Monday, December 30, 2013

Greg Lewis' Organ Monk and American Standard

Greg Lewis’ Organ Monk, an organ led group that has focused on the music of Thelonious Monk, has an unique focus in their third album, American Standard (self-produced). While previous recordings have interpreted Monk’s compositions, American Standard plays songs that Monk did not write but did perform. Those who have heard Monk’s renditions of songs from Duke Ellington as well as songs such as Liza, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Dinah and Just a Gigolo know how distinctive Monk's renditions of these songs are. Lewis takes Monk’s renditions as inspiration and a starting point for his group’s performances on this recording.

For this recording, organist Lewis’ Organ Monk includes tenor saxophonist Reggie Woods, guitarist Ron Jackson, drummer Jeremy "Bean" Clemons and trumpeter Riley Mullins. This writer is familiar with some of Monk's recordings of these standards with his angular lines, his spare phrasing and what he omits in his stride-rooted piano. The Hammond B-3 does not lend itself to such an attack, but the group does provide distinctive renditions in the performances heard here.

I was very impressed by the playing throughout. Lewis is a strong organist with a punchy attack on Nice Work if You Can Get It, that also displays gritty tenor sax by Reggie Woods. Mullins displays fire on Lulu’s Back In Town, while he takes a bit softer and rounded approach on “Dinah” before Woods plays in a bit more gut-bucket manner. The ballad, “I Should Care,” is a showcase of Mullins as well as for the leader. “Tea For Two,” in contrast is a trio number that showcases the nimble, fleet guitar of Jackson. On “Everything Happens To Me,” Woods helps construct the mood with some bluesy-playing against the leaders organ backing. 

Drummer Clemons sounds heavy handed at a few points, but it is not a serious issue on this strong, fascinating organ jazz recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Available from, this has a street release date of January 7, 2014. Here Greg Lewis talks about this project.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chris Biesterfeldt Jazzy Mandolin

Mandolin is not a common instrument in jazz ensembles and outside of the world of bluegrass or a Brazilian Choro Ensemble, it is not a common lead instrument. Chris Biesterfeldt is known as a guitarist, but on his self-produced new recording, Urban Mandolin, he handles a variety of jazz and pop tunes leading a trio of mandolin, bass and drums. 

On this recording he is accompanied by Adam Armstrong on upright bass and Eric Halvorson on drums on a fairly broad range of material here including jazz classics from Eddie Harris (Freedom Jazz Dance), Jaco Pastorious (Teen Town), Chick Corea’s (Armando’s Rhumba), Thelonious Monk (Bye-ya), Wayne Shorter (Witch Hunt) and Jimmy Smith Back at the Chicken Shack); pop classics like I Can’t Make You Love Me, and God Only Knows); Pixinguinha’s choro classic Segura Ele; and Frank Zappa’s Rollo Interior, that closes this recording

A torrid take on Dizzy Gillespie’s Bebop, opens this recording and immediately establishes how deft and commanding a player Biesterfeldt is with a fast, cleaning picking complemented by Armstrong’s and Halvorson’s lightly played drums. The metallic (tinny) staccato sound of the mandolin lends these performances with a unique tone. There follows a relaxed rendition of Charlie Parker’s Quasimodo that displays exemplary interplay between the leader and Armstrong while Halvoson employs a light touch here. 

The mandolin’s brittle, metallic tone may put off some listeners and the trio format perhaps does not work with every single number (Freedom Jazz Dance sounds a bit clunky),  but his playing on Bye-Ya is exhilirating.  Other high points include the exhilarating Segura Ele, a marvelous rendering of God Only Knows and the invention he brings in his improvisation to Shorter’s Witch Hunt. Biesterfeldt’s adventurous playing throughout Urban Mandolin merits careful and attentive listening. 

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here he can be heard playing from the album,  Teen Town.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Returns Standing Up For The Real Jazz

Christian McBride will be a featured performer
 at the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival
Presidents Day Weekend is always a reason for celebration for jazz-lovers in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area as the annual Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival returns. Standing up for real jazz, this year’s edition “will celebrate  the soulful side of Real Jazz, otherwise known as ‘Soul Jazz.”  Among those featured will be the legendary Les McCann who will lead a group that includes saxophonist Javon Jackson. But there is much more to be heard Friday Evening February 14 through Sunday night February 16 at the Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Hotel & Executive Meeting Center, 1750 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852.

The Festival is organized under the leadership of saxophonist, composer and educator Paul Carr as a showcase and benefit for his Jazz Academy of Music. Performances along with workshops and educational programs characterize this event. Notable performers appearing this year include vocalists Giacoma Gates, Vanessa Rubin and Freddie Cole for Friday Night’s kickoff the Ronnie Wells Main Stage performance. Area vocalists Kristin Callahan and Heidi Martin will perform in the MAJF Club Room, while David Cole will play the blues in the Juke Joint.

Vocalist Sharon Clark

Saturday, February 15, there will be atrium performances by a variety of high school bands. At noon in the Main Stage, the Festival will present the first The Mid-Atlantic "Jazz Voice"--Vocal Competition. Next on the main stage will be three of the area’s preeminent vocalists, Sharon Clark, Dick Smith, and Lena Seikaly backed by the Chris Grasso Trio. The Ronnie Wells Main Stage that evening will present the Gary Bartz Quartet, a Trombone Summit with Delfeayo Marsalis, Frank Lacy and Steve Turre with the Christian McBride Trio closing the main stage. On Staurday, highlights of the Club Stage include Aaron Seeber Quartet (with saxophonist Tim Green); vocalists Janine Gilbert-Carter and Chad Carter; and Nadine Rae will be shouting her soulful blues in the Juke Joint.

Delfeayo Marsalis
Sunday, February 16 opens with saxophonist Bobby Watson and the Howard University Jazz Ensemble on the Main Stage. Vocalist Dee Daniels will be backed by the Eric Bryd Trio and then the legendary Benny Golson Quartet cones on. Starting the evening on the Main Stage will be trombonist Reginald Cyntje and his Group that includes steel pan player Victor Provost. Cyntje’s CD “Love” was one of the most impressive and moving new jazz releases by a Washington DC area artist in 2013. After Cyntje will be the pairing of Les McCann and Javon Jackson with the festival’s headline set. Paul Carr closes the Festival main stage with a tribute to the late pianist Mulgrew Miller with a group with Bruce Barth on piano and Steve Nelson on vibes. 

