) groove that sounds like it could have been written in the fifties or sixties. One almost expects Chuck Berry to turn up for a solo here. Regal Blues is a tribute to B.B. King with its lyrics invoking one of B.B.’s classic recordings (“It’s my own fault, guess I will blame It on You,” as well as recalling that when he first heard Lucille (BB’s guitar) it knocked him out. While this recording has the flavor of a jam, the empathy between Walker and Grand make this, to these ears, a more satisfactory recording than In the Morning.

In addition, Walker has a performance available on DVD, Live at “On Broadway” on Blues Express. It contains eight very solid performances, both solo and with his band The Boss Talkers along with interview segments talking about the songs and various topics. The music is strong enough that the video of the performance is a bonus. Oddly he has no keyboards in his current band. Definitely worth checking out for those with DVD players. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thomas Jefferson With His New Orleans Creole Jazz Band

New Orleans trumpeter, Thomas Jefferson, was best known as a leader of traditional jazz bands. The Chicago native came to the Crescent City early in his life. In the 1930s he led a band that included vocalist Smiley Lewis and pianist Tuts Washington, both individuals who were legendary figures in New Orleans music in the fifties and sixties. Jefferson is more obscure, but a release on George Buck's GHB label, With The New Orleans Creole Jazz Band 1961 provides us a glimpse of his music.

This disc was originally issued on the Southland label and brings together two sessions. One session had Jefferson with a small group led by drummer Monk Hazel that also included Armand Hug on piano, Sherwood Manglapane on bass and whistling and Joe Caprano on guitar. The other session was with Jefferson's band that included Sam Dutrey on clarinet, Waldren 'Frog' Joseph (Kirk's father) on trombone, Lester Santiago on piano, Gerry Adams on bass and Paul Barbarin on drums. 

Listening to Jefferson's trumpet, vocal and repertoire it is apparent that Jefferson was under the influence of Louis Armstrong. He is a melodic trumpeter and singer whose music has a genial quality that is very easy to listen to as evident on the opening In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree. Caprano is wonderful with his single note backing to the vocal on Breeze. The traditional Back O'Town Blues, is a nice mix of gut bucket and sophistication with Jefferson's low-key vocal with excellent backing (Caprano's playing under the vocal is again marvelous).

The session with his Creole Jazz Band has a different feel with its three horn front line. Blues From Yesterday opens as Frog Joseph and Santiago accompany his vocal. It is followed by a cleanly played version of Dippermouth Blues. Other songs at this session include swing staples If I Could Be With You, and "Rose Room," as well as another staple of New Orleans jazz Basin Street Blues. The vocalist on the band's cover of Billie Holiday's Fine and Mellow, is not identified but does a nice take with Jefferson adding nice trumpet behind her vocal. The spirited Mardi Gras Parade closes this extremely entertaining album of swinging New Orleans jazz.

I purchased this CD.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Steve Guyger's Radio Blues

Steve Guyger’s career playing the blues, including a lengthy stint with the legendary Jimmy Rogers, is reflected in the pictures of him that accompany his new Severn album, Radio Days. As Rick Estrin notes, “Steve Guyger is a true master of Blues Harmonica.” But more important than his virtuosity on the ‘Mississippi saxophone,’ is how deep he is in the blues tradition. As stunning and original a player as he is, he remains embedded in that tradition. 

He is backed by an impressive band that includes Johnny Moeller on guitar, Steve Gomes on bass, Robb Stupka on drums and Bill Heid on piano that provide spare, direct accompaniment that suits Guyger’s no-frills vocals and strong harp. Originals like You’re So Fine and Cool in the Evening, evoke classic Little Walter recordings, while he employs a zydeco groove on the peppy Little Rita, which sports a fine chromatic harmonica solo. He stays on chromatic for a strong deep Blues Won’t Let Me Be, a song that suggests some of the late Carey Bell’s originals. 

