Friday, June 30, 2017

Chelsea McBride's Socialist Night School The Twilight Fall

Chelsea McBride's Socialist Night School
The Twilight Fall
 Browntasauras Records

24-year old award-winning composer, orchestrator and multi-instrumentalist Chelsea McBride leads the Toronto based big band, The Socialist Night School which is heard here on its first full length recording. This big band is a unique cross-generational collection of some of Toronto finest musicians, where award-winning veterans like William Carn, Colleen Allen & Brownman Ali find themselves standing next to some of Toronto's hottest jazz 20-somethings that provides a platform for McBride to tell her musical stories. Her approach is in a manner similar to that of Bob Brookmeyer, Maria Schneider and Darcy James Argue, but here she displays her own fascinating approach. About the music here, each tune has it's own narrative direction accompanying it, and outlining a life-cycle that starts you at birth, and then -- one tune at a time -- moves you forward through a life-time of experiences.

Musically, she provides a varying canvas of textures, and approaches employed here ranging from the opening ballad, "Ambleside," with a vocal from Alex Samaras about waking up on a beach. Besides her own punchy tenor sax, her scoring of the reeds accompanying the vocals along with drummer Geoff Bruce's subtle cymbal play that evokes waves crashing on the beach make a picturesque performance. In contrast to the pastoral "Ambleside," there is the nervous energy "Intransitory," with its rock-tinged rhythmic feel, Chris Bruder's staccato piano, searching alto sax and David Riddel's fuzz-toned electric guitar which builds in intensity.

Of the title track she asks the listener: "Close your eyes and picture your six-year old self in onesie pajamas falling through a purple sky with orange clouds.  Until you land in a carnival -- broken, tilted Ferris wheel on one side, dusty abandoned carousel, chipped paint, fading, on the other. …" The swirling musical colors along with biting guitar as the horns adding coloring and contrast until the horns explode before blistering trumpet as the tempo transitions into a march-like cadence before the musical storytelling of the bluesy "Smooth (or What I Should Have Said Instead)," with Samaras singing to a person one did not want to see but needs to make amends to, "If I had something to say, and something to prove, would you just be confused?" This is another number with the leader's distinctive tenor sax playing.

Other tracks take us further through the transit of our lives as McBride herself suggests in her own compositional narrative, with The Socialist Night School's performances of these imaginative compositions, wonderfully scored and played with considerable spirit, whether a trombone solo on "Arrival of Pegasus," or fiery tenor saxophone in the perky "Foot in Mouth," with some. "The Twilight Fail," is a multi-faceted musical journey that will delight listeners, and makes one hope to hear more from this Canadian composer and her big band.

I received a review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 372). Here is a video that gives a teaser of the music on "The Twilight Fail."


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Danielle Wertz, Tal Cohen Intertwined

Danielle Wertz, Tal Cohen

This collaboration between vocalist Danielle Wertz and pianist Tal Cohen is a delightful, lovely recording of standards and originals that is ultimately full of charm. Wertz, from Falls Church, Virginia, received a degree in Jazz Vocal Performance from the University of Miami's Frost School of Music, and was a semi-finalist in the 2015 Thelonious Monk International. Cohen's piano in part reflects the folk songs and classical music he played growing up in Israel. He moved to Perth, Australia at the age of 16 where he continued his musical studies at the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts. The stablished in Australia as a performer, he is the winner of the 2015 Barry Harris International Jazz Competition in Detroit.

"Intertwined," is an intimate session in which the two develop their ideas together, It opens with saxophonist Jamie Oehlers (one of the two tracks he plays on) introducing the standard "Beautiful Love," on which Oehlers solos as well as does Wertz scatting after her lovely delivery of the lyrics. She has enchanting voice that sings the lyrics in a soft, almost dreamy fashion, while the interplay between her, Cohen, and on this track Oehlers, has a fugue-like quality. The title track is an original by the duo where you her scatted, wordless vocals is set off against Cohen's piano again displaying a chamber-like quality in this duet. There is the longing of Wertz's vocal on "But Not For Me," before the other original by the pair, "Chopin Meets Abach," where her vocal again provides an instrumental voice as opposed to simply interpreting lyrics. Other standards receiving very appealing interpretations include "I Wish You Love" (with some scatting by Wertz intertwined with Cohen's piano); "Manhattan in the Rain" with Cohen's spare piano introduction and backing; and "Autumn Leaves," on which Oehlers contributes to the wistful rendition of this classic.

A brief snippet of the title track closes this marvelous recording. Danielle Wertz enchants with her voice, tone and phrasing while complemented by Cohen's uncluttered accompaniments (as well as the accents added by Oehlers' saxophone on two selections), resulting in wonderful listening.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is a recent performance of Danielle Wertz with a fine trio led by Chris Grasso.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Laura Tate Let's Just Be Real

Laura Tate
Let's Just Be Real
811 Gold Records

Texas born vocalist Laura Tate has a resume that goes way beyond the blues and soul rooted music on this recording. She is an actress who performed in musicals and other theatrical productions, as well as television shows like "Dallas: and HBO's "First and Ten," as well as engaging in film production and directing music videos, commercials and documentaries. As far as her vocal influences, she states "I grew up listening to everything from rock and roll and Motown to show tunes, and soulful ballads. I loved Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and other greats from the past along with the Beatles, James Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Carole King, and Linda Ronstadt. I have been singing their songs ever since." Her vocals on this is supported by a terrific studio band including the producer, arranger and engineer, Terry Wilson on bass guitar; Billy Watts on guitars; Jeff Paris on keyboards and mandolin; Tony Braunagel on drums; Lee Thornberg on brass; and Paulie Cerra on saxophones. Leslie Smith adds percussion and Teresa James on backing vocals.

This is a wonderfully recorded album full of fresh songs, most in a classic rhythm & blues vein and even the covers are not your typical standards including a wonderful reworking of a Thin Lizzy favorite, "Boys Are Back In Town." Tate is a soulful singer with a relaxed, unforced delivery that gets one's attention with the opening "Nobody Gets Hurt," that has hints of classic Hi Records as well as the easy rocking groove of "If That Ain't Love." She is quite good, if not quite on the level of Irma Thomas, whose Allen Toussaint penned "Hitting on Nothing" she does a nice cover of. The studio band captures the feel of the 1963 original and includes a nice tenor sax solo.

After a jazz-tinged late night blue ballad "Can't Say No," Tate reworks "Boys Are Back In Town," into a reflective lament for an outstanding performance, "Still Got the Blues" is a superb urban blues with a relaxed vocal and Watts playing strongly on guitar. "I Need a Man" is another solid blues performance with a vocal that might be described as Peggy Lee crossed with Etta Jones. It has a fine piano solo from Paris. The title track is another lovely ballad marvelously played and followed by the swampy, southern-rock blues, "I Know You Live." Watts contributes both slide guitar backing and a tremolo laced background riff while Paris takes a brief solo on the his. The Stephen Bruton penned "Big Top Hat," evokes Louis Jordan while Tate sings the lyrics with plenty of sass.

"Wildest Dreams," is a solid country-rock performance in the vein of seventies Linda Ronstadt that is the final track on a first-rate recording by a fine singer that is wonderfully backed throughout.