Gary Bartz
Performances in the MAJF Club sunday include the Kenny Rittenhouse Septet, The Jazz Academy Orchestra featuring Delfeayo Marsalis, and Leslie Sumney. Linwood Taylor will be playing in the Juke Joint. This night, like the other evenings, will conclude with a midnight jam in the club room led by Wes ‘Sugar’ Biles. For more information (including ticket packages and accommodations) and to support real jazz, visit the festival’s website,

All photos © Ron Weinstock

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cyril Neville's Not So Magic Honey

Cyril Neville's new recording Magic Honey (Ruf Records) under his own name is one that will certainly appeal to many with its mix of New Orleans grooves, funk and blues-rock. His first album for Ruf has him backed by Cranston Clements on guitar, "Mean" Willie Green on drums, Carl Dufrene on bass, Norman Caesar on keyboards with Cyril on percussion as well as singing. Making appearances here on selected tracks are Allen Toussaint and Dr. John on keyboards, and guitarists Mike Zito (a fellow member of the Royal Southern Brotherhood), David Z (who produced this) and Walter Trout, with backing vocals from his wife Gaynielle and son Onari. 

For these ears, this release is a mixed bag. The title track certainly opens this music on a strong note with its tough, strutting groove and a terrific vocal about his queen bee who drips her honey on him with some fine, uncredited harmonica in the backing. Its followed by a terrific piece of New Orleans funk on Dr. John's Swamp Funk, (on which Dr, John is on organ and Allen Toussaint on piano) that could have been from three decades ago. However the following track, "Something's Got a Hold On Me, is a heavy handed blues-rock performance that perhaps is tightly played but the backing (including David Z's guitar solo) will sound to many as way over-the-top. The latin-flavored Another Man (co-penned with his wife) is an appealing song that will evoke Santana's bluesier recordings including Clements spicy guitar. 

Still Going Down Today, that Mike Zito co-wrote with Neville, is one of several topical lyrics on this and followed by a cover of Paul Butterfield and Henry Glover's You Can Run But You Can't Hide. The blues-rock backing perhaps contributed to neither performance standing out to these ears. I found the rendition of Warren Haynes Invisible catching my attention with Neville singing about acting as if he was invisible to those around him because of race or class. Blues Is The Truth is an original blues about what the blues is and sometimes the down home blues can heal the pain. There is some intense singing although the backing would have benefited from more nuanced guitar.

Walter Trout co-wrote Running Water, with a relaxed, funky groove and a very clever lyric, with Trout providing the effective guitar pyrotechnics on a short guitar break as well as responding to Neville's vocals during the song's coda. Otis Rush's original recording of Working Man was originally done as a Stax oriented R&B performance on Rush's Cotillion album that Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites produced. Neville's vocal fronts a heavy metal blues-rock jam. The closing Slow Motion, is an infectious with its steady rocking reggae groove and the more supple backing.

As the comments above suggest, this listener found "Magic Honey" to be a mixed bag of performances with first-rate tracks mixed in with others that did not stand out (and a couple tracks were forgettable). I recognize that there are fans of album rock and blues-rock who will differ with that opinion, and may you enjoy this. 

I received this from a publicist. A few years ago, I was quite a bit more positive regarding Cyril's Brand New Blues on M.C. Records. I note that it is a Blues Music Award nominee for Contemporary Blues Album.  From this recording, here is Cyril doing Working Man.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Downchild Can You Hear The Music

Listening to Can You Hear The Music (True North Records), the new recording by the venerable Canadian blues band Downchild, one is struck by the sound and the pace of the music. Given the four decades plus Downchild has been around this should be no surprise, but it is also refreshing in this age of guitar shredders whose idea of nuance is only occasionally turning the volume dial on their guitar or amps down. Don Walsh with his guitar, harmonica and songs may be the axis about which Downchild revolves, but Chuck Jackson's gritty singing, Michael Fonfara's keyboards and Pat Carey's saxophone also standout while the bass of Gary Kendall and the drums of Mike Fitzpatrick lay out a tight rhythmic foundation. On several tracks they are joined by Peter Jeffery's trumpet.

The title track, a hot jump blues that musically evokes Louis Jordan’s classic, Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, kicks this set off. The easy rocking I'm Always Here For You, like the opening track, benefits from crisply arranged horns in addition to the band's solid groove. I Need a Woman musically suggests Little Richard’s Directly From My Heart, with Walsh's fuzz-tone guitar break complements the urgency imparted by the Jackson's vocal. Blue Moon Blues takes the band down into the alley, while Fasten Your Seat Belt is another hot jump blues with strong harp and a tough tenor sax solo.

After Walsh's jaunty slide guitar on The Road, there is a nice swampy feel about My Mississippi Queen where Jackson (who wrote this choice lyric) sings about meeting a lady near New Orleans who later one night caught the eye of everybody in every club on both sides of Beale Street before she broke his heart. She took his money but more when she took his heart it was the worst thing any woman can do. Walsh adds a strong harp solo to go with the strong lyric and backing resulting in quite a jewel of a performance.

There’s a full moon out and Downchild are on a rambling mood on the rocking shuffle Don’t Wait Up For Me, with Fonfara's rollicking piano accompaniment and Walsh's crisp, slide guitar break. Scattered, a jumping harmonica feature concludes a superbly played, and consistently entertaining blues recording.

I received my review copy from True North Records or a publicist. Here is a video of Downchild in action.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Wee Trio Live At The Bistro

The Wee Trio, a Brooklyn, NY based trio comprised of vibraphonist James Westfall, bassist Dan Loomis and drummer Jared Schonig, recently issued their fourth album Live at The Bistro (Bionic Records). The trio is known for transcending musical genres (one of their prior recordings was devoted to the music of David Bowie), but this live recording made in St. Louis in February, 2013 perhaps has a bit more straight focus in a mix of interpretations of classics and originals.