Guyger is particularly effective here as a vocalist and blasts a terrific solo, while he also does a credible rendition of Rudolph Toombs, I’m Shakin’, originally done by Little Willie John although Guyger perhaps lacks the vocal authority of The Blasters’ Phil Alvin who placed their mark on this a quarter century ago. Oh Red benefits from the understated accompaniment on this Kansas Joe Mccoy tune that has been covered numerous times. Echoes of Guitar Slim’s Things I Used to Do, can be heard in the melody of I Can See By Your Eyes, although Guyger’s harp and the backing lend a swamp blues flavor suggesting Lazy Lester on a splendid performance, while he sings more forcefully on Muddy Waters’ Let Me Hang Around

Overall Radio Days is a release that anyone liking classic Chicago blues will savor. Guyger is a very good singer and a terrific harp player. He is backed here by an excellent band that enhance his performances. 

I received a review copy from Severn Records. I do not believe this review that was written in 2008 was ever published. Here is a video of Steve Guyger performing a Jimmy Rogers number.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ann Rabson with Bob Margolin is Not Alone

I have known Ann Rabson for a little over 25 years. I remember meeting her at a DC Blues Society picnic and seeing her, Gaye and Earline, the original line-up of Saffire-the Uppity Blues Women when they used to play regularly in a small Georgetown bistro and also at some Dc Blues Society events. It was a joy to see them go from being a local blues act to the world-spanning performers that they became. While Saffire has ended its run, Ann, Gaye and Andra Faye have continued with their own musical endeavors. 

Some may now that Ann has had serious health issues recently so word of a new recording was warmly welcome. She is joined on this by Bob Margolin who adds his guitar and vocals to Ann’s piano and vocals. His presence gives the disc its title Not Alone on the Vizz-Tone Label release. There is a mix of familiar and lesser known songs that go down easy with good, heartfelt singing, solid musicianship and good feelings. 

Ann is a straight-forward, two-handed pianist who eschews flash for her solid playing and there is plenty of her heart in her rendition of the late Thomas Dorsey’s I’m Going To Live the Life I Sing About In My Song, with Margolin adding some biting electric fills. Her touch and timing is assured throughout with her cover of Tampa Red’s Let’s Get Drunk and Truck, while she is wistful on Leroy Carr’s How Long Blues, on which Margolin shares the vocal in addition to his acoustic guitar break while it rides out with stately piano from Ann. 

I am not familiar with Jim Ritchie, Ann sounds quite animated on his It Ain’t Love, with Margolin’s crying slide providing additional support. Margolin takes the reflective vocal on Memphis Slim’s Guess I’m a Fool, with Ann’s firm support under the vocal and Margolin playing in a jazzier vein here. Ann notes that Louis Jordan’s Caledonia is a fun number, although like almost every cover of I have heard (and that includes recordings by Muddy Waters, Pinetop Perkins and Gatemouth Brown), it is wonderfully played but does not stands out. Woody Herman is one of the few whose cover of the song captured some of the ebullience of Jordan’s original. 

Ann’s matter-of-fact approach to Let’s Go Get Stoned in contrast provides a delightful personal rendition of a very well-known song. Ann’s tango-rooted Crescent City-flavored playing stands out behind Margolin’s Let It Go, a nice lyric calling for having perspective about things and if one cannot make things better, avoid making things worse. After a plaintive Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby, Ann gets things rollicking as she sings that Anywhere You Go, Ann can go there too and can love you like no one can do. After telling us that she has No Time For The Blues. 

Bob handles the vocal on a sober reading of Percy Mayfield’s River’s Invitation. It is the final track of a very genial recording that captures Ann Rabson and Bob Margolin in an intimate, low-keyed setting that should delight many.

I received a review copy from the record company. Here is a video of Ann Rabson performing.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

RIP David S Ware

David S. Ware passed away at the age of 62. I never had the pleasure to see him perform but have purchased a number of the recordings. He was a robust 'free' saxophonist, yet rooted deeply in the tradition with Sonny Rollins influence very apparent in his playing. This was not surprising and he recorded several of Sonny's compositions, most notably am album length version of  The Freedon Suite. He performed and recorded with Cecil Taylor, Andrew Cyrille before his own impressive recordings over the past coupled ecdaes. He also had a remarkable long-standing quartet with pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake.  His Thirsty Ear release, Live in the World, contains three CDs of riveting music may be hard to find but worth searching out.