I received a review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of her performing.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Cash Box Kings Royal Mint

The Cash Box Kings
Royal Mint
Alligator Records

Those wanting some house party, rocking real deal blues need go no further than The Cash Box Kings' new disc, the first for Alligator. With the strong singing from Oscar Wilson and harmonica and occasional vocals from Joe Nosek, guitar from Billy Flynn and/or Joel Patterson, drums from Kenny 'Beedy Eyes' Smith or Mark Haynes, keyboards from Lee Kanehira, this is one straight shot of Chicago blues mixed with a dose of jump blues and a touch of rockabilly.

The rollicking reworking of Amos Milburn's hit, "House Party," certainly kicks this off on the right start and one takes notice of Wilson's strong singing along with Nosek's full toned harmonica. It is followed by a solid rendition of Jimmy Reed's "I'm Gonna Get My Baby," with strong singing and harp and a terrific shuffle groove. It is on cover of a lesser known Muddy Waters number, "Flood," that Wilson's vocals evokes the legendary Chicago giant while Flynn's slide guitar suggests Waters' guitar style and Kanehira is equally solid. An acoustic rendition of Robert Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues," set to the "Rollin' and Tumblin'" music and the cover of "Sugar Sweet" additionally showcase how strongly Wilson and company evoke Waters' classic sound. On Junior Wells' "I'm a Stranger," Kanehira lays down greasy organ under the vocal while Flynn's slide is in Robert Nighthawk vein

As a singer Nosek  is less impressive, although a honest, unforced and straight-forward vocalist.  His topical original, "Build That Wall," which is set to a Tex-Mex rockabilly backing, is a delightful with a Chuck Berry flavored guitar break. "Blues For ChiRag," is a strong urban, topical blues about violence in Chicago today, and the humorous shuffle "If You Got A Jealous Woman Facebook Ain't Your Friend," with some terrific guitar from both Flynn and Patterson besides Wilson's full-bodied singing. Another party song is the rendition of Clifton Chenier's rocker "All Night Long," with solid horns, a terrific piano break and solid horns along with a terrific Flynn solo. Nosek's easy going singing and harp delights on the raggy, closing number, "Don't Let Life Tether You Down."

"Royal Mint" is chock full of some exceptional performances, and the level of the music is never less than very entertaining. Listening to this, it is easy to see why they have a strong fan base, one that is certain to expand.

I received a review copy from Alligator. Here The Cash Box Kings perform Muddy Waters' "Blow, Wind, Blow."

Monday, June 26, 2017

Leigh Pilzer Strunkin’

Leigh Pilzer

One of the mainstays of the very fertile Washington D.C. jazz scene, this is the first album for baritone saxophonist, composer and arranger Leigh Pilzer. A member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and The DIVA Jazz Orchestra as well as one who frequently can be heard with other area ensembles. On this album, recorded live at the 6th Annual Washington Women in Jazz Festival, she leads a terrific ensemble that also includes Jen Krupa, trombone; Sherrie Maricle, drums; Amy Shook, bass; and Jackie Warren, piano. She composed six of the eight compositions with Amy Shook contributing "Brag Time," and Jen Krupa contributing “Duel at Dawn."

The title track is a jaunty number that to me suggests a classic Prestige Records date with Pilzer's vigorous, heavy tone suggesting the likes of Pepper Adams, Nick Brignola, and Cecil Payne, while Krupa's trombone complements Pilzer and displays her own strong playing, with Warren also spotlighted. This is a superb rhythm section. There is a nice romantic tinge to "Blue Moo," with Krupa taking the lead as Pilzer weaves around her on the head on this wonderfully paced number that also showcases Amy Shook's firm, driving bass. A Harry Carney-Duke Ellington flavor is heard on a lovely ballad "Miss Ally In Allyworld," while Shook opens "Brag Time" with a finger popping groove on this hard swinging number that has  marvelous growling trombone in a Tricky Sam Nanton manner, along with Warren's rollicking piano. Pilzer seems to relish focusing on the low end of the baritone's register, yet swings in an effortless sounding manner as on "Thaddish," as well as her bossa nova "It's Anyone But You," with its exchanges between her and Krupa and also provides solo space for all including Marcie. There is a playful opening of bop-laced "Duel at Dawn," with Maricle's drums adding considerable heat with echoes of Tadd Dameron on the close.

What a wonderful recording. These are all musicians playing with passion, intelligence and imagination and with the excellent rhythm section and the marvelous solos, one has a superb recording that has one wanting more.

I received as a download from a publicist. Here is Leigh Pilzer's recent performance at Phillips Collection as part of the 2017 DC Jazz Festival.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Candye Kane White Trash Woman

Candye Kane
White Trash Woman
Ruf Records 

If blues is, as some describe it, “grown-up music, then Candye Kane’s emergence as a blues diva is not far removed from her earlier career in the adult entertainment business. But while her background may make her seem like a novelty, when you hear him pounding the ivories, belting out a remake of Bullmoose Jackson’s Big Fat Mamas Are Back in Style or listen to her caress the country-ish ballad What Happened to That Girl, one realizes her talent leads one to quickly forget the novelty of her background. 

Her latest album, White Trash Woman was recorded in Austin, Texas and is on the German Ruf label. Produced by Mark 'Kaz' Kazanoff, who also leads the horn section, he is joined by a stellar studio band that includes drummer Damien Llanes, bassist Preston Hubbard, guitarist Jeff Ross (with appearances by Johnny Moeller and David Grissom), harp wiz Gary Primich, keyboards by Riley Osbourn. Together they bring together a smorgasbord of blues moods and settings and Candye Kane comes across equally compelling belting out the title track (“It is an honor to be called a trashy broad in the traditions of legends such as Divine and Dixie Rose Lee), and Estrogen Bomb which she is the strong woman who offers no apologies and takes no prisoners when she gets crossed. 

She reworks the Loving Spoonful’s What a Day For a Daydream into a blues while lending a country feel to What Happened to the Girl, and sings about being Misunderstood with the band providing a traditional jazz backing including some nice clarinet. Leiber and Stoller’s I Wanna Do More evokes Little Walter’s hit, My Babe, with its groove and some fine harp by Mr. Primich. The following track, the original It Must Be Love, is a rocking shuffle with a fine fifties T-Bone mixed with B.B. guitar solo and strong jumping horns and a clean, soulful vocal. In contrast Queen of the Wrecking Ball, has her singing woman who breaks hearts with some nice guitar evoking the gulf coast swamp blues sound. 

Other songs include a boogie woogie about sexual self-gratification, and, Mistress Carmen, about a Grand Domme who is proud of her sensuality set to a New Orleans groove (Please Mistress Carmen, we just want to watch you dance), and a lovely love ballad, I Could Fall For You. With truly memorable songs and strong backing, Candye Kane convincingly delivers this varied programme with humor and passion. Candye Kane may be a White Trash Woman but this recording is most certainly high class.

I likely received a review copy from Ruf Records or a publicist. This review original appeared in the September 2005 DC Blues Calendar and the March/April 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 280). Here is a video of Candye (who passed away in 2016 with Little Willie Littlefield (who passed away in 2013).

Friday, June 23, 2017

Nick Schnebelen Live in Kansas City

Nick Schnebelen
Live in Kansas City

This is a follow-up to "Live at Knuckleheads," and features one of the members of the family band, Trampled Under Foot, leading a trio with Cliff Moore on bass, and Adam Hagerman on drums (I am taking this information of Nick's website as no other her personnel is given on the CD cover), although some tracks like the closing "Conformity Blues," sounds like additional musicians are present. Moore was on that earlier album which also featured Heather Newman. From the credits, most of the songs may have originally been by Trampled Under Foot with a few interesting covers.