The opening to Ray Noble's Cherokee is a bit dreamy until Westfall states the melody and then leading the trio on a hot interpretation of this swing era standard. Westfall displays a crisp attack with a clear lyricism in his solos as Loomis and Schonig push things along. Schonig takes a drum solo to introduce his Sabotage, with a driving groove with bassist Loomis helping state its theme before Westfall's clean, rhythmically infused solo. Westfall's White Trash Blues is a bouncy original followed by the trio's rendition of David Bowie's Queen Bitch with seamless navigation of the composition's changing motifs and tempos. Loomis' bass solo introduces the rendition of Isham Jones' There Is No Greater Love, with Westfall and him soloing with Schonig accenting their solos. Westfall's Space Jugglers is a spirited original with a bit of hi-life feel while his New Earth opens more reflectively before Schonig sets forth a more dynamic feel. Loomis' Ranthem is a number with changing tempos and dynamics. 

After a drum solo, the performance concludes with Schonig's exhilarating White Out, that is energetically and imaginatively played and further showcases the tight interplay that makes The Wee Trio's Live at The Bistro to be such serious and delightful fun.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of The Wee Trio playing Cherokee.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Magic Sam's Live at the Avant Garde

The blues world was abuzz when word got out that a previously unknown live recording of the legendary Magic Sam was coming out on Delmark. Live at the Avant Garde makes available a June 22, 1968 performance at a Milwaukee coffee house” is a revelation among the live recordings of Magic Sam by the clarity of the location recording. Jim Charne, who made the recordings, describes how it all came about in the liner notes as well as background on the coffeehouse which would close several months after this performance. The sound of Sam’s vocals and guitar as well as that of his backing musicians, bassist Big Mojo Elem and drummer Bob Richey, sounds almost like they were in a recording studio. 

In addition to the clean, crisp sound, the music is exceptional. I am not claiming that Sam is better than the prior live recordings, which I have not listened to recently. Just that Sam’s playing is terrific and his vocals are right on, from the first notes of his cover of Freddie King’s San-Ho-Zay to the closing B.B. King instrumental, Hully Gully Twist. There are strong renditions of I Don’t Want No Woman, I Need Your Love So Bad, Feeling Good, That’s All I Need and Looking Good, all from the West Side Soul album that had been issued a few months previously. There are also his rendition of Lowell Fulson’s Its All My Fault (a source of Sam’s All Your Love), his own Bad Luck Blues and “You Belong to Me, Muddy Waters’ Still a Fool, Junior Wells Come On In This House, Jimmy McCracklin’s Every Day, Every Night,” Jimmy Rogers’ That’s All Right, and Otis Rush’s All Your Love (I Miss Loving)

One thing that is worth noting is the range of artists and songs Magic Sam covered this June 1968 evening. Yet whether singing a Muddy Waters classic or Otis Rush, Sam brought his own voice and distinctive guitar while supported by the marvelous duo of Elem and Richey. The songs are performed at a nice tempo and lack the frenzy or overwrought vocals that mar a couple of performances on West Side Soul (Mama Talk To Your Daughter and My Love Will Never Die on that classic album). With this wonderful sound and superb music, Live at the Avant Garde is more than the best sounding live Magic Sam recording. It is another terrific Magic Sam album.

I received my review copy from Delmark.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

RIP Chris Polk

Chris Polk appearing with Daryl Davis at the 2013 Tinner Hill Blues Festival
Every community has its local musical figures who are quite loved, but for a variety of reasons remain local musical figures. I am among many who were shocked by the sudden passing of blues singer and guitarist,  Chris Polk on Sunday evening, December 8. I remember seeing Chris perform on numerous occasions including a period of several years in the 1990s when he appeared monthly at the Vienna Tap Room in that Virginia community. He was someone who loved the music, playing for people and obviously touched a lot of people. One of the last times I saw him perform on is own was at a Virginia club where a number of persons who he had coached in Track at South Lakes High School had come out. He obviously touched many lives and his passing affects many.

Chris Polk at Nick's Corner Bar in May, 2010
Back in 2002 Chris finally had a recording out and I reviewed it at the time in the DC Blues Society's newsletter DC Blues Calendar (June 2002 issue), although I made a few clarifying changes. In part, as a memoriam to Chris, I reprint that review even though it is likely no longer available. It was a very entertaining and well-performed live recording.

One of the area's better singer-guitarists, Chris Polk, finally has a recording available, Live at Zigs, recorded at the Alexandria club and available from Polk at his performances. Polk has several urban blues influences with perhaps none so obvious as Buddy Guy. Guy's influence is, in part, suggested by Polk's use of a polka dot guitar.

Guy's influence is also evident in the songs included here which does not indicate the breadth of Polk's repertoire. However renditions of Got My Eyes On You, I Got a Problem, I Feel So Bad, Midnight Train, Nobody Understands Me But My Guitar and the cover of Stormy Monday suggest how much and influence Guy is. Listening to Polk's vocals on this disc, as well as guitar playing, I am struck by this influence more than I have been watching Chris live.

Chris' playing is characterized by serpentine playing that evokes Guy as does his expressive vocals. Polk does avoid some of the excesses that can mar some of Guy's performances. Polk sings and plays with a controlled intensity that serves the material well. The band includes some of his regular musical compatriots including  guitarist John Sterling, bassist Willie Hicks and drummer Morgan Norris with special guest, Steve Johnsen, contributing the keyboards.
Chris Polk at the 1997 DC B lies Festival. Photo © Ron Weinstock

Monday, December 09, 2013

Irma Thomas' Rounder Heritage Retrospective

Irma Thomas' career was elevated from being a regional New Orleans treasure to an artist that received national and international recognition when she signed to Rounder Records. In 2000, Rounder celebrated its 30th Anniversary with the Rounder Heritage Series. One of the releases was devoted to her recordings for the label. This review originally appeared in the July/August 2001 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 252), although i have made minor changes. There are more recent compilations of Irma's work, including one that spans her half century career. This release is available as a download.

The Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas has had a substantial and rewarding career since she signed with Rounder in the mid-1980s. A recent addition to the Rounder Heritage series celebrating the label’s 30th anniversary is If You Want It Come and Get It, a collection of 16 performances collected from six of the eight albums she has recorded for Rounder, including the collaboration with Marcia Ball and Tracey Nelson, Sing It! No tracks are included from her live album and also there are no tracks from her gospel album. 

What stands out is the consistency and high level of her vocals. She is a warm singer who can belt it, but raises the roof mostly to accent the lyrics. Producer Scott Billington has constantly sought out choice new material along with finding lesser known gems, and she can tear into a soul ballad like Love of My Man as well as a rocking The New Rules, dealing with the new male-female relationships. 