To remember him, here he is in performance for you to enjoy.

Here is some obituaries:

From Jazzwise Magazine.

From JazzTimes.

From the Ottawa Citizen which also has the links to the videos I have embedded in this post.

From Los Angeles Times

From NPR

From Burning Ambulance

From CultureCatch

From NY Times

Pianist Matthew Shipp on David S. Ware:

Here is a preview of a new film about him

Friday, October 19, 2012

When My Mama Was Living Is Choice Louisiana Red

In the 1970s when Kent Cooper first met the late Louisiana Red, Red was working at the Bayonne (New Jersey) Barrel Company and had given up music as the way to support his family. Red had recorded prior to that including an album for the Atlantic Atco subsidiary. Cooper wrote some songs including Sweet Blood Call, and Red recorded some of Cooper’s as well as his own that led to the critically acclaimed Sweet Blood Call and other albums on Blue Labor which also issued albums by Johnny Shines, Roosevelt Sykes and Peg Leg Sam during this period. Red’s career continued for many years, and he continued to record relatively regularly in the past couple decades with the recordings have a consistent quality despite variations in the musical settings and supporting musicians. When Louisiana Red passed, he was rightfully regarded as a great blues artist who had been a heir to the legacies of Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Labor Records has issued a new CD, When My Mama Was Living, that brings together 16 tracks comprised of one track issued on CD for first time and the rest being previously unissued selections or unissued alternate takes. On these selections he is sometimes backed by either Peg Leg Sam or Lefty Dizz with the exception of three tracks Peg Leg Sam is featured on. There is variety in the musical settings that add to the listenability of these performances.

While these may have not been issued previously, there is plenty of strong blues to be heard. Red was in strong vocal form at the time and put so much into delivering the lyrics. Walk All Over Georgia sets the tone backed only by his harmonica followed by his interpretation of Slim Harpo’s King Bee, where he plays spare trebly guitar and overdubbed harmonica. The title track is another selection where his harmonica provides the sole accompaniment and throws in an occasional whoop to accent the lyrics. 

Bad Case of the Blues is one of several selections that finds Red playing the manner of Lightnin’ Hopkins followed by a solo Peg Leg Sam Piedmont harmonica blues Little Susie James. Lefty Dizz adds support behind Red’s slide on Got a Girl With a Dog Won’t Bark, which adapts the melody of Shake Your Money Maker. Red’s playing on this previously unissued alternate take is a bit tentative sounding to this listener. Cold White Sheet is another Hopkins’ styled blues as he sings about can’t stand the city no more and would rather die on a southland farm, while Going Back to Georgia adapts the 44 Blues melody for his lyric about leaving those Northern gals behind.

You’ve Got To Move is the traditional sacred number in the style of Fred McDowell with Peg Leg Sam adding harmonica behind Red’s slide with Jim Robinson adding a second vocal. Peg Leg Sam sounds feisty on I'll Be Glad When You Are Dead You Rascal You, with plenty of crying harmonica. Cooper and Red’s Cold, Cold Feeling is another traditionally grounded blues strongly performed in the vein of Lightnin’ Hopkins. Red accompanies Peg Leg Sam on his spirited John Henry. This album closes with Red’s “Joanna.” This was recorded with a small group at WKCR and Red lays down nice slide guitar adding a some spoken interjections to his vocal.

This writer has long been fond of the Blue Labor Louisiana Red recordings and this new release of unissued songs and alternate takes is most welcome. Louisiana Red was in quite fine form during this period and When My Mama Was Living certainly stands up as an excellent release that lovers of down home blues will certainly appreciate.

I received a review copy from a publicist for the release. Here is a video of him in his Elmore James mood.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sunny Crownover Is Right Here Right Now

Boston based vocalist Sunny Crownover has come to attention of music listeners through several swing-oriented albums produced by Duke Robillard. Now Duke has recorded her first contemporary blues album, Right Here Right Now (Shining Stone Records). In one sense it should not be surprising that they have put together a straight blues recording as Duke first saw her performing with 2120 South Avenue, a Boston based blues band led by Harvard University professor Charles Sawyer. 