Musically, this recording comes across as blues-rock. He is a limited singer who certainly invests his vocals with heart, although with a small range. He is quite a guitarist, combining technique, tone and imagination in the power blues-rock trio format heard here. Taken in small doses, tracks like the opening "Fool," with its field holler opening transitioning to a driving blues-rock, the cover of "Herbert Harper's Free Press News" (from the infamous "Electric Mud" album), and the sparkling slide guitar he plays "Bad Woman Blues" set to the Bo Diddley groove, certainly stand-out. There is more slide on a hyper-kinetic cover of Johnny Winter's "Mean Town Blues," and then the Z.Z. Top sounding boogie "Johnny Cheat." However, "Bad Disposition" comes off musically as a bit over the top. The closing "Conformity Blues," is musically the most interesting track with superb guitar and a feel in the manner of the Allman Brothers

Those coming to hear Nick Schnebelen's impressive blues-rock guitar playing will not be disappointed, although some, like this listener, will enjoy the music here is a few songs at a time.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. Here is Nick performing "Bad Woman Blues" and "Mean Town Blues."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Adrianna Marie And Her Roomful Of All-Stars

Adrianna Marie And Her Roomful Of All-Stars
Kingdom of Swing

West Coast chanteuse Adrianna Marie has a second recording of jump blues and swing backed by a fine band including underrated guitarist L.A. Jones, pianist Al Copley, bassist Kedar Roy, drummer Brian Fahey and the Roomful Horns (Doug James, Rich Lataille, Doug Wooverton, Mark Early and Carl Querrfuth). Duke Robillard, who did the studio production, and Junior Watson guest on selected tracks while Bob Corritore is on harmonica for one tune.

There is a mix of originals by Adrianna along with covers of classic blues and swing numbers. The originals are pretty good songs and like everything this is well played in the vein of the early jump blues style of Roomful of Blues with plenty of brass as on the opening title track, her tribute to the swing era although the real king of swing was King Carter and not Goodman. Some nice growling trumpet from Wooverton on this selection. A similar thrust is "Gimme a Roomful," a salute to swing and Roomful of Blues."

A straight cover of an Esther Phillips' classic "Better Beware" is followed by a rollicking original "Sidecar Mama" that sounds like a cover of an unissued Camille Howard or Wynona Carr recording with a superb solo. "Memphis Boogie" is another noteworthy original in the jump blues tradition. These are fun sides with plenty of solo space, although when she attempts renditions from Ellington "Mood Indigo," Billie Holiday, "The Blues Are Brewin'," her vocals are enjoyable but hardly distinctive. And if not in the league as a singer on Helen Humes' level, her rendition of Humes' "Drive Me Daddy," displays her good taste in material. The terrific Muddy Waters' styled slide guitar, has Bob Corritore's harmonica lend it a Chicago blues meets jump blues feel.

"Jump With You Baby" gives several of the players a chance to solo while L.A. Jones duets with her on the boisterous "T-Bone Boogie," a thinly disguised reworking of Big Joe Turner-Pete Johnson classic "Roll 'Em Pete," with a terrific Doug James baritone sax solo and Al Copley laying down some strong boogie woogie piano. Jones takes a T-Bone Walker styled solo here followed by his wonderful playing on the closing instrumental "Blues After Hours." It closes an enjoyable and well-performed, if not outstanding, swing and blues recording.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. This review appeared in the May-June Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 372). Hdere she performs "Kingdom of Swing."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Classic Piedmont Blues From Smithsonian Folkways

Classic Piedmont Blues From Smithsonian Folkways
Smithsonian Folkways

A new acoustic blues compilation from Smithsonian Folkways delves in the archives for the selections on this. Piedmont blues has an easy flow played in a finger-picking style where the guitarist, according to the late John Cephas, uses "thumb and fingers with an alternating thumb and finger style. I keep a constant bass line going with my thumb, and on the treble strings I pick out the melody or the words of the song I'm singing." Cephas is quoted in the cogent booklet with liner notes on the Piedmont blues, and the specific songs included (along with artist biographies), by Barry Lee Pearson.

From the opening John Jackson performance of "Truckin' Little Woman," the delightful Warner Williams performance, "Hey Bartender There's a Big Bug in My Beer" with Kentucky flatpicker Eddie Pennington, several performances of Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, Baby Tate's wonderful "If I Could Holler Like a Mountain Jack," along with the incomparable Rev. Gary Davis' instrumental "Mountain Jack," John Cephas and Phil Wiggins' rendition of Blind Boy Fuller's "Mamie," Elizabeth Cotton's "Going Down The Road Feeling Bad," Pink Anderson's "Meet Me in the Bottom," to the closing tribute by Archie Edwards to his friend  Mississippi John Hurt, "The Road Is Rough and Rocky," this is marvelously played music by some of the style's  finest artists.

There are also included a few performances by old-time music artists such as Hobart Smith, Doc Watson and Roscoe Holcomb, and as Pearson notes there was plenty of musical interaction between such a artists with Black artists. One of my finest memories of John Jackson was him playing old-time string band music with former musical students of him and it is unfortunate that none of the performances he and Doc Watson performed together at The Smithsonian Folklife Festival have been issued as they would have made this wonderful collection even better.

I do note that the Archie Edwards performance had been previously issued on the similarly theme Smithsonian-Folkways collection "Classic Appalachian Blues" and it is unfortunate another performance by him was not chosen. Still this is a first-rate collection of this blues style.

I purchased this recording. Here is the late John Jackson performing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Catherine Russell Harlem on My Mind

Catherine Russell
Harlem on My Mind
Jazz Village

Some familiar with this blog may be aware, I am a fan of the singer, Catherine Russell. Regarding her 2012 release "Strictly Romancin'," I observed that, "Vocally she remains as commanding as in her past efforts as her vocals are delivered soulfully yet with a clarity that many vocalists today would benefit from listening to her mix of clean diction and musicality." The same can be said about this latest recording, with a mix of classic swing numbers mixed with intriguing renditions of fifties rhythm'n'blues and a few obscure songs that she introduces to many. 

On her latest release she is backed by a superb rhythm section of guitarist Mike Munisteri, pianist Mark Shane, bassist Tal Ronen, and drummer Mark McLean. Saxophonists Andy Ferber, Mark Lopeman and Dan Block along, with trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, are among those playing on horns. One track has centenarian Fred Staton (brother of the late Candy Staton). 

The title track is an Irving Berlin song that Ethel Waters originally recorded and is performed with small group backing as Russell so sonorously delivers "I’ve got Harlem on my mind /And I’m longing to be low down/ And my parlez vous will not ring true / With Harlem on my mind," and followed by the vibrant big little band (tentet) horn-driven  "I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me," with Munisteri providing solid rhythm guitar in the manner of Freddie Greene. This is followed by the ebullient swing of "Swing! Brother Swing!" with wonderful muted trumpet by Kellso, trombone from John Allred and Mark Lopeman's tough tenor sax. Then there is the wonderful rendition of Ray Noble's classic ballad, "The Very Thought of You," the delightful, slightly naughty, neo-trad reworking of the Clarence Williams' classic, "You Got the Right Key But The Wrong Keyhole" (with Lopeman's clarinet and Munisteri's banjo), and anogther lovely ballad, "Don’t Take Your Love From Me," with a marvelous, romantic tenor sax solo from Fred Staton.