A wonderful singer she adds her own voice to songs associated with others, even with her straight reading of the Bobby Bland classic, Yield Not to Temptation, from the Sing It! album. Love Don’t Change is a previously unissued track from the sessions for that album. The rendition of the title track is an extended performance of the track from her Handy-Award winning album My Heart’s in Memphis. The later tune was co-written by Dan Penn, one of several songwriters who have brought material to producer Scott Billington over the years. The late Doc Pomus and Mac Rebennack (Dr. John) contributed I Never Fool Nobody But Me, with a nice New Orleans R&B piano backing from David Torkanowsky. 

Add some of the finest Crescent City and Memphis musicians such as drummer Herman Ernest, organist Sammy Berfect, bassist George Porter, guitarists Michael Toles, and Renard Poché and saxophonists Foots Samuel and Red Tyler, and it is not surprising that Ms Thomas has produced some extremely fine recordings for Rounder which are well sampled here.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

RIP Robert 'Chick' Willis

Just heard that Robert 'Chick' Willis has passed on (It was posted on his Facebook page). He had been battling lung cancer for some time.

Above he is seen in 2005 playing show at Lamont's in PoMonkey Maryland (Charles County). He always put on a great show mixing straight blues with a few bawdy ones including "Stoop Down Baby" which was a hit for him in the late sixties. A cousin of Chuck Willis, I had the pleasure seeing him a number of times at Lamont's where he would play regularly. He wrote a variety of originals and did strong personal renditions of such blues classics as "Love Me With a Feeling" and "Let Me Play With Your Poodle."

In a 2006 review of the tribute record he did with DC area saxophonist Jacques Johnson, I wrote "Its been close to forty years since this writer acquired a 45 by one Chick Willis that included a solid rendition of Guitar Slim’s The Things I Used to Do. Shortly thereafter, Chick recorded another single that would generate his career defining song, Stoop Down Baby. Such a song can be a blessing and a curse because it does provide work but it is also an albatross that prevents folks from appreciating just how good and varied a blues performer he is as opposed to be limited to bawdy double entendre numbers."

Chick was a terrific, soulful singer and guitarist. He is part of a dying breed of blues artists today. It is becoming unfortunately rare to hear folks like Chick anymore at what are 'supposed' blues festivals.

Here is Chick from the last time I saw him performing (again at Lamont's in 2012). He certainly liked that outfit.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Charlie Musselwhite Visits The Juke Joint Chapel

Over 45 years ago a young Charlie Musselwhite recorded his first album for Vanguard Records. His career that has found him become an elder statesman of the Chicago styled blues which has found him playing with so many legends of the music, exploring Brazilian music (and incorporating aspects of such music in his own) as well as leave a legacy of over twenty albums. His latest album is Juke Joint Chapel on his own Henrietta Records label. This was recorded at The Shack Up Inn, on Highway 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi and had him with a band including guitarist Matt Stubbs, bassist Mike Phillips and drummer June Core (an alumnus of the late Robert Lockwood Jr’s Band).

Its a fine band that plays with a rootsy, idiomatic approach. June Core’s drumming is particularly noteworthy, but it is Musselwhite himself who sings and plays with a vigor that has not been apparent on some of his recent recordings. On those his vocals conveyed a sense of world-weariness to some extent and his harp playing was somewhat more evocative of the second Sonny Boy Williamson. Here his vocals are a bit more direct and his harp playing has a bot harder sound. This is apparent in the opening rendition of Eddie Taylor’s Bad Boy, as well as his reprisal of Shakey Jake’s Roll Your Money Maker, with Stubbs evoking Magic Sam’s guitar playing and Phillips providing a backing vocal.

There is a strong cover of Little Walter’s It Ain’t Right, that brings back memories of Musselwhite's forty year old albums on Arhoolie, and his Blues Overtook Me as he sings about how the blues took over when he was a child. Another Musselwhite original, Strange Land, has a lyric about getting lost and having to find his way set against a rocking Catfish Blues groove. Stubbs crisp, trebly playing is quite effective, and Core again displays his ability to push the groove and add interesting accents in a manner few blues drummers do today. Another choice original is Feel It in Your Heart where he takes us on his journey to Brazil as he celebrate show music can bring us together with a driving groove that has a Brazilian accent. 

The album closes with Duke Pearson’s Cristo Redentor, originally recorded by Donald Byrd and covered by Musselwhite on his debut album. It remains a showpiece for him and his nuanced playing evidences not simply his virtuosity, but his good taste. The location recording quality is fine so that Musselwhite and his fine band sound almost like this was a studio recording. The result, Juke Joint Chapel, may be one of Musselwhite’s finest recordings in some time.

I received my review copy from a publicist for the release. It is available from and Charlie's website, Here Charlie performs Blues Overtook Me. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Planet D Nonet Rays Of The Sun

The Planet D Nonet is a Detroit based big little band that plays a range of music form jump blues to repertoire jazz performances. The music of Sun Ra has been one of the sources that they mined in the past, and they were joined at the end of the last year by trumpeter Michael Ray, an alumni of Sun Ra's Arkestra, who has continued to play Sun Ra's music in his own groups. The result is a new album Rays of the Sun on Eastlawn Records that provides new interpretations of Sun Ra's repertoire.

The origin of this recording happened when drummer RJ Spangler, one of the leaders of Planet D heard from Michael that he would be in Detroit. It was recorded at bassist Joel Peterson’s place, Trinosophies, and recorded (in Spangler’s words) “in the style of a Grateful Dead taper,” given a small budget. Co-leader trumpeter James O’Donnell and trombonist John Paxton have also known Ray for a number of years. Ray apparently fit in well with the Nonet and the band either played Joshua James arrangements or Rob E. Cohen’s transcriptions. 

Joshua James is one of the stand-out players here on baritone and soprano saxophonists as well as clarinet and bass clarinet. Mention also must be made of the keyboards of Mike Malis and Daniel Bennett’s clarinet. Ray is of course playing familiar music (some of which he also plays in his own Kosmic Krewe) and contributes some lead vocals as the rhythm section percolates in support of the marvelous interplay amongst the horns and some nice soloing. While there are some chanting, it is briefer than one might experience during Sun Ra’s live performances which were very theatrical in addition to musical.