Duke on guitar anchors the backing band that includes the keyboards of Bruce Bears, Brad Hallen’s bass and Mark Teixera on drums and percussion. There is a horn section including Doug James present on several songs, while Sugar Ray Norcia’s harmonica enhances several tracks. Songwriter Gary Nicholson collaborated with Duke on a number of songs. There is a strong consistency to the performances throughout.

Having heard Sunny Crownowner more restrained approach from an earlier recording that featured her, I was struck from her opening vocal on the Memphis soul-based Oh Yes I Will! how much more of a presence she displayed singing on this. The material is quite varied and includes some Chicago-style blues with Norcia on harp and one more traditional jazz-blue with the clarinet of Billy Novick. Robillard’s jazzy guitar fills and solo with restrained backing frame her singing on Brenda Burns’ One Woman Man, as she sings “no more love for free, you gotta do some work before you get it from me.” In addition to her soulful vocal on Love Me Right, there is rollicking piano from Bears and strong harmonica from Norcia. Robillard’s trebly guitar, Norcia’s harp and the lazy groove lend a swampy feel to Robillard’s Roll Me Baby. 

Cook In Your Kitchen gets the groove rocking and rolling with Bears outstanding as he channels Johnny Johnson. The strutting horns on Warned take the blues uptown, whereas on Al Basile’s,I Might Just Change My Mind, the horns and buoyant rhythm section sound more in a jump blues vein. Billy Novick’s clarinet on Hi-Heels and Home Cookin’, lends a old-school jazz flavor behind her delightful vocal as she sings about about all that a lady needs to do to keep her man satisfied. Duke’s slide guitar channels Elmore James on Trust Your Lover while Norcia adds his fat tone harp playing while Sunny sings about having to let go of one’s suspicions and trust one’s lover so one doesn’t worry one’s mind. 

A swampy and soulful rendition of Joe Tiven’s Can’t Let Go, is the final selection on this excellent album. Sunny Crownover’s earlier recordings displayed talent and promise. On Right Here, Right Now, she has certainly arrived.

I received my review copy from a publicist.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ironing Board Sam Will Be At Capital Blues Night

Ironing Board Sam (seen from last New Years Eve at The Hamilton Live) is among
those who will be performing at Capital Blues Night, Wednesday evening at The Hamilton Live
Some of you may be aware that I have been a supporter of the various programs and activities of the Music Maker Foundation. The North Carolina-based organization has been a life send to many roots music performers who were in hard economic and health times whether helping pay medical bills, provide a decent housing situation and record and issue recordings of these often under-documented performers. In addition MMF has promoted performances at clubs and festivals of their artists throughout the United States and the world.

I had the pleasure of seeing such performers as Big Ron Hunter, Captain Luke, Sol Roots, and Ironing Board Sam at what was then a new Washington DC venue, The Hamilton last New Year's Eve. The Hamilton will be hosting Capital Blues Night Wednesday evening, October 24. The doors open at 6:30PM and the show starts at 7:30 and features the performers I listed above along with Cool John Ferguson and Ardie Dean for what promises to be a terrific evening of music. 

Captain Luke will return to The Hamilton Live on Wednesday October 23.

One should be particularly excited about the return of Ironing Board Sam whose career the Music Maker Foundation has revived. Ironing Board Sam was for years a fixture in New Orleans (including the annual Jazz & Heritage Festival), and with his career back on the upswing and with new recordings produced by Music Maker Foundation, returned back to New Orleans this past spring for his first JazzFest performance in too many years. Its an example of what the Music Maker Foundation does to assist roots music artists. And then there is Captain Luke, whose baritone will evoke the smoky baritone of Brook Benton. They will be heard along with the showmanship of Cool John and more.

For more information on the Music Maker Foundation, check out, You can purchase tickets at The Hamilton’s website,

Here is Ironing Board Sam in performance.

Here is Cool John Ferguson backing Captain Luke.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sunny Crownover and Her Joy Boys

Sunny Crownover is a Boston based vocalist that grew up[ as a military daughter, although spending much of her life from high school in Austin, Texas, honing her chops in various blues groups, and since moving to Boston sang with the 2120 South Michigan Avenue, a blues band led by Harvard professor Charles Sawyer. She becomes the axis around which guitarist Duke Robillard gets to put together a project to salute some of the women song stylists of the 30s to 50s. Duke added saxophonist and clarinetist Billy Novick, bassist Jesse Williams and rhythm guitarist Paul Kolesnikow to form Sunny and Her Joy Boys, with an album Introducing Sunny and Her Joy Boys on Stony Plain Records. 

With the exception of one track on which Duke plays conga drums, it is interesting that this swing-oriented album was made with a drummer, although the bass and rhythm guitar do provide a foundation for the engaging swinging performances. Sunny possesses an attractive voice with nice diction and phrasing. Although some of the material is more novel like the opening Strictly From Dixie, there are a number of well known standards of the era such as You’re Driving Me Crazy, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sing, Today I Sing the Blues, and Duke Ellington’s I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good).” The performances are enhanced by the swinging accompaniment and Novick’s traditionally oriented reed work is exemplary as are Robillard’s fills and solos. While having a very attractive voice, Sunny is not convincing as a bluesy ballad singer on Today I Sing the Blues, or I’ve Got It Bad, but her voice and delivery suits upbeat lyrics like Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams

For those looking for an engaging pop-jazz revival album of swing tunes from the classic era of American songs, this should fill the bill. 

This review originally appeared in the April 2009 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 325). I have made some minor edits to the review. Duke has produced a new album by Sunny Right Here, Right Now, on Shining Stone Records that I will be posting a review of in a day or two. This new album is in a straight blues vein. Here is a video that was made to promote Sunny and Her Joy Boys.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Brad Goode's Nature Boy

Trumpeter Brad Goode is a former Chicagoan now living in Colorado who teaches at the University of Colorado. Delmark has just issued his latest recording, Nature Boy, where he is backed by the trio of Jeff Jenkins on piano, Johannes Weidenmueller on bass and Todd Reid on drums on a varied program of standards and originals.

Goode discusses in the liner notes what he does to accomplish his goal of giving “an honest and personal interpretation of a song,” as he tries to learn everything about the tune. “I not only what to memorize and understand the lyric, I also want to sing it through my horn. I want to know the history of the tune: Who has performed it. How has it been interpreted by others? …” Doing so, he brings fresh nuances to well known standards like the title track, with plenty of his brought round trumpet as well as the ballad I Remember You, one of a number selections featuring his muted playing. 

Even with his original, Nightmare of the Mechanized World, one hears the attention to detail in his composition with its clock-like sounding progressions that provide the basis for his improvisation. More muted trumpet follows on the revival of the teen-ballad Sealed With a Kiss. Eddie Harris’  Infrapolations is a quick-tempoed number that sounds a bit like Giant Steps, and its quick tempo displays how agile Goode’s muted playing is. Pianist Jenkins is especially strong here, but is consistently strong throughout. A bit of late night or very early morning mood is present on the leader's It’s 4 a.m., with a nice solo spot by bassist Weidenmueller. 

Nature Boy is a splendid CD by a marvelous trumpeter, composer and leader.

I was provided a review copy by the record label. I wrote this review for Jazz & Blues Report but do believe it was published. Here is Brad in 1994 as part of the Chicago Reunion Band (Von Freeman, Jodie Christian, Rufus Reid and Jack DeJohnette).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Brian Settles Presents The Music of Dewey Redman

The "Take 5" series of early evening concerts held at the Kogod Courtyard at the Museum of American Art in Washington DC continues on Thursday October 18 with a performance by Brian Settles who will be exploring the music of Dewey Redman. The free concert starts at 7:00PM and runs until the Museum closes at 7:00PM.

Brian Settles performing with Freddie Redd and Butch Warren at the
Smithsonian American Art Museum's Kogod Courtyard in July, 2012
Brian Settles may be the DC Tenor Saxophonist of the moment. The DC native is quite a presence on the local jazz scene. His first album as a leader with his band Central Union, Secret Handshake (Engine Studio), was selected by Capital Bop, as the best new DC jazz album of 2011. Talking about that recording and settles, Capital Bop observes, "Anyone who’s spent a reasonable amount of time hearing live jazz in the District over the past few years knows Settles, whether by name or not, as the slight, quietly ubiquitous gentleman who’s always stepping out of the shadows at somebody else’s gig and knocking the audience out of its seats. His solos tend to be quick, 90-second cabochons that slither and whisper, never insisting on your attention so much as requiring it."

Secret Handshake is a remarkable recording that reveals new pleasures every time I listen to it. Settles can swing in a straight-ahead fashion, but he is at home in a more exploratory vein. His choice to present the music of Dewey Redman is a fascinating one. Redman was best known for his associations with Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett (Jarrett's celebrated American Quartet), and also a member of Old Dreams, New Dreams with fellow Ornette alumni Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Eddie Blackwell.  Capital Bop observed that Redman also "wrote and performed acerbic original music that incorporated the musics of West Africa and India." 

On October 18, Settles will be presenting his arrangements of Redman's original compositions which should provide for some compelling listening. This is the second in a series of 5 concerts in which the Smithsonian will have local DC talent playing compositions of jazz legends. In September, Donvonte McCoy did a wonderful presentation on the music of Lee Morgan. The series will take a hiatus in November and December, returning January 17 when Elijah Jamal Balbed will present some of the early compositions of Wayne Shorter.  Capital Bop had an excellent overview of this particular series of performances, 

Here is Brian Settles performing as part of a group led by Freddie Redd and Butch Warren.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Erin Harpe's Blues Roots

The following review appeared in the June 2003 DC Blues Calendar, although I have made some stylistic changes. I have know Erin Harpe's father, Neil Harpe for about twenty-five years through his association with the DC Blues Society and his performances with Rick Franklin and Rick Usilton among others. His daughter Erin recorded the marvelous album discussed below and continues to perform, fronting Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers as well as continuing to perform with Lovewhip. Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers won the Boston Blues Society's challenge in 2010 and were semi-finalists at the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge. This CD is still available as a CD or as a download. Erin's website,, states they are working on an album which I will be among many eagarly awaiting.

Maybe its in the genes, but Erin Harpe, daughter of longtime Washington DC area bluesman, Neil Harpe, has produced a wonderful album of acoustic blues, Blues Roots. The disc is on Juicy Juju Records, the label that Lovewhip, the Boston-based world pop band she also fronts, records for. 

Erin displays considerable command of a wide range of blues including songs associated with MemphisMinnie (Chauffeur Blues and In My Girlish Days), Tommy Johnson (Bye and Bye Blues and Big Road Blues), Bessie Smith (Alligator Blues), Willie Brown (Future Blues) and others. She plays a strong, percussive-tinged guitar that suits these songs perfectly but also able to nimbly fingerpick on a Blind Blake number, You Gonna Quit Me. She delivers her vocals with a strong, straightforward and natural delivery that is quite appealing that is reminiscent of longtime D.C. area blueswoman, Eleanor Ellis, who is credited with the closing Stop and Listen Blues

This is a fine debut album of traditional country blues that is available through cdbaby and can also be accessed through Lovewhip’s website,

Here is Erin performing Big Road Blues.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Buddy Guy's When i Left Home Tells His Story

In the mid-1970s I was pleased to have Buddy Guy for an interview for my blues show on WBFO in Buffalo. Buddy was then, and of course remains, one of the greatest blues performers around with his dazzling guitar pyrotechnics and his fervent vocals. In 1999 Damn Right I've Got The Blues co-authored with Donald Wilcox appeared but it is now superseded in part by a new autobiography When I Left Home: My Story, that Buddy did with David Ritz (Da Capo Press). Ritz has emerged as one of the finest collaborators with blues, soul and rock musicians having worked with Ray Charles, Etta James, Jerry Wexler, Leiber and Stoller, B.B. King , Scott Wieland, and Bettye Lavette as well as writing a biography of Marvin Gaye Divided Soul. He helps Buddy Guy bring his story to life in this wonderful book.

When Buddy recorded Mercy Dee’s One Room Country Shack, for Vanguard 45 years ago, this reader had no idea it was something Buddy could so readily identify growing up in rural Louisiana. And from such humble origins he tells how he first started playing music and how he had to overcome his shyness. He tells us about seeing Lightning Slim perform and later listening to records after his family finally got electricity.

Seeing Eddie ‘Guitar Slim’ Jones was a watershed for the young Guy and the flamboyancy of Slim’s performances (such as coming out from the audience with a 200 foot guitar cord) stayed with guy as was the wild, electrifying guitar sound Jones had. It was a sound that Guy emulated, especially when he came to Chicago where he was befriended by the likes of Magic Sam, Otis Rush and the man who became like a second father to him, Muddy Waters. Willie Dixon was the one who brought him to record and later he recounted how he became a session player for Chess Records who also started recording him, but resisted Buddy’s efforts to have him record Buddy as he sounded in the clubs with a bit of wildness that reflected the influence of Guitar Slim. Still Buddy produced quite a body of recordings for Chess and other labels after leaving Chess, and eventually was able to get recorded in the manner in which he recorded.

There are so many anecdotes that are provided including being one of three guitarists (Matt Murphy and Wayne Bennett being the others) trying out for Bobby Bland’s road band. Buddy actually advised he wasn’t the one since he didn’t read music and Bennett was selected. One of his favorite guitarists was Earl Hooker and there are a couple of stories about him as well. And there is Buddy’s recollections of Stevie Ray Vaughan who was a close friend as well as meeting another musical hero John Lee Hooker for the first time and his musical collaboration with Junior Wells. 

This was simply a terrific read and anyone interested in contemporary blues, not simply Buddy Guy will enjoy it. This would make a terrific holiday gift by the way.

I purchased this book.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mike Walbridge’s Chicago Footwarmers' “Crazy Rhythm”

Traditional jazz tuba-ist Mike Walbridge has been active on the Chicago scene for forty five years as leader of The Chicago Footwarmers and a member of the Chicago Salty Dogs. Clarinetist/alto saxist Kim Cusack has been jamming with Mike since their teens! The new Mike Walbridge’s Chicago Footwarmers release, Crazy Rhythm (Delmark) brings together some terrific traditional jazz from the sixties (originally issued on the Blackbird label) with new recordings from 2007. In addition to Walbridge and Cusack, the sixties recordings include Johnny Cooper, piano; Eddie Lynch, banjo; Glen Koch, drums; while the 2007 recordings feature Don Stiernberg, banjo / guitar; Bob Cousins, drums.

The band takes its name from the recordings that included legendary clarinetist Johnny Dodds and pianist Jimmy Blythe and other bands have used the name over the years. Walbridge’s combo, provides a lively, fun take on the music of such bands. Cusack is the main soloist while some space is provided to the Johnny Cooper’s solid two-fisted playing on the earlier sessions, and there are banjo breaks throughout. 

The renditions of such period numbers as Sugar, Angry, and Nobody’s Sweetheart, are done at such a nice relaxed tempo. Walbridge takes a short tuba solo to get the mood set on Tin Roof Blues, before Cusack enters with a lovely clarinet solo on a marvelous instrumental blues. Some may be familiar with Fats Domino’s hit When My Dreamboat Comes Home. This song is a staple of the traditional jazz repertoire, and the rendition here is nicely done with Cusack on alto, while they rip through the trad jazz flagwaver, ‘Nagasaki’ with Cusack on alto, Cooper pounding out a solo, Lynch takes a crisp break on banjo, as Walbridge pumps out the rhythm on the tuba and Koch swings the performance along. Darktown Strutters Ball, is taken at such a nice relaxed tempo while Love Me or Leave Me has a nice indigo feeling. 

It is easy to play this type of music that comes across as a parody or camp. Over the years Mike Walbridge and Kim Cusack have brought plenty of soul and feeling to traditional jazz that is evident on here.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here is the Western End Jazz Band, which includes Mike Walbridge, performing Nobody's Sweetheart.