An impish rendition Fats Waller-Andy Razaf gem “Blue Turning Grey Over You,” is followed by a wonderful rendition of a torch song, “You’re My Thrill,” with a marvelous Farber horn arrangement. I am not sure who first recorded “I Want a Man” (Esther Phillips?) but Russell's rendition reminds me of the sass and vigor Ruth Rrown brought to similar material. Benny ‘King’ Carter’s classic “When Lights Are Low,” receives a royal rendition followed by a terrific cover of Little Willie John’s “Talk To Me, Talk To Me,” along with her own, heart-felt take of Dinah Washington’s “Let Me Be the First to Know.”

The retro-swing “Goin’ To Town,” was part of Duke Ellington’s Cotton Club repertoire and recorded by Catherine’s father Luis Russell in 1931. The effervescent performance provides a lively close to another superb recording from Ms. Russell. No one is producing such a series of excellent joyful celebrations of swing jazz and jump blues as Catherine Russell, of which “Harlem on My Mind,” is simply the latest example.

I purchased this as a download. Here Catherine performs a blues Dinah Washington recorded,  "My Man Is An Undertaker."

Rockin' Johnny Burgin Neoprene Fedora

Rockin' Johnny Burgin
Neoprene Fedora
West Tone Records

This new release is a follow-up to "Greetings From Greaseland," and further chronicles Burgin's move to California from Chicago. Like the early recording, this was recorded by Kid Andersen (who plays guitar, bass, baritone guitar and piano on various tracks) at his Greaseland Studio. Others backing Burgin include Ali Kumar on harmonica and a couple vocals; Bob Welsh on guitar and piano; bassist Vance Ehlers; drummer June Core; drummer Stephen Dougherty; saxophonist Nancy Wright and accordion player Steve Willis.

There is a mix of material from the opening title track, an instrumental that bridges blues, surf and Tex-Mex guitar on a tune that deconstructs the melody of Herbie Mann hit "Comin' Home Baby" with Wight's raspy sax adding atmosphere behind Burgin's tremolo laced runs then transitions into a "Night Train" inspired segment segueing into a "Bo Diddley" beat groove with some Chuck Berry styled guitar. This tour de force is followed by a West Side Chicago blues "Guitar King" which suggests Otis Rush crossed with Jimmy Dawkins. Burgin is an amiable singer, if not a great one. He is convincing on "Won't Get Married Again," in the manner of the legendary Eddie Taylor. "Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear," has Magic Sam styled guitar with uncluttered backing reminiscent of Eddie C. Campbell.

Alabama Mike wonderfully handles the lead vocal on "Smoke and Mirrors," with its syncopated Byther Smith meets Bobby Rush accompaniment. Mike's other vocal is a nice soul ballad, "I Did The Best I Could," with a bluesy solo from Burgin. Besides the nods to Chicago blues, "Kinda Wild Women" is a zydeco flavored dance number followed by an attractive swamp pop ballad, "Please Tell Me," and "Our Time Is Short" is a waltz that employs the "Jole Blonde" melody. On this musical trip to the bayou, there is solid accordion and rubboard. "Self-Made Man" with shattering Jimmy Dawkins' flavored guitar along with Aki Kumar's reedy singing and terrific full-bodied chromatic harmonica. "I Ain't Gonna Be Working Man No More" brings back memories of the greatly underrated Johnny Littlejohn's "Chips Flying Everywhere," both with the interesting syncopation of rhythm.

"Goodbye Chicago" musically evokes Howlin' Wolf as Burgin sings about why he is going to California and has to put the Windy City down. As the song progresses he recites a list of Blues artists he played with in Chicago, and quite an impressive list it is. Wright takes a terrific tenor sax solo in the manner of Eddie Shaw on this. It closes another fine recording by Rocking Johnny Burgin who displays his deep Chicago blues roots while incorporating other sounds into his fertile musical garden.

I received a download from the artist from which I was able to do this review. Here is a video of Johnny and Ali Kumar performing in Finland.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Billy Price Alive and Strange

Billy Price
Alive and Strange
Nola Blues/Vizztone

Veteran blue-eyed soul singer Billy Price follows his acclaimed collaboration with the late Otis Clay that won a Blues Music Award. It has been some three decades since the late Jerry 'The Bama' Washington who play Price's covers of O.V. Wright and others over WPFW in Washington, DC. Price is still at it with a mix of southern soul and city blues covers and idiomatic originals that he recently documented on this live recording with the Billy Price Band. The members of the Billy Price Band are Steve Delach (guitar), Tom Valentine (bass), Dave Dodd (drums), Jimmy Britton (keyboards), and Eric DeFade (tenor sax). There are guest horn players and background vocalists on this.

Price is in good form although his the tone of voice seems to be a tad flat as if perhaps showing a bit of the years of performing. Still it doesn't detract from these straight-forward and heartfelt performances. The tone is set with a rendition of Carl Sims' "It Ain't A Juke Joint Without The Blues," with Delach's guitar complementing Price's vocal of a place full wall to wall and everyone having a ball, followed by a nice delivery of William Bell's lament as since she has been gone, Bill is living the "Lifestyles Of The Poor And Unknown."

Price's own "Something Strange" is a driving funky blues with punchy horns. Price does a solid cover of a lesser known Bobby Bland recording, "This Time I'm Gone For Good." It is followed by a nice version of Earl Thomas' soul ballad about holding on for "One More Day," with nice jazzy guitar and tenor sax solos. After a sober treatment of a Percy Mayfield gem, "Nothing Stays The Same Forever," Price and Band get into a James Brown cover "Never Get Enough," and then a brassy rendition of Magic Sam's "What Have I Done Wrong," which also showcases solos from Delach (particularly outstanding here) and DeFade.

One of Price's strength is his incorporation in his repertoire of lesser known gems such as George Torrence's 1968 recording "Lickin' Stick," before closing the live set from the Club Cafe in 2016 with a wonderfully paced Roy Milton classic, "R.M. Blues," with Joe Herndon blasting the trumpet solo. A bonus track, "Making Plans," was recorded at the Carnegie Mellon School of Music in 2012, that also showcases Price's ability at putting together a lyric. This bonus track adds a nice close to a real good recording by the veteran singer.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. This review appeared in the May-June 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 372).  Here is the Billy Price Band performing "It Ain't A Juke Joint Without The Blues."

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Floyd Dixon Wake Up And Live!

Floyd Dixon
Wake Up And Live!

Rhythm and Blues pioneer Floyd Dixon has been alive and well on the West Coast these years, and with the release of Wake Up and Live! on Alligator, he may start to reap some of the rewards that fellow pioneers Charles Brown and Ruth Brown have garnered in recent years.

The Marshall, Texas native gained fame for his recordings in the late forties and fifties. While he has been compared to Charles Brown, a substantial portion of his repertoire was rockers that were somewhat in the vein of those with which Amos Milburn scored. In fact one of Dixon’s Specialty recordings, Hole in the Wall is a takeoff on Milburn’s Chicken Shack Boogie. Dixon is perhaps known as the composer of Hey Bartender, But that is a somewhat trivial song compared to the other fine rocking blues and blues ballads he waxed in the forties and fifties.

While opening with a remake of Hey Bartender, Wake Up and Live! sports a whole range of material from the menacing slow Mean And Jealous Man, to Rockin’ At Home, another song reminiscent of Milburn’s Chicken Shack Boogie. Unlike Brown, Dixon’s voice shows a hint of wear, but he is also a more overtly expressive vocalist. His playing shows absolutely no deterioration and his producer Port Barlow plays strong idiomatic guitar. While Eddie Synigal is a new name to this writer, he is a booting saxophonist.