The music here is more of Sun Ra’s cosmic 1960s and 1970s mode with a bit less focus on some of the more Tadd Dameron-ish bop stylings of Sun Ra’s fifties band or Sun Ra’s revisiting of classic Fletcher Henderson arrangements that the prior East Lawn recording of Sun Ra’s music We Travel The Spaceways. The band sounds pretty solid and plays they interstellar numbers with a real feel for Sun Ra’s own performances (that have been well documented) although the sound lacks some bite (likely a result of how it was recorded) which is the only quibble with this production. It should be noted that poet John Sinclair recites one of Sun Ra’s poems for a bonus performance of There is Change in the Air. This can be obtained from and more information can be found on

I received my review copy from Eastlawn Records. Here is the Planet D Nonet playing some Sun Ra.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Aaron Moore - Boot ‘Em Up!

Delmark Records posted in Facebook that pianist Aaron Moore has passed away. Here is my review of his Delmark album, Boot ‘Em Up!, that was published in the November/December 1999 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 242). 

Chicago pianist Aaron Moore worked with many legendary artists in Chicago’s scene, but did not appear on record until recently. Delmark has issued Boot ‘Em Up! This is a lively album of original traditionally based piano blues, all written by Mr. Moore. He is supported by James Wheeler on guitar, Robert Stroger on bass and Willie Smith on drums. Roosevelt Sykes and Memphis Slim are Moore’s most obvious influences, and he does suggest somewhat the late Mr. Sykes, if he is not quite of the level of that master. He reworks traditional blues melodies and themes in a fresh way. For example, You Look So Good to Me bears some resemblance to Jimmy Reed’s Take Some Insurance Out, while the rocking title track seems related to several of Sykes’ uptempo romps and Real Thrown Down reworks the Down Home Blues melody. The rhythm section keeps a propulsive swinging beat, and James Wheeler adds nifty guitar fills and breaks. This contributes to the attractiveness of Moore’s unpretentious, genuine performances here.

Chico Hamilton's Joyous Shout

Sixth Avenue Romp Heritage 

Its been quite a career for the masterful drummer Chico Hamilton who, on the occasion of his 85th Birthday, had four CDs issued on the Joyous Shout label. A Los Angeles native he started on clarinet and played in a high school band with Ernie Royal, Jack Kelso, Charles Mingus and Dexter Gordon and played in such bands as T-Bone Walker, Floyd Ray, Lorenzo Flennoy, Lester Young, and Lionel Hampton. During Army Service in World War 11 studied under Jo Jones and joined Lena Horne in 1948.

He played with Charlie Barnett, Billy Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., and Billie Holiday including the Carnegie Hall Concert and later formed his first quartet with Gerry Mulligan and recorded first album as a leader with Pacific Jazz in 1955. A pioneer in chamber jazz he formed an unusual quintet in 1955 with cello, flute, guitar, bass and drums which acquired national following. The quintet’s original personnel included Buddy Collette and Jim Hall. His bands served as an incubator for other talent like Eric Dolphy, Charles Lloyd, Gabor Szabo, Larry Coryell and others. He has been honored as a JazzMaster and remains a vital musician and leader with these four different celebrations of his musical career.

All four discs feature his “Euphoria” group with Cary DeNigris on guitar, Paul Ramsey on bass, Evan Schwam on flute, tenor & soprano saxes, Karolina Strassmayer on flute, alto & soprano saxes, Andrew Hadro on flute, alto & baritone saxes, and Jeremy Carlstedt on percussion.

The first release is Juniflip with guest appearances by the late Arthur Lee of the rock group Love (who shared bills with Hamilton in the sixties), actor-vocalist Bill Henderson and Hamilton alumni, trombonist Georgo Bohanon and bass trombonist Jimmy Cheatham, who augment the Euphoria group and add to the chamber group flavor of the band on the five tracks they appear. On the opening Mr. Hamilton, with its swinging blues groove, they riff behind Eric Schwam’s tenor solo and the horns all add color behind Paul Ramsey’s bass guitar solo. Karolina Strassmeyer opens on flute for A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That, a Hamilton composition that opens with a moody feel before Hamilton picks up the tempo and the trombones trade fours with the saxophones riffing in support. Its marvelous hearing Hamilton driving the band without getting obtrusive and Bohanon sounds very strong here. Vocalist Henderson, evoking Joe Williams, is initially backed by Hamilton for the first few lines of Ain’t She Sweet, then joined by the band on a fresh arrangement of the song that features Henderson scatting with Schwam providing a responsive foil, while his other feature is the standard best known from the big band era, Don’t Be That Way. Again a nice arrangement from Hamilton with the song opening as a duet between Henderson and DeNigris which then shifts into a bossa groove. The old Georgie Fame hit ’Yeah is redone and dedicated to Carlos Santana with a bit more swing (not that the original did not swing) with Cheatham’s bass trombone singing the melody to kick this number off. Lee is heard on What’s Your Story Morning Glory, which was recorded by Saunders King and likely heard growing up by the veteran Hamilton. It opens up with nice guitar from DeNigris which is punctuated by some effectively placed Horn riffs. More storming tenor from Schwam before the tempo slows down for DeNigris’ guitar on Cary’s Footsteps.

Believe, the second release, features guest vocals from the great Fontella Bass as well as trombonist Bohanon, who appears to supplement the playing of Euphoria on several numbers. The opening Evans-ville sports nice bossa groove underlying a flighty flute opening with Bohanon’s trombone adding sum funk before a funky middle section which provides Schwam space for some gritty sax before the closing light bossa groove with more interplay between flute and sax. Bass handles the vocal on Love Me A Long, Long Time, a nice walking blues groove with bebop touches in the vocal and the arrangement of a staple of Gerald Wilson’s Orchestra. ’My Brother Don and My Brother Bernie are Hamilton’s tributes to his brothers and feature more solid ensemble work and soloing. The latter number opens as a languid ballad before hitting a samba groove with Bohanon sweetly taking it home. Bass also sings on Baby Won’t You Please Go Home, which was part of the influential Jimmy Lunceford Band’s repertoire. The opening chorus has just Bass backed by bassist Ramsey with Hamilton and guitarist DeNigris jumping in for the second verse and Schwam adds tenor starting with the third verse. The other Bass vocal is a fine gospel selection, Believe in Him. Ramsey’s bass line for Alive evokes one of Jimi Hendrix’s recording before Schwam lays down some tenor funk. Hamilton and Eurphoria salute the Who on The Kids Are Alright, another delightful indication of Hamilton’s marvelous eclecticism.