While I’ve heard a self-produced album by Dixon that was enjoyable, it did not suggest how powerful a performer he remained. A recipient of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award several years ago, this album shows that Floyd Dixon is more than capable of recalling past glories, and that the best may even be yet to come. Great stuff.

I likely received a review copy from Alligator Records, and I believe is still available. This review originally appeared in the June 1996 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 212). Here is Floyd (who passed away in 2006) performing.

Friday, June 16, 2017

NYSQ Sleight of Hand

Sleight of Hand
Whirlwind Recordings

This is the fifth album for the New York Standards Quartet who have been together for twelve years. the present recording finds them composed of saxophonist Tim Armacost, pianist David Berkman, drummer Gene Jackson and double bassist Daiki Yasukagawa. As Berkman observes, "We were at the period where we'd all done a lot of original recordings of our own music, as composers and leaders; and then, through a series of circumstances, we came together as a quartet with the particular mission of taking on standards, but arranging them to create a feeling that was similar to the original albums we recorded."

About this specific recording he explains that, "the album title refers to the four of us, conjuring transformations of standards and enjoying the magic of creating something new out of that repertoire; really exploring the group's alchemy and chemistry, achieved through twelve years of touring and recording together." Certainly it gets off on a strong note with the vibrant, driving swings rendition of Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes," that displays Armacost's strong, imaginative tenor along with Berkman's superb piano with a brief solo from Yasukagawa, while Jackson pushes this lively performance along. There is some playful solo piano to open the bright performance of Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now," with more authoritative tenor sax from Armacost who then displays his warmth as a ballad player on the Ellington classic "In a Sentimental Mood." Jackson's cymbal embellishments adding to the appeal of this latter track.

Other delights include Berkman's title track,  an original based on Gershwin's "But Not For Me," with his lively, flowing solo Another lovely ballad performance is of Jules Styne's "I Fall In Love Too Easily," with Armacost's serpentine soprano sax standing out, while the four ably negotiate the metrical changes and brisk rhythms of Hank Mobley's "This I Think of You," with Yasukagawa standing out as he opens this and then Armacost plays brilliantly on tenor. A Herb Ellis ballad, "Detour Ahead," again is a vehicle for Armacost's tenor and Berkman.

The closing "Lover Man," is taken at a considerably swifter pulse than the more familiar renditions of Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker. Again Berkman excels as does Armacost who is heard on soprano. The strong ensemble playing, in addition to the many fine solos, and the imaginative reworking of the material make for a superb straight-ahead recording.

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Charlie Watts Meets The Danish Radio Big Band

Charlie Watts
Charlie Watts Meets The Danish Radio Big Band

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts always has a love of jazz and his Tentet's live recording at the famed London club, Ronnie Scott's is just one instance of this. In 2010 he spent several days with the Danish Radio Big Band and presented a concert at the then newly opened Concert Hall of Denmark in Copenhagen that was broadcast on Danish National Radio and now has been made available on CD. The promotional materials I received do not include personnel or identify the various instrumentalists besides Watts and bassist Dave Green.

The performance with "Elvin Suite" that Watts cowrote with Jim Keltner, This two-part tribute to Elvin Jones," opens with a lush, lovely initial part with marvelous arranging of the horns around a deliberately played and paced guitar solo and some marvelous harmonies surrounding short trumpet and trombone leads and a bass solo leads into some growling trombone. The second part picks up the groove as Watts evokes Jones with percussion support before some robust tenor saxophone over percussion before the full band joins in to add to the heat.

Watts leads with a funk-bossa nova groove for "Faction," his reworking of the Stones' signature tune "Satisfaction," with marvelous trumpet with the guitar accompanying with short bursts and chords. It is fascinating how Watts added to the original melody here while keeping its basic structure. There is also another fervent tenor sax solo and husky baritone sax with the very imaginative scoring of the other horns. It is one of three Stones numbers heard here. The Stones original "You Can't Always Get What You Want" had an orchestral and choral setting, so it is not surprising it is transformed into a big band setting with a bit of funk in the groove and greasy organ (with a horn riff in the arrangement that evokes Cannonball Adderly's recording of "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.") with strong trumpet and a swirling soprano sax solo. "Paint It Black" becomes a jazz ballad with the guitarist setting for the song, evoking the lyrics as the horns provide varying colors as he snakes his playing through this.

"I Should Care," is a lovely, almost dreamy performance with some wonderful mid-range trumpet and trombone while the closing "Molasses" is a rollicking, high stepping blues in the vein of "Night Train" and similar instrumentals with more sinewy tenor sax (like Jimmy Forrest playing with the 70s Basie Band), growling trombone, and organ trading riffs with the horns with the intensity building before the horns cool things to close out this very striking recording that shows that the Stones' drummer is much more than a rocker.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is a short video of Charlie Watts with The Danish Radio Big Band.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Andy T Band Double Strike

Andy T Band
Double Strike
American Showplace Music

One of the real pleasures of the past few years were releases by the Andy T - Nick Nixon Band. Health issues has forced Nixon to have to retire from performing and his vocals on this album are his last. Guitarist Andy Talamantez has since recruited Michael A. Benjamin, aka Alabama Mike, to become the lead vocalist with his group. On this new release, Nixon and Alabama Mike each take 6 vocals and their is one instrumental.This is co-produced by Andy T and Anson Funderburgh, who adds his guitar to four tracks. Others on this session include Larry van Loon on keyboards (Mike Flanigan is one one track); Johnny Bradley on bass; Jim Klinger on drums and Greg Izor on harmonica for one track. Kaz Kazanoff leads the Texas Horns as part of the backing.

Fans of Gulf Coast to West Coast blues will find much to enjoy here starting with a shuffle "I Want You Bad," with Alabama Mike's gospel rooted vocals along with backing from Andy T's Johnny 'Guitar' Watson meets Ike Turner fretwork along with Funderburgh's own Texas meets B.B. King approach. Alabama Mike is very strong on the Nixon-penned, crying blues, "Sad Times," and the strong original he wrote with Andy T and Anson, "Doin ' Hard Time." With Izor on harmonica adding a country flavor, Nixon ably delivers the lyrics on a Jimmy Reed-influenced shuffle, "Deep Inside," a Nixon's original. Nixon also delivers solid vocals on a couple of Chuck Willis' numbers "I Feel So Bad" (patterned after Little Milton's recording) and "Juanita." Both also have strong guitar, but the latter number stands out perhaps because it is less familiar. Nixon's solid cover of Goree Carter's "Drunk or Sober," has a understated mambo groove blistering guitar and gutbucket tenor sax from Kazanoff, while on "I Was Gonna Leave You," Nixon evokes the deep soul Goldwax recordings of James Carr, with another solid sax solo and Funderburgh's biting lead guitar.

Funderburgh's "Mudslide," is a relaxed instrumental shuffle showcasing both guitarists and van Loon. "Where Did Our Love Go Wrong," is a swamp pop ballad written by Kazanoff, with a strong Alabama Mike vocal, another terrific slashing guitar solo in the vein of Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, and a booting baritone sax solo from John Mills. It closes this excellent collection of blues performances and shows that with Alabama Mike, Andy T will be continuing the fine modern blues that he had been making with Nick Nixon.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a short video of Andy T Band with Alabama Mike in performance.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Johnny Guitar Watson At Uncle Pö's Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976

Johnny Guitar Watson
At Uncle Pö's Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976

This is a live 1976 German radio broadcast of Johnny 'Guitar' Watson from Hamburg that has just been made available on CD and download. Watson is backed by his Watsonian Institute comprised of Peter Martin, trumpet; Tommy Robertson - trombone; Paul Dunmall - sax; Gil Noble - piano, synthesizer; Bobby Howard - bass and Emry Thomas - drums, and the recording was made around the time of the "Ain't That A Bitch" album but the songs here range beyond the dance funk blues of that recording.

I have several videos and recordings of a number of Watson's live performances, but these are mostly later and the repertoire is somewhat different here. It opens with a cover of the Grover Washington hit "Mister Magic" on which Watson unleashes some pretty solid guitar, followed by the title track of one of his underrated Fantasy albums, "I Don't Want To Be a Lone Ranger," with more electrifying guitar on this song where he sings no one wants to be a lonely one, but Johnny wants to be the lady's only one. In addition to his seductive singing, one should note the horn arrangements as well as the jazzy guitar runs. It's follow wed by a terrific slow rendition of "Stormy Monday" in which he incorporates a bit of the lyrics of Jimmy Reed as well as some spectacular blues guitar. A strong funky "Superman Lover," is followed by the bravado of "Gangster of Love," the funky, topical trying to make ends meet of "Ain't That a Bitch," and then his rock and roll ballad "Cuttin' In." Watson was in first-rate form this evening and his band provides tight, crisp support.

A jam on the sensuous "I Need It," allows him to introduce and showcase his band members before a short closing instrumental closes nearly an hour of exceptional Johnny 'Guitar' Watson. I purchased this as a bargain priced download with digital booklet on iTunes for about $5 and believe the hard copy is bargain priced (although not that cheap). This would be highly recommended even if it was not so inexpensive, and at that price, any JGW fan needs this.

I purchased this as a download. Here is a live performance of Johnny doing "Gangster of Love."

Jon Zeeman Blue Room

Jon Zeeman
Blue Room
Membrane Records

Singer-guitarist Jon Zeeman has been playing music for quite some time, currently mostly in Florida. His deep influences include Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones, and he played a bit with the late Allman Brothers drummer, Butch Trucks. Trucks in fact is on drums on two tracks, probably his final recordings. Others in the band include Phil McArthur on bass (who also engineered, mastered and mixed this), Bob Taylor and/or Tom Regis on keyboards, George Lilly on drums (expect for the tracks with Trucks), Bob Taylor on congas and Tom Regis on keyboards.

Zeeman's blues-rock approach has a definite appeal as on the opening "All I Want is You," a nice blues shuffle and one of the tracks with Trucks on drums. His sandpaper tinged vocals certainly has appeal as does his crisply played guitar as well as the accompanying organ solo set against a crisp rhythm section that swings its groove. "Hold On" perhaps a bit more in a blues-rock vein, but he displays a nice sense of dynamics here. "Love in Vain" is a credible, if unremarkable rendition of the Rolling Stones recording followed by the chugging shuffle "Next To You," the last of tracks with Trucks on drums. Certainly it is worth noting how a strength of Zeeman's vocals is unforced delivery and the backing here again is strong.

There is nice playing in Zeeman's Jimi Hendrix cover, "Still Rainin' Still Dreamin'," with the organist adding to the flavor here. A slow blues, "If I Could Make Love Me," is a standout, nicely paced, performance with nice vocal and some very hot guitar set against a solid rhythm. "All Alone," is a solid rocking blues whose main section evoke shints of Wolf's "Who's Been Talking?", while another musical section has a different melodic core with neat guitar and piano solos. After funking things up on "Talkin' About My Baby," there is the short instrumental title track.

The album closes with some more nicely played blues-rock, "Nothin' in the World." Like the rest of his recording it is nicely paced and the backing is crisp but never overplays and one can appreciate his focused guitar and his nicely delivered singing. The result is a very solid recording in this vein.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June  Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 372). Here is Jon Zeeman performing live.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Rebecca Hennessy’s FOG Brass Band Two Calls

Rebecca Hennessy’s FOG Brass Band
Two Calls

Toronto-based trumpeter and composer Rebecca Hennessy is represented by her first full length recording, Hennessy is the musical director of the Massey Hall Women’s Blues Review and as a staple in several modern jazz outfits in Toronto. Here she leads a brass heavy ensemble comprised of a front line of Hennessy on trumpet, flugelhorn, peck horn & baritone horn; Tom Richards on trombone; and Jay Burr on tuba with Tania Gill on piano; Don Scott on guitar and Nico Dann on drums & triangle. Her influences include New Orleans brass bands, Balkan folk music, country blues and high-energy jazz-rock which she brings together on her compositions here which reflect her love of the natural world where four compositions being fishing songs, where two (including the title track) are inspired by bird songs. There is also a tribute to the great trumpeter Booker Little who died so young.

The opening "Red Herring" is one of the fishing songs with an initial groove that might suggest a rush hour commute before Richards takes a trombone solo set against Dann's marvelous drums before Hennessy herself solos followed by some jazz-rock guitar.  In contrast to the almost manic feel of the opening track, "Horn Lake" projects a tranquility with its chamber brass opening followed by a stately piano interlude and a lovely trumpet solo with the ensemble entering and generating a bit of intensity. It is a performance that displays her compositional and organizational talents as well as her marvelous musicianship. "Lagoon" is another composition and performance having a languid feel. 

The title track is a composition built on a riff derived from actual bird calls with engaging solos from Richards and Gill. "Snag," another fishing inspired number, is a playful performance set against a New Orleans second-line groove with Richards playing in a blustery, tailgate-style as Scott's guitar backing provides counterpoint. An Afro-Caribbean groove helps enliven "Bird Calls" with Hennessy judiciously using slurs followed by some more barreling brusque tailgate sounding trombone from Richards. The disc closes with the lovely "Mutterings," a tribute to the singer, Mary Margaret O’Hara, with Gill spotlighted, and the somber "Why Are You So Sad Booker Little," a lovely sober tune and performance, but somewhat removed from the fire that Little brought as a composer and musician (think of Little's composition "Bee Vamp" with Dolphy at the Five Spot).

Brass Band in the name of Rebecca Hennessy's ensemble might mislead those expecting a contemporary band in the vein of the contemporary New Orleans scene or similar aggregations. Ms. Hennessy shines as a composer and soloist, and the FOG Brass Band is an outstanding ensemble. While there has been focus on contributions of the soloists here, one cannot ignore the brass bass provided by of Jay Burr as well as with Dann's drumming. "Two Calls" is a strongly recommended, and thoroughly engrossing recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This can be purchased at bandcamp along with other outlets, Here is Rebecca Hennessy’s FOG Brass Band in performance.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bonnie Lee Sweetheart Of The Blues

Bonnie Lee
Sweetheart Of The Blues

Among new Delmark blues releases is Bonnie Lee’s Sweetheart of the Blues. Probably best known for her performances with Willie Kent and the Gents, this album will surprise many as it shows her to be far more a singer than a blues belter.

While those familiar with her will not be surprised by her take on Jimmy Reed’s Baby, What You Want Me To Do, her low-key interpretation of Buddy Johnson’s classic ballad Since I Fell For You is a model of taste and phrasing that showcases another side of her. There is considerable variety in the musical settings, from the straight Chicago blues flavor of Got the Blues ‘Bout My Baby with Billy Branch’s harp, the dance-oriented I Love My Baby, and Ocean of Tears which is suggestive to these ears of a Big Maybelle tune.