Sixth Avenue Romp (referring to Hamilton’s home until he moved to New York in the sixties) is a bit more slanted towards classic rhythm and blues with Shuggie Otis guesting on T-Bone Walker’s Strollin’ With Bone; vocalist Brenna Bavis and Allman Brothers drummer Jaimoe are on a very soulful rendition of Smokey Robinson’s You Really Gotta Hold on Me; and trumpeter Jon Faddis is on muted trumpet and sings on Billy Strayhorn’s immortal Take the A Train. Junior Walker’s Cleo’s Mood and Cleo’s Back provide some gutbucket sax and show Hamilton’s ability to play funky yet still swing, while Hamilton’s high hat and cymbal work help kick off the Basie chestnut Topsy. Hamilton and Euphoria provide a fittingly somber cast to Bill Wither’s Ain’t No Sunshine with the horn voicings adding to the feel, while they get the groove going on the Booker T & the MG’s Chicken Pox. The variety here is illustrated by I’m Still Thirsty (Chico’s Accordion Dub), which has a Central American flavor to it and its repeated riff will certainly get the dance floor full.

Heritage is the final CD in this excellent series of recordings. Bohanon adds his signature playing to this disc as does vocalist Marya Lawrence, daughter of former Hamilton band member Arnie Lawrence. This disc finds Chico looking back to his formative influences, Chicano Heritage, as well as several tributes by Hamilton to some of his musical alumni and associates, including Arnie Lawrence (on One for Arnie), Gerry Mulligan (on Mulligan Stew) and Gabor Szabo (on One for Gabor). Marya Lawrence brings a slinky innocence to I Got a Right to Sing the Blues, whose arrangement is based on that of the Gerald Wilson Band and Bohanon channels the blues once more. Her rendition of Love Me or Leave Me, is inspired by Lena Horne’s recording, whose group at the time included Hamilton. There are three Gerald Wilson originals performed including the hot latin-groove of Viva Tirado whose opening sounds like it might have been on a Santana recording from three decades back with DeNigris superb early on this one before Bohanon takes off, and Blues for Yna Yna is another impressive feature for saxophonist Schwam. Hamilton himself takes the vocal with quite a bit of charm on Billy Strayhorn’s marvelous ballad, Something to Live For, with marvelous guitar by DeNigris in support, that conclude this series of recordings on the high level of the earlier releases.

The consistency of these recordings and the continued high level of Hamilton’s playing, show that his music continues to offer us so much. 

This review was originally published in the January-February 2007 issue of the Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 290). I have posted it in memory of this jazz legend who recently passed away. These recordings should still be available (and available as downloads).

Friday, November 08, 2013

Lou Pride Finds Ain’t No More Love In This House.

There is a bittersweet feeling Severn Records’ David Earl expresses in his brief liner notes to his label’s release of the final recording by the late soul-singer Lou Pride, Ain’t No More Love In This House. While he has great joy in releasing this final recording by Pride for his fans a year after he passed away, Earl notes “Maybe as the years go by I will be able to listen as [his loyal fans] will.”

Like recent Severn releases, this is handsomely produced with an excellent studio band of guitarist Johnny Moeller, keyboard whiz Benjie Porecki, bassist Steve Gomes and drummer Robb Stupka. Trumpeter Kenny Rittenhouse arranged and conducted the punchy horn section and the backing vocals are well integrated into the recordings. What a marvelous recording this is with memorable originals and choice covers, excellent musicianship and Pride being in top form.

One of the themes of the songs are marriages and relationships breaking apart such as the title song that Pride penned where he comes home to discover that his wife has moved out and left a note that Pride hadn't done anything wrong, just that she found another. Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast has a similar theme with his marriage is over and as he is leaving his child cries for him not to leave. I Didn’t Take Your Woman is a wonderful recasting of an Ann Peebles recording as Pride tells a man that he didn’t take the man’s woman, rather it was the man's his failure to take care of her. It is set against a smoldering backing in the manner of classic Willie Mitchell productions for Hi Records.

Take It Slow is a marvelous slow jam, soul ballad, while She Boom Boom Me is a blues with Moeller playing sizzling guitar with riffing horns in support. Here Pride sings about his Mississippi woman and whom he has a special package for delivery (maybe a mojo or black cat bone or maybe her ya ya that Lou just can’t leave alone). I’m Gotta Move On Up is an strong uptown reworking of a 45 odd year old Luther Allison recording that Pride nails with his controlled, yet fervent, vocal. Pride’s lovely We Can Do What We Want, is listed as a duet with Caleb Green. Knowing Caleb Green from his singing the National Anthem at Washington, DC sporting events, I would never have guessed that was Green's falsetto providing harmony here.

The closing interpretation of the Simply Red pop hit Holding Back The Tears sounds like it was from a classic R&B album from the seventies. It fits in seamlessly with the other songs on this recording. Fans of Bobby Bland, Artie 'Blues Boy' White and the like will love this. Lou Pride may be gone but his music more than lingers on and Ain’t No More Love In This House, stands up as amongst the finest soul recordings of the past couple decades.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a clip of Lou in performance from the Severn Records 10th Anniversary Show.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Bobby Parker Watched His Step

While I have posted this review before, here is my 20 year old review of Bobby Parker's first Black Top album, Bent Out of Shape from 1993. It originally appeared in the March 1993 Jazz & Blues Report (and undoubtedly in the Dc Blues Society's newsletter at around that time. The album currently is out-of-print on CD but one may be able to locate it on ebay or from blues music vendors. Downloads of the album are available on itunes and amazon. To these ears, Bobby's two Black Top albums are as good as any blues albums of the past two decades. It is unfortunate he never had another CD issued but there is a DVD of him live at Montreux that is part of the DVD set from 2003 that is representative of his live performances. I mention that Santana not only cited Bobby as an influence but had him on the bill with Carlos as well as have Bobby share the stage with him. As a friend of Bobby, I thank you Carlos for your love of the music and your acknowledgement of those who helped shaped your own music. I know you are going our sorrow with the passing of someone who meant so much to you as us.

Bobby Parker has been tearing up Washington D.C. area clubs for the past three decades. This Louisiana native was raised in Los Angeles, but the musical bug hit him, and by the mid-fifties he was playing with Paul Williams' band, backing up numerous R&B legends at the Apollo and on tour. Later he moved to DC, where he was a mainstay in the 14th Street clubs. In more recent years he has played a variety of Washington area venues. Bobby recorded a fine 45 for Vee-Jay which included a superb minor-key blues, Blues Get Off My Shoulder, with the first recording of You Got What It Takes (later a hit for Marv Johnson). A year later, he recorded for the Philadelphia V-Tone label, Watch Your Step, which was based on Dizzy Gillespie’s Manteca (with a bit of Ray Charles influence) that was by Spencer Davis. This record led him to be invited to Europe in the late sixties where Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page was one of his fans, and tried to sign him up to that label. He did record for Blue Horizon, cutting the great It’s Hard But It’s Fair.

The release of Bent Out of Shape by Parker on Black Top will certainly open a lot of ears that haven’t heard these rare records, or seen Bobby in performance. Bobby Radcliff told this writer that twenty years ago, Parker was as good as the better known Chicago stars like Otis Rush and Buddy Guy, and I understand from others, that this recording is not different from what Parker was doing twenty years ago. Having watched Bobby for several years one could sense here was someone special, and this recording captures it. The album is comprised of Bobby’s originals with the exception of the Carey Bell song, Break It Up, that Bobby often opens his live dates with. The remakes of his early recordings are all strong performances. Watch Your Step is a particularly hard-hitting reworking of his V-Tone recording, although without a vocal chorus. The title track is evocative of some of the late Z.Z. Hill’s recordings, but the band here plays with more of an edge, and Parker’s fiery guitar matches his deep soul singing. Bobby’s A-Go-Go actually a mistitled Go-Go Blues),his tribute to the Go-Go music scene, is perhaps the weakest track here, but that aside, the music here is first rate and almost worth the wait for it to come out. This is simply one of the best blues releases on Black Top of the past few years, set apart not only by Bobby’s strong guitar playing, but by his fervent, soulful blues preaching.

Here is a little clip of Bobby, Carlos Santana, Buddy Guy and vocalist Barbara Morrison that is on the Buddy Guy DVD that is part of the Carlos Santana Blues at Montreux DVD package I mentioned above.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Bobby Parker - The Link From Dizzy To The Beatles

It has been a couple days since my friend Bobby Parker passed on which has led to numerous expressions of sorrow of a loss of a terrific musician, but also a person. I will be blogging about Bobby's contributions to the blues and the DC music scene in subsequent posts, but for this post I want to focus on perhaps his most famous recording, Watch Your Step. As an introduction we have the late John Lennon discussing this recording and the impact it had on himself and The Beatles.

One thing Bobby does not say in this clip, but which he told me on several occasions, is that the guitar riff was itself inspired by a riff in Dizzy Gillepsie's Manteca. Bobby loved jazz and his long-term fans will remember him opening his shows with Thelonious Monk's Straight No Chaser, using the Miles Davis arrangement. here is a clip of Dizzy playing Manteca.

 Now let us listen to the full original V-Tone recording of Watch Your Step.

I will let you fine folk go to youtube on your own to listen to The Beatles. Incidentally, John Lennon is also said to have noted that not only I Feel Fine, but also Day Tripper were inspired by Watch Your Step.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Joe Fiedler's Bug Sackbut Does The Sackbut Stomp

Trombonist's Joe Fiedler's Big Sackbut is a quartet of Fiedler and fellow trombonists Ryan Keberle and Luis Bonilla along with the tuba player Marcus Rojas. Inspired by the World Saxophone Quartet, Big Sackbut eschews having a rhythm section and instead the three trombones and the brass bass provided Rojas explores the originals from Fiedler along with three covers. The group has a new recording, "Sackbut Stomp" on Multiphonics Music that continues in the vein of Fieder's prior recording "Big Sackbut." Bonilla replaces Josh Roseman from that earlier recording. Steven Bernstein, on slide trumpet, guests on three of the nine selections here which provides for a a little more variety in the tonal colors of this group.

The opening title track provides an example of the interplay between the four before followed by a slightly  rendition of Roger Miller's "King of the Road" with Bernstein's slide trumpet providing a whimsical feel with the trombones providing a dynamic background before Rojas displays his nimbleness on the tuba. Bennie Wallace's "Eight Page Bible" is built upon a bluesy motif with each trombonist taking a solo that he first introduces unaccompanied before the other two and Rojas provide support. Fielder's own incorporation of Duke Ellington's "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" is particularly delightful. It is followed by a wonderful rendition of the Gil Fuller and Chano Pozo classic "Tin Tin Deo" on which Bernstein is along featured along with Bonilla. Fiedler did all the arrangements and this one particularly stands out. The lovely "Pittsburgh Morning" allows Fielder to showcase the warmth he is quite capable of while Keberle sounds lively and focused on "The Schlep."

Given the limited tonal palette of the instrumentation, this may be a recording that some may wish to sample a few selections at a time. At the same time, listening to the performances several times one hears nuances in the performances that make them continue to sound fresh. There is an audaciousness in a trombone-tuba group playing without a rhythm section. Mixed with excellent playing and arrangements, "Sackbut Stomp" is another fascinating, and often, exhilarating recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hank Mowery Account To Me

At first glance, Hank Mowery’s new recording Account To Me (Old Pal) might seem like a tribute to the late Gary Primich. The recording after all includes 5 songs written by Primich (2 of which were never previously recorded) and was produced with members of Primich’s family. Tad Robinson, himself a singer, songwriter and harmonica player like Primich and Mowery, calls it more of a collaboration between Mowery and Primich’s family. Adding to the collaborative character of this recording is the presence of bassist Patrick Recob from Primich’s band. Others on this include guitarist Troy Amaro, Chris Corey on keyboards, and John Large on drums and percussion. Jimmie Stager plays National steel guitar and sings on one track and Junior Valentine adds 2nd guitar to 3 selections.