In addition to Billy Branch, others appearing on this album include bassist, Willie Kent, guitarist Willie Davis, guitarist Steve Freund (who contributes several choice solos, and even takes one vocal, If You Be My Baby), pianist Ken Saydak, and saxophonist Hank Ford, whose solo on Since I Fell For You is especially tasty. Johnny B. Moore contributes the stinging, snapping guitar behind Bonnie’s unforced vocal on Junior Parker’s Next Time You See Me.

With its variety and Bonnie Lee’s natural soulful singing, Sweetheart of the Blues makes for an impressive American LP debut. 

I likely received a review copy from Delmark Records. This review originally appeared in the October 1995 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 205). Here she is performing at the 1999 Chicgao Blues Festival.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Hurricane Ruth Ain't Ready For The Grave

Hurricane Ruth
Ain't Ready For The Grave
Hurricane Ruth Records

Ruth LeMaster earned her name because of her huge voice in a small package and her publicity characterizes her as rooted in traditional blues but someone who can rock the house. This is her fourth album and was produced by Tom Hambridge who plays drums on this who with LeMaster contributed most of the 12 songs here. Others playing on this include Reese Wynans on keyboards, Michael Rhodes on bass and guitarists Pat Buchanan and Rob McNelly.

The album opens with a bluesy salute to a Friday Night at a juke, "Barrelhouse Joe's," followed by the hard rock-blues of "Hard Rockin' Woman," with a bit of shouting set against a southern rock setting. "Far From the Cradle," features atmospheric slide guitar at the opening backing her vocal before Wynans adds some piano as she notes "we are from the cradle but we ain't ready for the grave," as the rest of the band joins in for understated backing of her vocal and the Muddy Waters' influenced slide playing.

She is a good singer with solid phrasing, tone and pitch although occasionally takes things a bit to rock-ish for these ears. But on the driving "Estilene," about a woman who should leave that married man alone, or the amusing double-entendre of "Beekeeper," she delivers the lyrics with a sense of warning and humor. She stands out on the straight slow blues, "My Heart Aches For You," followed by the funky groove of "Cheating Blues," as she recalls making love and had a good thing going, rocking this man all night until she found out about him blinding her with lies.

There is a (forgettable to these ears) a hard rock cover of AC/DC's "Whole Lot of Rosie," the atmospheric "For a Change" with Ruth singing about his midnight mover and crawling king snake, but if he wants Ruth, she asks (in a most sultry manner) if he wants to be treated right for a change. A cover of Hambridge's "Let Me Be The One" (written for Susan Tedeschi)" is a fine shuffle performance with a heartfelt, relaxed vocal. The McCrary Sisters add backing vocal for the soul-rocker "Good Stuff," and the closing gospel song of praise, " Yes I Know." It ends a tightly produced, solidly performed collection of blues and rock that displays Hurricane Ruth as a powerful and expressive vocalist.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 372). Here is a video associated with the album

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Peter Campbell Loving You: Celebrating Shirley Horn

Peter Campbell
Loving You: Celebrating Shirley Horn
Peter Campbell Music

Canadian-American vocalist first came under the spell of Shirley Horn when, as an undergraduate at McGill University he heard her "Here's To Life" album. It was her ability to "express so much with such seeming economy." He was mesmerized by her in performance and cites in the liner notes hallmarks of her performances: "impeccable taste in material; absolute dedication to lyric interpretation; and her distinctive approach at tempo - often at a glacial pace." Campbell views Horn as less a traditional jazz singer with her vocals in service of the lyric and melody. Such a central aspect of her singing was quoting Thomas Cunniffe was "her unique way of making every word count." He considers Horn the greatest ballad singer of her generation and "Loving You" is a tribute to her accompanied by his pianist (and arranger) Mark Kiesetter; guitarist Reg Schwager; bassist Ross Macintyre and trumpeter Kevin Turcotte.

Campbell's vocals sound rooted in the cabaret with a quivering vibrato and his deliberate phrasing (his extension of words over several beats) that provide emphasis to the lyrics. While the backing is evocative, no players is as striking as Horn herself was as a pianist. Still, there are many charms to the performances in addition to Campbell's heartfelt singing, there is trumpeter Turcotte's haunting trumpet on "Wild Is The Wind," or "Forget Me," or guitarist Schwager's fleet bluesy playing on "Sharing the Night with the Blues."  "There's No You," has a crisp, economical solo from Kiesetter. The title track is a marvelous duet by Campbell and his pianist and musical director.

Most of the tracks are taken at a glacial tempo that Campbell finds so appealing in Horn's music. The sameness in tempo over the course of most of the songs make this recording some might sample several tracks at a time as opposed to listening straight throiugh. The slightly brisker pace as on "Sharing the Night with the Blues," or "The Great City," provides a change of pace in this context. It is so telling of Shirley Horn's impact years after she passed that she inspired Campbell and this engaging, heartfelt tribute.

I received a download of this for review from a publicist. Here is Peter Campbell in performance.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Son House John the Revelator: Chicago to London Town

Son House
John the Revelator: Chicago to London Town
The Devil's Tunes

Eddie 'Son' House was one of the pillars of the Delta Blues in the thirties, rediscovered in Rochester, New York in 1963 and performed for a little over a decade before retiring. House was of the most compelling blues performers with his raspy, intense vocals and highly percussive, slide guitar. A British label has now compiled a double CD release of House performing and being interviewed. A good portion of this was previously unissued.

The first CD, "Chicago … The Sixties," is from a radio broadcast hosted by Studs Terkel mixed with performances of such House numbers as "Death Letter Blues," "Levee Camp Moan," "I Shall Not Moved," "Preachin' the Blues," Louise McGhee," "Empire Express" and "Grinnin' in Your Face," interspersed with lengthy interview segments with some themes that might be familiar to some from House's monologues in concerts.

The other CD, "London … The Seventies," is taken from performances at London's Club 100 that was issued on English Liberty and reissued an out-of-print EMI country blues reissue. I believe some of the performances may be previously unissued and on the first rendition of "Between Midnight and Day," Alan Wilson is heard on harmonica while Delta Dave backs House on "How To Treat a Man." Besides his monologues, other songs heard here include "Levee Camp Blues," "Death Letter Blues," "John the Revelator," and "Grinnin' in Your Face."

House may not have been as accomplished a musician as he was when he recorded for Paramount in the early 1930s and the Library of Congress in the early 1940s, but the sheer forcefulness of his performances in which nothing is held back is simply riveting. When House performed, it was like you were looking into his soul. That is how powerful and mesmerizing he was and why those who have other reissues of House from this time will still want this document of one of the true blues icons.

I purchased this recording. Here is Son House with Buddy Guy on second guitar.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Vin Mott Quit The Women For The Blues

Vin Mott
Quit The Women For The Blues

Vin Mott Music

In his twenties, young harmonica wizard Vin Mott will surely attract notice with his debut recording. On this he is backed by his band of Sean Ronan (guitar), Dean Shot (upright, electric bass) and Andrei Koribanics (drums), with keyboards audible in the backing at times. Mott kicks off a collection of idiomatic Chicago-styled blues with the title track, "Quit The Women (For The Blues)," as he sings about quitting the women for a little thing called the blues set to a groove that evokes Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor," and a Ronan shows a bit of Hubert Sumlin's influence in his playing but is far from a copyist. The leader shows off his wet, fat tone on his lengthy solo as well as a credible singer.

The medium tempo rocker like "Make Up Your Mind," is another showcase for his driving harmonica style as well as Ronan's precise playing. An atmospheric, slow blues, "The Factory," where he sings about can't do no more whisky or more cocaine, this living ain't living, as he has been beaten down by the factory, has him on chromatic harp while Ronan (with a short guitar break) and the rhythm provide low-key support. Ronan is on slide guitar adding some "Dust My Broom" on the shuffle "I'm a Filthy Man," where his animated vocal sounds slight distorted (perhaps singing through the harp mike). "Freight Train" sounds inspired by Junior Parker's "Mystery Train," with more impressive harmonica and a fast, fleet guitar solo, although the tempo is a trifle too fast (probably great for dancers live). There is a nod to the "Key to the Highway" melody on the animated shuffle, "Ol' Greasy Blues." another performance that shows Mott's ability to take traditional blues materials to construct his originals.

The album closes with the instrumental "Hott Mott's Theme," a hyper-kinetic tempo-ed feature for the leader's harp and Ronan's crisp, swinging fretwork. This is certainly a fun recording to listen to and takes this listener back to the bar bands I was listening to when I got into the blues decades ago. One can imagine the good times when they play various taverns and other venues in their native New Jersey and this writer looks forward to more from Mott in the future.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 371). Here is a video clip of Vin Mott is performing the title track.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Coco Montoya Hard Truth

Coco Montoya
Hard Truth
Alligator Records

Blues-rocker and powerhouse guitarist Coco Montoya returns to Alligator Records with this new release. Produced by drummer Tony Braunagel and recorded by Johnny Lee Schell (who plays rhythm guitar on several tracks and slide on one) with Mike Finnigan on keyboards and Bob Glaub on bass with Lee Roy Parnell adding slide guitar on one track, this is a nice mix of songs from the likes of Warren Haynes, John Hiatt, Gwen Collins, and Homer Banks & Allen Jones, Jr.

Montoya played with Albert Collins for five years and Collins' influence can be felt and heard throughout starting from the opening "Before the Bullets Fly," from Haynes and others, as well as Collins' "The Moon Is Full," where his shouted vocals is matched by his fiery fretwork. Then there is the gospel feel of the Steve Gomes-Ronnie Earl Horvarth penned "I Want to Shout About It," where his celebration of his woman is matched by his blistering playing with Finnigan's organ helping this rocking performance. Parnell's slide adds to the juggernaut feel of "Lost in the Bottle," as whiskey is talking as his eyes are burning red, while his judicious use of sustain and tone embellishes his more low-key vocal on "Old Habits to Break."

The underlying groove of "I'll Find Someone Who Will" is suggestive the Al Green-Syl Johnson classic "Take Me To The River," while the insistent blues-rock "Hard As Hell" evokes some of the Leon Russell produced Freddie King recordings. The Banks-Jones penned "Where Can a Man Go From Here?" is perhaps the outstanding straight blues performance here with a strong vocal as well as his forceful guitar. Even when he rocks things hard, these performances are nicely paced and do not sound rushed or frenzied. With the terrific backing Coca Montoya receives, the varied, fresh-sounding material and Montoya's powerful guitar and heartfelt vocals, the "Hard Truth" is another release to delight those who like blues with a bit of a rock edge.

I received my review copy from Alligator. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2017  Jazz & Blues Report  (Issue 371). Here Coco Montoya performing "Truth Be Told."

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Floyd McDaniel & The Blues Swingers Let Your Hair Down!

Floyd McDaniel & The Blues Swingers
Let Your Hair Down!

Veteran Chicago guitarist and vocalist Floyd McDaniel’s musical career spans decades and he turns 80 next July. Alabama born, he moved to Chicago when he was 15 and has been playing professionally since the 1930’s, including some time spent in New York. He was a member of the Four Blazers, spent time with the Ink Spots, met Charlie Christian after Christian joined Benny Goodman and learned from T-Bone Walker, who had been part of a dance act with his wife’s sister. In the past few years he recorded overseas. Now Delmark has issued a wonderful new McDaniel album of jump blues, sung and played with rare authenticity.

While a couple of songs date back from his days with the Four Blazers (including the peppy opening Raggedy Ride), he handles a range of material including versions of a number of songs associated with T-Bone Walker - Blue Mood (by Jessie Mae Robinson and erroneously credited to Walker), the ballad, I Want a Little Girl (also associated with Jimmy Rushing and Count Basie), West Side Baby, and T-Bone Shuffle (here called Let Your Hair Down). The Jimmy Rushing-Count Basie classic Sent For You Yesterday is revisited as is Roy Milton’s R.M. Blues. Other high points include renditions of the Billie Holiday classic, God Bless the Child, the swing band staple, Christopher Columbus, Louis Jordan’s Caldonia, and W.C. Handy’s St. Louis Blues.

McDaniel’s guitar is straight out of the T-Bone Walker bag, while his vocals are suggestive of the late Cousin Joe. The Blues Swingers are an eight piece little big band with rhythm, three saxophonists and trumpet. While this is McDaniel’s show, tossing in his T-Bone Walker styled solos and his relaxed, heartfelt vocals, it is the whole group that rocks the groove on an album of ripping jump blues.

This review originally appeared in the February 1995  Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 198) and I likely received a review copy from Delmark Records. Here is Floyd from the 1995 Chicago Blues Festival.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Vintage 18 Grit

Vintage 18

The Washington DC area blues and rhythm group debuts on CD with this recording. Comprised of vocalist Robbin Kappalis, guitarist Bill Holter, drummer Alex Kuldell and bassist Mark Chandler has been performing since 2013 and this writer has had the pleasure to enjoy them perform a number of times.

With the solid rhythm section here, the focal point is the very expressive singing of Ms. Kappalis (who is quite an exciting live performer) and these solid originals showcase her authoritative, nuanced, oft powerful, expressive singing with Holter's fiery blues-rock pyrotechnics (overdubbed at times) featured as well. This is evident on the seductive opening "Diamonds Are Optional," where Kappalis asks her man for a kiss as diamonds are optional. On the lazy shuffle "Love Hangover," she sings about the shivers up her spine from the good loving she has received with Holter adding bluesy fills behind her vocal before taking his own solo. He impresses not simply with his imposing technique, but his conciseness here and the interplay between his solo and his rhythm guitar on this.

One of the two covers of the 11 selections here is a slow, bluesy reworking Bob Dylan's "Million Miles," with simple bass and drums accompaniment to the soulful singing and the impressive guitar fireworks followed by the rockabilly flavored shuffle "Circles," with more fine singing and impressive, understated playing. The tempo slows down for the moody "Pieces," a remembrance of endless nights filled with love, but now those days are gone . It has an ambience suggestive of The Doors' "Riders in the Storm." The other cover, Z.Z. Top's "Just Got Back From Baby's," becomes a wonderfully done slow blues.

One shortcoming might be the austere, skeletal backing on most of these tracks. A bit more life rhythmically from the bass and drum would make the singing and searing guitar sound standout more,  and provide more variety in the musical color palette, although one appreciates the uncluttered quality of the performances here. Still, there is plenty of "Grit" on this intriguing debut by Vintage 18.

I received my review copy from a publicist. For more information on Vintage 18, including some video clips visit the group's Facebook page,