Mowery certainly establishes himself with this recording as a singer, harmonica writer and songwriter with his rocking original Spend a Little Time, that kicks off this CD. Besides his strong, natural vocal and harp playing, Corey shines on piano and the Wurlitzer piano here. Account For Me is a previously unrecorded song that Primich penned and this soulful ballad has a bit of swamp pop feel. In addition to his heartfelt vocal he adds some very nice harp with Amaro taking a short solo full of bite. The rendition of Primich’s Put The Hammer Down is a nice cover of Primich’s original with tight, understated ensemble playing (with a neat repeated guitar figure) and is followed by a strong original slow blues from Mowery If I Knew What I Know which opens with him blasting on the harp. 

Memphis Slim and Matt Murphy’s Banana Oil is a nice latin-flavored instrumental with jazz flavoring that allows Corey (on organ), Amara and Mowery to shine during their sharply focused solos. Tricky Game sports a understated New Orleans groove that contrasts with the solid shuffle My Home, with the lyrics lamenting the absence of his woman’s love. In addition to the splendid playing by all, Mowery stands out with his relaxed, natural vocals. Bassist Recob ably handles the vocal on his original, Target, built on a blues vamp that goes back at least to Little Willie John. Amaro stands out with his solo as well as his tone as part of the atmospheric backing here. Mowery provides harp backing to Jimmie Stagger’s vocal and guitar on a nice cover of Robert Wilkins’ depression era recording, That’s No Way To Get Along, that closes “Account To Me.” The music on this may sound familiar as Wilkins, after he gave up blues, redid this song as The Prodigal Son, which was covered by the Rolling Stones. 

As noted, Account To Me is both a tribute to Gary Primich and a collaboration with Primich’s family. Mowery is himself a strong blues voice that is showcased on a most entertaining recording. This writer looks forward to hearing more form Mowery in the future.

My review copy was provided by a publicist for this release. Here is a clip of Hank Mowery performing

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ursula Ricks My Street

A presence on the Baltimore and Washington blues scenes for a couple decades, Ursula Ricks certainly sounds poised to break out on the National music scene with her new recording My Street (Severn Records) with blues, soul and more. Ricks brings her powerful, nuanced singing and her strong original songs here backed by Severn’s house rhythm section of Johnny Moeller (from The Fabulous Thunderbirds) on guitar; Kevin Anker on keyboards; Steve Gomes on bass and Robb Stupka on drums. A number of selections feature horns and/or strings arranged and conducted by the legendary Willie Henderson with DC jazz stalwarts Kenny Rittenhouse, Reginald Cyntje and Leigh Pilzer among those heard. There are also guest appearances from Kim Wilson and Mike Welch. Someone commented to me, with the Severn house band even he or I would sound good. Well I don't think anything would make me sound good, but his point about the quality of the backing is well spoken.

As for Ursula Ricks, her smoky and husky vocals are outstanding. Her controlled, unforced delivery stands out in a manner akin to Nina Simone. She never bellows, screams or sounds constipated. Rather she evokes classic sixties soul recordings by the like of Carol Fran or Betty Everett. Not only does she she deliver the goods vocally, but she wrote some wonderful new blues and soul songs starting with Tobacco Road. This is not the John D. Loudermilk song, but an original about traveling from West Virginia to New Orleans with the chitlin' circuit working her heart. It is set against a swampy, smoldering backing and also Kim Wilson takes a tough harmonica solo. This same, tough yet understated backing also provides a foundation for her funky rendition of a lesser known Bobby Rush number Mary Jane, with its anti-drug message. Sweet Tenderness, with its strings in the backing evokes Barry White's recordings while another number with strings, her Due, is an excellent soul-blues in the manner of classic Hi Records. 

The title track, My Street provides a gritty description of contemporary urban life as Ms. Ricks moans that all she knows is she has to move away. The level of the rest of My Street is of a similar level. The songs and her vocals ring with conviction and the backing is excellent on a superb recording that will hopefully enable Ms. Ricks to receive the recognition and rewards her talent and music deserves. 

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

Monday, October 28, 2013

James Booker's Classified: Remixed And Expanded

James Carroll Booker, that genius of New Orleans piano tradition, passed some 30 years ago on November 8, 1983, several months after Rounder issued his final studio recording Classified. Rounder has just issued an expanded version Classified: Remixed And Expanded to celebrate the Thirtieth Anniversary of the original release of along with a documentary about Booker, Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker. This new expanded Classified adds alternate takes and previously unissued recordings from the October 1982 sessions that produced the original LP.

Booker is a revered figure in the history of New Orleans music who incorporated the inventions of Professor Longhair into his repertoire that ranged from boogie blues, New Orleans R&B, jazz and classical. His legacy as a pianist, vocalist and songwriter shines even brighter three decades later. His influence is heard in such performers as Dr. John, Harry Connick Jr., Tom McDermott, John Boutté and Henry Butler. Booker played on a number of studio recordings in addition to ones he made under his own name (he is on keyboards on Freddie King’s Cotillion Recordings for example). In the booklet accompanying this reissue we get Scott Billington’s essay in addition to Bunny Matthews original 1983 notes. Billington’s essay provides this overview and cites a number of those who might be called Booker’s musical children.

To use a term associated with Duke Ellington, Booker was “Beyond Category.” The depth of his repertoire is suggested by the performances here including the opening signature title tune that opens this compilation which opens with some nice solo playing before joined by a small backing trio that included legendary tenor saxophonist, Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler. The contents of this include a Professor Longhair medley, two takes on Lloyd Price’s Lawdy Miss Clawdy (one of which is solo), Warsaw Concerto (which explains why he was sometimes called the Bronze Liberace and along with Madame X displays how accomplished he was a s pianist of classical music), a medley of Tico Tico / Papa Was a Rascal / So Swell When You're Well, (and this last number was one Aretha recorded), his solo piano reworking of Little Willie John’s Hit All Around the World, a manic vocal on King of the Road, the classic Art Neville ballad, All the Things You Are, and “Yes Sir, That's My Baby,” the one selection on which he plays the organ (with the sounding like he is playing a calliope for a carousel). This last track is one of the several with Red Tyler’s saxophone. Among these selections, a highlight is the Fats Domino flavored, One For the Highway, again with Red Tyler taking a choice tenor solo.

Thirty years after being originally released, Classified remains as a cornerstone of James Booker’s recorded legacy. His genius is well served by this well thought out and expanded reissue.

I received my review copy from Rounder Records. Here is a trailer for the film documentary, Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker.