Saturday, June 29, 2019

Southern Avenue Keep On

Southern Avenue
Keep On
Concord Records

I was impressed by Southern Avenue's eponymously titled debut album that appeared on Stax a couple of years ago. This follow-up is on Concord Records itself. The core of the band remains the same: Memphis-born, church-bred sisters Tierinii and Tikyra Jackson, respectively a soulful, charismatic singer and a subtle, husky drummer; guitarist Ori Naftaly, an Israeli-born blues disciple; and the band's newest addition, keyboardist Jeremy Powell, an early alumnus of Stax's legendary music academy. Gage Markey is the bassist on this album but on this album of originals is not identified as a member of the band. Among others heard here are Art Edmaiston on saxophones and Mark Franklin on brass, William Bell guesting on a vocal, and CD producer Johnny Black on various keyboards.

The band sounds as powerful as on the prior recording. The title track opens this recording with Tierinii passionately delivering the song's message of even when thinks hot rock bottom, "You get what you put out, You gotta keep on." It is a superb track with the band and horns adding to the heat, while Naftaly adds a tight, cutting solo that almost matches the impassioned vocal. Then there is the punchy backing of "Whiskey Love," about dealing with a broken relationship and how she needs a cup. Tierinii is a superb singer who sings with clarity, nuance, and power. "Savior" is another display of her mastery of vocal dynamics as she goes from a virtual whisper to a scream, but never off-pitch, and letting the intensity develop naturally as opposed to being forced.

There is the bluesy feel of "The Tea I Sip," and the classic soul flavor of "Lucky." In a similar classic soul vein is "Too Good For You," where she tells her would be lover, "You can't do for me, Anything that I can't do … Be a whole lot better off without you." The interplay between keyboards and guitarist Naftaly also is worthy of note. Another message song "We Are Not So Different," has choice lyrics "Regardless of whose privileged we all got rights, … To ignore our cries over bloodshed, is just as low as the man." It has another fiery vocal with a smoldering, intense backing. William Bell joins Tierinii for another message song, "We Got the Music," as they sing "if you don't look like me, If you don't talk like me, That's alright, We've got the music … ," set against a classic Memphis sound backing. Then there is a celebration of sisterly love in "She Gets Me High" where Tierinii's girlfriend helps her unwind at times with her magical touch, with a potent blues-rock guitar break

The closing number, "We're Gonna Make It," is not the Little Milton song but a slow song of dealing with tough times and even though things may seem low, "Just don't let go, We're gonna make it." Again with a heartfelt vocal, firm and supple backing and a first-rate blues guitar solo to conclude another superb CD by Southern Avenue.

I received a review copy from a publicist. Here is the official video for the title track.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Scott Sharrard Saving Grace

Scott Sharrard
Saving Grace
We Save Music

Sharrard, for those like this writer who are not aware, was the late Gregg Allman’s Musical Director. On this release he takes center stage backed by the Hi Rhythm of Memphis (Howard Grimes on drums, Leroy Hodges on bass and Charles Hodges on organ), and the Swampers Of Muscle Shoals (Charles Gamble on drums, David Hood on bass and Spooner Oldham on a few selections), with Eric Finland on keyboards, Mark Franklin on trumpet (among horn players). Taj Mahal guests on the Greg Allman's last original (a collaboration with Sharrard), "Everything a Good Man Needs," on which Bernard "Pretty" Purdie is on drums. Except for Terry Reid's "Faith To Arise," Sharrard penned ten of the eleven songs (two being collaborations).

Sharrard's mix of blues, southern rock, swamp pop, and Memphis soul makes for quite an enjoyable release. He is a darn good singer with a soulful delivery, not as raspy as Allman, and a solid guitarist. The Southern rock heritage is perhaps most evident on Reid' s "Faith to Arise," with some tart slide guitar in the vein of the Allman Brothers set against Sharrard's moving singing. The title track, with Gamble, Hood, and Finland in the backing is a soulful, bluesy ballad soulfully sung. On "Everything a Good Man Needs," Taj Mahal handles the vocal, singing about how his baby's love keeps him humming and is all he needs. His strong vocal is backed Sharrard's crying slide guitar, tight riffing horns and a funky R&B groove.

"Angeline," with the Hi Rhythm Section is a Memphis funk take on swamp pop, while "Words Can't Lie," is simply a terrifically sung Memphis soul ballad. "She Can't Wait" is another southern soul-flavored original with the Swampers adding their own brand of funk as Sharrard sings about his part-time love leaving him full of despair. "Sweet Compromise," is a brassy uptempo blues with slashing guitar followed by another blues, "Tell The Truth," again with more high energy blues-rock guitar. Sharrard impresses by his focused, thoughtful playing as opposed to merely shredding.

There are some really good songs, fervent and moving vocals, excellent guitar as well and first-rate backing and production. This blues traditionalist was quite impressed by this recording. Dedicated to Rich Hall, Butch Trucks, and Greg Allman, Scott Sharrard does their memory proud on "Saving Grace."

A publicist provided my review copy. I have made stylistic changes to this review, which first appeared in the November-December 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 381). Here Scott Sharrard performs "Angeline."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Greg Diaz & The Art Of Imagination Jazz Orchestra Begin the Agora

Greg Diaz & The Art Of Imagination Jazz Orchestra
Begin the Agora
AOI Group

An institution on South Florida's music scene Diaz plays reeds and is a vocalist, composer, and arranger. He has toured with pop and jazz legends like Ben E. King, Nicole Henry, Phil Woods, Ira Sullivan, the Temptations, The Lettermen and Tito Puente amongst many. This recording allowed him to document this Orchestra with a short disc containing 5 songs. Diaz is on tenor sax, clarinet and sings on this recording.

It opens with a percolating groove on Kevin Eubanks "The Navigator" with his orchestration contrasting a deep bass tone against fiery brass. Guitarist Christian Davis fleet, spiraling single note solo is followed by the rolling bop-flavored piano of Eero Turunen with the horns adding heat before Diaz himself takes a robust, surging tenor sax solo. Davis and Diaz both are featured again against the strolling tempo of "Circadia" with its intricate rhythmic melody.

A centerpiece here is a lively exploration of New Orleans grooves in a medley of The Nevilles' "Brother John," Diaz's "2nd Line Strut," and Sugarboy Crawford and the Cane Cutters' "Iko Iko." Diaz is no slouch as a singer (he is a Professor of Jazz Voice at Miami Dade College) and takes the lead with bassist James McCoy adding backing voices as the horns punch riffs against the second line groove. It transitions to the "2nd Line Strut" with drummer Matt Calderin parade rhythms trading off with tenor saxophonist Scott Klarman, guitarist and others including Mike Brignola on baritone sax, and Turunen on electric piano. The performance transitions into a jubilant rendition of the Mardi Gras Indian chant "Iko Iko," with Diaz singing over a fresh horn arrangement that likely would have impressed the legendary Wardell Quezergue.

Also heard here is the brisk, bop minor-toned blues "Frank Blank" that has several notable solos with the rumbling, rambunctious trombonist Russell Freeland and trumpeter Kevin Wilde (blistering high note specialist) standing out before drummer Calderin takes a furious solo. Turunen on electric piano and Calderin's stick work introduce the moody title track. Plenty of color and interest are provided not merely by some strong solos from Klarman on tenor sax, but by Turunen on electric piano who lends a floating feel under his wholehearted playing including a fascinating electric piano solo. Also, there is sizzling high-energy guitar shredding from Davis that starts in a contemplative manner while building up in intensity.

As indicated, this recording represented Greg Diaz's desire to document this big band, and the solid performances here make this a band well worth documenting.

I received a review copy from a publicist. I have made stylistic changes to this review which first appeared in the November-December 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 381).

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Johnny and Jaalene

Johnny and Jaalene
Ripcat Records

This album introduces the modern teen idol duet of Johnny Ramos and Jaalene DeLeon on a program of mostly remakes of teen rock and roll recordings from the late fifties and sixties. The 19-year-old Ramos is a guitar-playing son of blues guitarist Kid Ramos and is a guitarist as well as a singer who is tearing things up in a blues, roots and rockabilly band. Jaalene is a 16-year-old theater girl, and choirs student turned rockabilly diva who has been called "The Queen of the Teens." The dup handle all the vocals, including some duets, while the younger Ramos plays acoustic guitar. Backing musicians include Kid Ramos and Tommy Harkenrider on guitar, Brent Harding on bass and Kid Dabbs on drums with Jesus Cuevas adding Norteña accordion on 4 tracks and Rob Dziubla adding saxophone to three.

The appeal of the two (think Sha Na Na performance of oldies without the camp aspects of their stage act), is immediately evident on the pair's marvelous rendition of The Ronettes hit, "Baby I Love You." Jaalene's pure teen voice and Ramos' slight vibrato is so charming and puts to lie that those hits were simply the result of Phil Spector's production and not the singing of Ronnie Spector. Kid Ramos has a brief, taut solo here. I suspect Carla Thomas might approve Jaalene's wonderful singing of her hit "Gee Whiz." After Johnny's hiccup-ping take of Eddie Cochran, "Teenage Cutie," the two enchant us their sublime channeling of the Everly Brothers' hit, "Let It Be Me." With booting saxophone and some slashing guitar, Jaalene delivers a spirited vocal on Etta James' rock and roller, "Good Looking."

"Los Chuco Suaves" is one of the songs from the Mexican American tradition with Johnny rhythmic acoustic guitar while singing in what might find a melodramatic manner, with a choice button accordion solo. It is followed by another lilting teen ballad, "Angel Baby," as Jaalene sings about being in heaven with Johnny. Johnny sings Doug Sahm's Tex-Mex lament, "Why Why Why," with booting sax and accordion in the backing. While perhaps not yet possessing the weight of Wanda Jackson as a vocalist, Jaalene does a credible vocal on "Let's Have a Party," with some crisp guitar playing from both Ramos and Harkenrider. There is a lively rendition by Johnny of an obscure Bill Allen rockabilly recording, "Please Give Me Something," that is more focused and hotter than the original.

After Jaalene's delightful bilingual singing (with Johnny providing a genial harmony) on a Chicano rock ballad "Cuando Caliente," the two perform a Norteña styled rocking rendition of The Danleers' only doo-wop hit with surging grooves, hot accordion, and strong singing. It closes an album that may bring back memories to the older roots music audience, on an enchanting recording that brings some fresh sheen to classic rock and roll music.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the November- December 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 381). Here is the official video for the recorded performance of "Baby I Love You."

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Mike Bogle Trio Dr. B!

Mike Bogle Trio
Dr. B!
Mbp / Groove!

The Dr. B in this CD's title refers to Mike Bogle having a Doctorate in Musical Arts. A music educator as well as a marvelous keyboard player (here on the organ) composer and arranger, he is joined by guitarist Richard McLure and drummer Ivan Torres for a straight-ahead organ trio recording of mostly standards.

From the sprinter's tempo of the first interpretation of "Cherokee," to the closing storytelling on "Walkin'," the Bogle Trio impresses with the crisp ensemble sound and their interplay. On the opening track all three solo and display their technical and musical command, with guitarist McClure's bright, single-note solos very appealing. McClure takes the lead on John Abercrombie's "Ralph's Piano Waltz," while Bogle provides a harmonic base before his pipe organ emulating solo while Torres puts down a crisp groove. There is a nice bluesy mashup of Neil Hefti's "Splanky" with Bobby Troup's "Route 66," that also includes some personable scatting and passable singing to go with the greasy organ-guitar here.

A relaxed, swinging take on "On The Street Where You Live" is followed by the closing talking blues, "Walkin'," with his engaging story-telling. McClure's chicken-picking guitar provides color to the vocal along with Bogle's repeated stepping riff pattern. If this is a somewhat brief CD (34 minutes or so), it is a wonderfully played organ jazz trio.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the January-February 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 382). Here is a video of Mike Bogle although on piano.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Grady Champion Steppin' In: A Tribute to ZZ Hill

Grady Champion
Steppin' In: A Tribute to ZZ Hill

"Steppin' In" is Grady Champion's 11th album and is a tribute to the great ZZ Hill who has been gone so many years, as well done in memory of his mother whose favorite artist was Hill. He states on the inside back cover to this CD, "I am very blessed and honored to have the opportunity to record the songs he sang on the label he recorded, and for the great writers work, which he performed for the world to hear." On this recording he is backed by his veteran road band of guitarist Will Wesley, Frederick Demby Sr. on bass, Sam Brady on keys and Edward Rayshad Smith on drums, with special guests including guitarist Eddie Cotton, the Jackson Horns, and Jewel Bass and Lahlah Devine supplying backing vocals.

Grady Champion and his band do nothing fancy here. They just bring back memories of Hill starting with the slow dance, bump and grind feel of "Down Home Blues," a recording that is still celebrated anyplace where folks "Bump and Grind" (another song revived here) to soul-blues and southern soul today. The band does an excellent job of backing Champion here, with guitarist Wesley standing out. One is impressed by the performances that convey much of the feel Hill gave these songs three-odd decades ago including "Shade Tree Mechanic" on which Grady adds some down-home harmonica fills, and Sam Brady provides grease on the organ. Then there is the insistent groove of Denise Lasalle's "Someone Else Is Steppin' In," with the horns and backing chorus adding punch. Champion's harmonica adds a down-home feel to "Bump and Grind" while Eddie Cotton adds some stinging guitar.

Champion really pours his soul into his insistent vocal on "I'm a Bluesman," while "Open House at My House," is one of two numbers ("Everybody Knows About My Good Thing") Hill recorded that were initially recorded by Little Johnny Taylor (not the Stax singer). They are both intense urban blues about back door men who know about too many personal details about Champion's wife (like a man knowing where his wife's birthmark is and the preacher who praises his wife's fried chicken). Wesley takes the lead guitar on "Open House" which has Champion's harmonica overdubbed over the vocal, while Cotton dazzles on the similar themed, "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing" with its line "Call the plumber there must be a leak in my drain." Other songs explore a similar vein including "Who You Been Giving It To" (when you're not giving it to me), and "Cheating In the Next Room" where the love is no longer there. Of course, not every song involves the back door lovers, and there is the soulful ballad about how much he loves his woman and would cut off his "Right Arm For Your Love."

The performances of "Steppin' In" may not radically rework the ZZ Hill original recordings, but Champion and his band bring a lot of heart and soul to this memorable tribute to a Soul and Blues performer who is still remembered and missed.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Grady Champion doing a number from his previous album.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Shirley Johnson Blues Attack

Shirley Johnson
Blues Attack
Delmark Records

Vocalist Shirley Johnson has been a mainstay of Chicago’s North Loop bistro Blue Chicago for the past seventeen years, and that’s where you will likely find her unless she’s touring overseas. A Virginia native, she had roots in the church so many blues & R&B performers. A fellow Norfolk alumna, Ruth Brown was a role model, but she was influenced by such acts as Etta James, Johnnie Taylor, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, and B.B. King. 

Johsnon worked pop as well as gospel gigs until a friend told her to go to Chicago where she relocated to in April 1983. Working first with Buster Benton and then with singer Johnny Christian, she got herself part of the Chicago scene. Then keyboard wizard Professor Eddie Lusk heard her, hired her to a Canadian tour and later brought her Blue Chicago as his regular vocalist, and after he died in 1992, she continued on at the club. In 1994 she recorded “Looking For Love” for Appaloosa which was followed by a 2002 Delmark album “Killer Diller.” She returns to Delmark for her new release, “Blues Attack.”

For “Blues Attack,” she has brought on board a band of guitarist Luke Pytel, keyboardist Roosevelt Purifoy, bassist Lovely “JR” Fuller, Jr. and drummer Cordell Teague with a horn section of Lawrence Fields, Kenny Anderson, Hank Ford, and Willie Henderson added to several tracks. The fourteen selections on “Blues Attack” include several written by Maurice John Vaughan, several by her band members and several that she contributed to, along with covers of R&B classics. 

This is just a solid set of Chicago blues sung and played strongly. Purifoy is first-rate on keyboards, while Pytel plays a solid blues guitar with just the right tone and bite as Johnson delivers the goods with her straight attack that eschews histrionics for a simple, soulful delivery. The songs range from her cautionary warning to her lover, “You’re Reckless,” and need to change his ways to keep whatever glimmer of a flame is in their love. The title track has a funky groove enhanced by a full dose of brass, as she sings about having a blues fever which moved through her body and mesmerized her, left her tired and soaking wet but nothing wrong with that, and Pytel shines more here). 

There is a nice rendition of the great Wilson Pickett classic “634-5789,” followed by an easy tempoed shuffle “Just Like That,” as she explains her relationship is over and moving on. “You Shouldn’t Have Been There,” is a fine atmospheric slow blues where she tells an ex to move on. “I’m Going To Find Me a Lover,” turns the tempo hotter as were she declares if it takes a long time its all right as she isn’t gonna take less than she deserves. It continues the lyrical center of many of the songs here emphasizing relationships that cool down or break down due to abuse or cheating. The performances have a variety of tempos and accompaniments that add to their enjoyability. 

Delmark should be thanked for bringing a healthy slice of blues from a marvelous singer who merits the attention “Blues Attack” should bring.

I received my review copy from Delmark Records. This review originally appeared in the April 2009  Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 315) although I have made some minor changes.  Here is Shirley Johnson performing "Blues Attack."

Friday, June 21, 2019

Paula Harris Speakeasy

Paula Harris

Born in South Carolina but now based in the San Francisco Bay area, vocalist Paula Harris has impressed folks in the Blues Scene. Her band finished in the top 3 in the 2012 International Blues Challenge and recordings have furthered her stature with praises from Dan Ackroyd, the late Lou Rawls and Stax legend William Bell.

Her new recording takes her into more of jazz setting as she explores the nexus of blues and jazz backed by an acoustic piano trio. The backing musicians include pianist Nate Ginsburg, bassist Richard Girard, and drummer Derrick 'D'Mar' Martin, with guest appearances from trumpeter Bill Ortiz, a poetic rap from Big Llou Johnson, and Christoffer 'Kid' Andersen on bongos on one song and waterpipe on another. "Speakeasy" was recorded at Andersen's Greaseland Studios, and he mixed the recording.

10 of the 16 songs on my CD are originals with Harris' lyrics and music from her and Ginsburg, two are from Bay area friends, and the others are interpretations of standards. Scott Yanow has suggested in the liner notes that Paula Harris has created a jazz-blues fusion, bridging "the gap between blues and jazz, while not neglecting soul and R&B." I have other singers around Washington DC (where I live) do the same, although they are often viewed as jazz singers. This is not to diminish the talent or what Paula Harris has accomplished here. She is a terrific vocalist. She sings expressively with power, but subtle and nuanced and one can appreciate the what the late Lou Rawls meant when he said she was "A thin vanilla coating on a dark chocolate soul."

And she brings her vocal talents to some stunning originals like the cautionary "Nothing Good Happens After Midnight," and the evocative ballad "Haunted." The there is spice and exuberance of "Soul Sucking Man," well she sings about resisting the temptation and charms of this gentleman, and her sober, elegiac rendition of "Good Morning Heartache" a marvelous interpretation of a song associated with Billie Holiday. "A Mind of Her Own" is a superb straight blues while trumpeter Ortiz creates a haunting mood to the sensual "Something Wicked" with interplay with her interaction with Big Llou Johnson's poetic rap. Ortiz's muted trumpet adds to the late-night feel of the Thelonious Monk jazz standard "Round Midnight" to which she has provided original lyrics and delivers a superb, longing vocal. Her splendid rendition fo Al Kooper's "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" is based on Donny Hathaway's interpretation. After the minor-toned blues about a cheating lover, "Who Put Those Scratches On Your Back," the CD closes with a playful take on Louis Jordan's "Is You Or Is You Ain't My Baby."

The contributions of her backing piano trio should not be overlooked. Pianist Ginsburg especially impressed with his deft accompaniments and lively, imaginative solos while the rhythm duo of Girard and Martin provide a light, yet firm foundation for Paula Harris' expressive, subtle singing. With this backing and the excellent material, "Speakeasy" is a superb recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of her performing "Nothing Good Happens After Midnight."

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Brandon Goldberg Let's Play

Brandon Goldberg
Let's Play
Brandon Goldberg Music

Joey Alexander isn't the only precocious young pianist to emerge in recent years. 12 years old when Brandon Goldberg recorded this album, he has been raising eyebrows with his considerable piano skills. His teachers include Shelly Berg, Avery Shape, and Matt Wilson, and he has been mentored by Monty Alexander. Alexander is quoted in this booklet including observing how he is "always knocking out the crowd." I note that he received a DownBeat Student Music Jazz Instrumentalist Soloist Honors Winner in the May 2019 issue. On his debut recording, he is accompanied by Ben Wolfe on bass and Donald Edwards on drums with tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland adding tenor sax to two of the nine selections.

He is a player who follows his own muse opening with Monk's "Well You Needn't," where he perhaps plays less angularly and with more fluidity than usual. He hints at the melody more than stating it but impresses with his imagination and the logic of his solo. "Angel Eyes," is a number that he talked about with Alexander (who had accompanied Frank Sinatra on it) and listened to him play the changes, resulting in an austere performance that had hints of Monk's "'Round About Midnight" about it. Edwards deftly using brushes on this.

"You Mean Me," a contrafact of Monk's "I Mean You," is played with a funk groove. Strickland plays some rugged tenor sax while Goldberg's playing is more angular here. Other originals include the dynamic "The Understream" with Edwards featured and his tribute to McCoy Tyner, "McCoy," with an auspicious introduction by bassist Wolfe. The Beatles' "Blackbird" receives an exquisite interpretation. There is also delightful melodic quality to his performance to Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance." Strickland is superlative on this as well.

He interprets two Duke Ellington numbers. "Caravan" opens with Edwards' rumbling solo and then Goldberg stirs listeners on piano and Fender Rhodes by his use of polyrhythms and a clever riff. A solo rendition of "In a Sentimental Mood" is inspired by Ellington's introductory riff his recording with John Coltrane. It is engrossing to see how Brandon constructs and develops a solo showing a musical maturity well beyond his age.

With the superb backing he receives from Wolfe and Edwards, and Strickland's noteworthy contributions, Brandon Goldberg has produced a superlative jazz piano recording, not simply a promising debut.

I received my review copy from a publicist. I have made stylistic changes to this review which first appeared in the May-June Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 384). Here is Brandon Goldberg performing "You Mean Me."

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Red Holloway Go Red Go!

Red Holloway
Go Red Go!
Delmark Records

Delmark has just issued the label’s debut recording by the veteran tenor saxophonist, Red Holloway, “Go Red Go!” A contemporary of Von Freeman and the late Johnny Griffin at Chicago’s fabled Du Sable High, he came up under the tutelage of Captain Walter Dyett who advised his students to practice outside to develop their sound. Particularly important influences on Holloway were Ben Webster and Sonny Stitt, leading to his big, rich tone and fleet agility which certainly did not inhibit his ability to straddle the blues and jazz worlds growing up. He played on some classic Chicago blues sessions as well as jazz dates. His career has run the gamut to backing Charles Brown in the studio in the late sixties (with Charles calling out Red by name on a choice tenor solo) to the 1989 “Locksmith Blues,” date for Concord co-led with Clark Terry. 

Go Red Go! finds him blowing with vitality backed by organist Chris Foreman and his trio (guitarist Henry Johnson and drummer Greg Rockingham). Its a buoyant swinging date opening with a lively Love Walked In. Legendary guitarist George Freeman takes over the chair for Holloway's late night blues, I Like It Funky. The title track is a retitled rendition of an Arnett Cobb sax sender as he takes off at rug-burning tempo, followed by the more romantic feeling of the standard Deep Purple, a prime vehicle to display his sensuous ballad playing with his vibrato evoking Webster. 

Holloway also provides his own take on Stardust, one of the ballads Webster was most associated with. Sonny Rollins classic calypso St. Thomas, is an unusual choice perhaps but Foremans solid unison playing and chording underneath his dancing solo adds to its charm and Johnson takes a nice solo here as well. There are strong interpretations of Bags Groove, and Antonio Carlos Jobims bossa nova classic, Wave." Guitarist Freeman rejoins him for the delightful reworking of Roosevelt Sykes', Keep Your Hands Off Yourself, that closes this album as he enthusiastically delivers the vocal with Foreman anchoring the performance and getting greasy during his solo that precedes the solos by Holloway and Freeman. Holloway used to play with Sykes. 

Holloway may not be a great singer, but the entire performance is simply too much fun and ends a finger-snapping, toe-tapping recording of first-rate jazz for lovers of tenor sax and organ jazz. He aint getting older, hes just aging marvelously.

I received this review copy from Delmark, but am uncertain whether this 2009 review was ever published. (Correction, It was published in the July 2009 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 318)). Here is Red Holloway from a decade singing and playing "Cleanhead Blues."  

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Little Johnny Rivero Music In Me

Little Johnny Rivero
Music In Me
Truth Revolution Recordings

Veteran Latin percussionist Little Johnny Rivera has his second effort as a leader titled, “Music in Me.” Rivero has performed on nearly 100 recordings with La Sonora Ponceña, Eddie Palmieri, Bebo Valdés, Charlie Palmieri, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Paquito D' Rivera, Brian Lynch, and Conrad Herwig among others. Growing up he was exposed to a wide range of music "including Tito Puente, Machito, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Tony Bennett, all of which my father had in his record collection. Also, there were always rumba jams. Inside of me is a Latin Jazz Rumba."

On "Music in Me" he has assembled a band featuring trumpeter Brian Lynch, alto saxophonist Louis Fouché, pianist Zaccai Curtis and bass player Luques Curtis. Special guests on this program of nine compositions include trombonist Conrad Herwig, trumpeter Jonathan Powell, violinist Alfredo de la Fé, percussionists Anthony Carrillo and Luisito Quintero, vocalists Manny Mieles and Edwin Ramos and Giovanni Almonte (spoken word).

The opening selection, "Mr. LP," dedicated to Marty Cohen the founder of Latin Percussion, establishes the tenor of the recording with its Afro-Cuban danceable grooves. Anthony Carrillo's percussion added here with pianist Curtis laying down his sound along with Herwig's robust contribution followed by a percussion interlude before Herwig and Lynch add some brass fireworks. Pianist Curtis and Rivera composed the title track, a hot jazz rumba with some terrific trumpet from Lynch, one of today's most brilliant trumpeters whether playing Latin jazz as here or hard bop (like when he was with the late Phil Woods). Fouché also solos with authority here. Zaccai Curtis' "Let's Do It Again" is built on a nice hard bop line but transformed into a smoking Afro-Cuban groove with Afonso at the fore. Andy Guzman contributed what Rivera describes as a Latin jazz mambo, "Little Giants," with Jonathan Powell playing the hot trumpet and guest Anthony Carrillo smoking on the bongos.

The cha-cha-cha "Palmieri, Much Respect" was composed by pianist Curtis and dedicated to the great Eddie Palmieri with the leader on timbales and Curtis wonderful with his spicy melodic invention. A celebration of Africa, the home of all drumming is Brian Lynch's "African, My Land" with a recitation of a poem by Giovanni Almonte and strong saxophone from Fouché. and Rivera and Manny Mieles chanting over the percussion near the end. After the explosive, percussive "Bombazúl," there is the funky "Afro Rykan Thoughts," with its jamming feel and blazing playing from Lynch and Fouché, along with Curtis' memorable piano.

"Alambique," named after a beach in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, sports a timbales solo by Luisito Quintero and a violin solo from Alfredo de la Fe (both stellar), and is the final performance on a terrific Latin Jazz recording full of excellent ensemble work, intriguing arrangements and hot, driving dance grooves. Little Johnny Rivera has put out a recording with some very big sounds.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the November-December 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 369) to which I have made minor corrections. Here is a video of Little Johnny Rivero in performance.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Nancy Wright Playdate!

Nancy Wright
Direct Hit Records/ VizzTone

It was Bob Porter who alerted me to saxophonist Nancy Wright, whose playing on a Blues Cruise deeply impressed him. She has just issued a recording "Playdate!" that was produced by Christoffer 'Kid' Andersen and recorded at his Greaseland Studios. Andersen also contributes guitar with the backing band including Chris Burns on keyboards, Joe Kyle Jr. on bass; J Hansen on drums, Tom Poole on trumpet, and Faris Jarrah on trombone, behind Wright's sax. There are a number of guests here that I will highlight as well, and I take it that Wright takes the uncredited vocals on this.

Listening to Wright's raspy sax (played with plenty of vibrato) I am reminded of Junior Walker and Eddie Shaw, which certainly has an appeal. Certainly, her playing stands out on the rocking reworking of a New Orleans recording 'Why You Wanna Do It," with the fabulous soulful Wee Willie Walker taking the soulful vocal. As a singer, she has a bit of country in her sound but does a solid job of covering Koko Taylor on "I Got What it Takes," which features Tommy Castro on guitar and her own blistering solo. Victor Wainwright adds boogie laced piano to her original rocker "Yes He Do," which she rides out on sax. There is a pretty straight cover Eddie Shaw's "Blues For the Westside" with Joe Louis Walker on guitar while Wright evokes Shaw's heavy vibrato on sax. Lonnie Mack (to who this album is dedicated) was the source of "Been Waiting That Long" that Frank Bey sings, while "Trampled" is a driving Junior Walker-styled instrumental with Jim Pugh on the organ with Andersen taking a terrific Motown inspired guitar solo.

Wright's vocal on the gospel number "Satisfied" has her backed by a gospel choir, while Terry Odabi sings "Warranty," with a choice Wright lyric, followed by a capable vocal on Henry Glover's "Cherry Wine" originally recorded by Esther Phillips for Federal. Elvin Bishop is on guitar for a raspy instrumental take on "There Is Something On Your Mind," that I believe Big Jay would enjoy. Mike Schermer adds guitar to "Back Room Rock," a medium tempo rocker that sports solos from him and Wright and some call and response between them towards the close. "Good Rocking Daddy" is a Wright original, not the Etta James number, and is evocative of some sixties Chicago soul recordings.

Another instrumental, the moody "Soul Blue" with Chris Cain on guitar, closes this album on a strong note. Her sax on this is a bit more nuanced (less vibrato), and the underrated Cain shines as does all the players on this. The musicianship throughout is first-rate, and in addition to the solos, the arrangements are solid and avoid being hackneyed, and the production is up to the high standards expected from Kid Andersen and the Greaseland Studios. There is so much music to enjoy on Wright's "Playdate!"

I received my review copy from VizzTone. This review originally appeared in the September-October 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 368), although I have made a few minor corrections to this review. Nancy Wright has a new recording out and I will be reviewing that shortly. Here is a video of Nancy Wright in performance.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Soul Brass Band Levels

Soul Brass Band

According to a story in Offbeat Magazine, the origins of the Soul Brass Band go back to when CeeLo Green was shooting a video in New Orleans for his song "Music To My Soul." Drummer Derrick Freeman of Kermit Ruffins' Barbecue Swingers was asked to be a consultant and then asked to form a Brass Band. Given the word soul was central to the video's theme, Freeman used the name Soul Brass Band for the project and the producers provided traditional Brass Band uniforms for those in the shoot that Freeman kept.

After shooting a video with New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, Freeman was receiving requests for the Soul Brass Band. He formed an All Star ensemble snare drummer "Freeman, bass drummer Aron Lambert, trumpeter Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown, trombonists Michael Watson and Terrance Taplin, saxophonist James Martin, guitarist Danny Abel and tuba player Steve Glenn." After checking with the Soul Rebels, they started performing with the first performance was opening for Red Baraat at Tipitina's and subsequently toured and played Festivals in Europe and more.

The music ranges from traditional Brass Band numbers to funky soul and pop covers over a wide variety of material. The recording opens with what sounds like static radio music before it segues into Soul Brass at full force on the driving swing of "Open Your Eyes," with its hints of Latin along Ivan Neville's vocal. Michael Watson takes a terrific trombone solo followed by Khris Royal's searing alto sax, the horn arrangement supporting the vocal is wonderful and the groove is irresistible. The title track has a groove that hints at "Funky Nassau," as Freeman shouts out the vocal of life being about levels as the horns help punctuate the vocal. Ricio Fruge takes a scorching trumpet solo before Martin's earthy tenor sax, with the percussion percolating while Doyle Cooper's sousaphone providing the anchor. There is more of a Caribbean groove on "How Far We Come," with Sean C adding his soulful vocal to Freeman's gravelly one. Corey Henry adds his muscular trombone to the funk. Sean C. also is present on "Circles" which also features Freeman's funk band Smoker's World, a the mix of rap and soulful singing.

There is plenty of soul on the spirited revival of "Ease On Down The Road" from The Wiz with an outstanding vocal by Erica Falls, and noteworthy solos from Mark Levron on trumpet and Danny Abel on guitar. The closing number goes back to a more traditional jazz vein with a rendition of Leroy Jones' "Rendezvous," with Kevin Louis high note trumpet featured before Terence Taplin's rambunctious trombone solo. While there is only a little over a half hour of music, the Soul Brass Band has plenty of spirit along and funk to go with its Brass Band foundation to produce a recording that should have folks at least tapping their fingers. If you can sit still through this album, you need to have your pulse checked.

I received a review download from a publicist. Here is a video of Soul Brass Band during a recent instore performance at New Orleans' Louisiana Music Factory.


Friday, June 14, 2019

Marshall Gilkes and the WDR Big Band Always Forward

Marshall Gilkes and the WDR Big Band
Always Forward
Alternate Side Records

Composer-Arranger-Conductor-Trombonist Gilkes has an impressive resume including being a member of Maria Schneider's Orchestra, who describes him as “one of those musicians who continually just drops my jaw and leaves me shaking my head in disbelief" … as well as a former member of the WDR Big Band with whom he previously recorded a Grammy nominated recording. About this second recording leading this celebrated big band, he observed “Standing in front of a band like that and writing for it...that’s a whole other drug. It’s one thing to play as a soloist and a member, but when you get to write and stand out front and hear all that hard work come back, it’s a pretty addictive thing.”

Here is a multiple threat in all of his capacities here, and also joined by Germany's swinging-est band that boasts such world class players and improvisers as alto saxophonists Karolina Strassmayer and Johan Hörlén; tenor saxophonist Paul Heller, trumpeter Andy Haderer; trombonist Andy Hunter; guitarist Paul Shigihara; bassist John Goldsby and drummer Hans Dekker. The hard driving swing of this band is evident from the opening of "Puddle Jumping," which also showcases' Wilkes' spectacular trombone playing set against a heated orchestration and several tempo transitions. Then there is an rousing spectacular rendition of Cole Porter's "Easy To Love" with marvelous scoring of the horns with a tight statement of the melody from the brass here set the reeds and a funky bass groove. There is a marvelous alto sax solo from Johan Hörlén here as well.

The mood changes with the gentle lyricism of "Morning Smiles," with Wilkes playing in a mellow manner as the performance unfolds for a rhapsodic crescendo as the brass soars along with his trombone. "Switchback" opens with a driving funk groove and showcases saxophonists of Strassmayer on alto (set against Goldsby's bass riff) and Heller's fiery tenor sax. Drummer Dekker also takes a short solo set against Simon Seidl's comping on piano. Here and elsewhere, this big band plays with the tightness of a much smaller group with the orchestrations adding color.

Gilkes's classical influences are displayed by the reeds and brasses providing a chamber-like opening to "Lost Words." it has a relaxed, lyrical trombone solo followed by Seidl's intricate playing bolstered by Goldsby's emphatic bass. A lovely rendition of the ballad "Portrait of Jennie," has a lush arrangement and a exquisite flugelhorn solo from Andy Haderer.

The centerpiece of this recording is "The Denali Suite," inspired by a trip to the National Park in the State of Alaska. It features Hörlén's swirling, spirited soprano sax on the rousing first movement, pianist Seidl playing in ruminative fashion on the hymn-like second part (wonderful scoring of the horns to engender that tone), and trombonist Andy Hunter growling a bit on the swinging third movement.

The album closes with the title track which to Gilkes is about life and his own mindset that no matter what is going around, one has to push forward. Again this performance displays all the facets of his musical persona, as a composer, arranger, conductor and a superb trombonist as this superb band builds to an uplifting crescendo closing a remarkable recording.

I received as a download from a publicist. This review appeared in the November-December 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 381), although I may have made minor changes. Here is a video of Marshall Gilkes and the WDR Big Band playing "Puddle Jumping."

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Tony Bennett & Diana Krall Love Is Here To Stay

Tony Bennett & Diana Krall
Love Is Here To Stay
Verve Records/Columbia Records

While Diana Krall recorded duets with Tony Bennett (who just turned 92) for Bennett's duets recordings, this celebration of the music of Tony Bennett is their first full album together. It also is a celebration of the George Gershwin songbook and issued on the 120th Anniversary of Gershwin's birth. The 14 performances were recorded with The Bill Charlap Trio (Bill Charlap on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums). 

Tony Bennett's voice perhaps is a tad frayed and not quite as supple as it once was, he remains a master song stylist. On the opening "S'Wonderful," Krall's sultry singing and the rapport between two produce a delightful track. Furthermore, Bennett still retains so much of his voice as heard on a superb "Nice Work If You Can Get It," as well as the trading of lyrics on "Love Is Here To Stay." In addition to the charm of the two, the Charlap trio's backing is sublime as on "I Got Rhythm." Bennett's phrasing certainly adds weight to his vocal on "I've Got a Crush OnYou," while she responds with congenial warmth. "Fascinating Rhythm," which was the first song Bennett recorded decades ago, is effervescently performed.

There are some solo selections, including Krall's superb reading of "How Long Has This Been Going On," with Kenny Washington's use of brushes and Charlap's wonderful accompaniment. I believe this a bonus selection for CDs purchased from Target stores, as is Bennett's vocal on "Oh, Lady Be Good." As indicated, the rapport between them is evident throughout the performances on this captivating recording.

I received as a download to review from a publicist. This review appeared in the January-February 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 382), although I have made minor changes to the review as published. Here the two perform "S'Wonderful," on the Tonight Show.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Jorge Nila Tenor Time: Tribute to the Tenor Masters

Jorge Nila
Tenor Time: Tribute to the Tenor Masters

Saxophonist Jorge Nila began playing music in Omaha, Nebraska in 1965 and moved to New York in 1978, studying with George Coleman, and working with Eddie Palmieri, Jack McDuff, Paul Simon, and others. He returned to Omaha in 1990 where he is a music educator and performs in Colorado, Kansas City, and the Midwest. On this recording, he is accompanied by guitarist Dave Stryker (who was also playing in the Omaha scene in the 1970s), drummer Dana Murray (also a long time friend whose home studio is where this was recorded), and organist Mitch Towne (who also has worked with Nila, and become one of the strongest B-3 players in the Midwest). They provide the backing for Nila's homage to a number of tenor players he has listened to.

While Lester Young is not represented here, Nila writes that he is the apple tree that has led to the fruit of the tenor players he salutes here. It opens up with a nicely paced version of Dexter Gordon's "Fried Bananas." We get introduced to Nila's warm, fluid playing with Stryker bright single note playing and Towne's straight-ahead organ grease all played at a relaxed, swinging groove that Murray puts down before trading fours with Nila on an exemplary performance. The blues-drenched funk of Hank Mobley's "Soul Station" follows.

In honoring John Coltrane, Nila picked a Tadd Dameron composition, "On a Misty Night," and there is a strong tenor sax solo with his full tone and nicely developed solo, although he displays little Coltrane influence. It is followed by a beautiful rendition of Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes," with Towne adding an excellent solo. Stanley Turrentine is honored on a relaxed interpretation of Stevie Wonder's "Rocket Love," with Stryker adding a neat riff in his accompaniment. It contrasts with the strong drive of Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge." Sonny Rollins' "The Everywhere Calypso" allows for a bouncy, Caribbean flavor and a thoughtfully developed thematic solo that suggests Rollins' influence in how Nila solos. Stryker adds a solo here in the manner of Jim Hall with Rollins. Sonny Stitt's "The Eternal Triangle," takes us from bebop to hard bop with more thoughtful and inventive soloing.

Harold Vick's "Our Miss Brooks," is a relaxed, bluesy tenor-organ group shuffle with Towne outstanding followed by Nila playing in a more gutbucket manner followed by Stryker's energetic solo with the band then slowly building the intensity of this gem that closes an excellent recording. Nila has picked some interesting tunes to honor a number of tenor giants and with the superb band, shows himself to be a most formidable saxophonist.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the January-February 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 382), although I have made minor changes. Here Jorge is heard with Richie Love performing "On Green Dolphin Street."

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Tommy Castro and the Painkillers Killin' It Live

Tommy Castro and the Painkillers
Killin' It Live

This is a crackling good live recording by one of the most popular blues and roots bands out there. Castro has been out there over three decades and Alligator has given us nearly an hour of 10 performances recorded at five venues across the USA. Castro is supported by his superb band of Randy McDonald on bass, Bowen Brown on drums and Mike Emerson on keyboards.

Castro and the Painkiller get this CD party going with the rollicking "Make It Back To Memphis," a song that might inspire comparisons to Delbert McClinton with Emerson honky-tonk piano underpinning Castro's searing guitar. After his song of perseverance, "Can't Keep A Good Man Down," Castro delivers a blues-rock rendition of Sleepy Johnny Estes' "Leaving Trunk," inspired by Taj Mahal's fifty-year recording with some greasy organ.

To this listener, the next two tracks are the high points. During the slow, low-down blues (composed by Castro and Joe Louis Walker) "Lose Lose," I was struck how much his singing and guitar evokes late sixties' Buddy Guy which I suspect is among the music he grew up with. Then there is the driving shuffle performance, "Calling San Francisco." "Anytime Soon" is a soulful, reflective topical blues followed by the funky and amusing "She Wanted To Give It To Me," where Castro sings about resisting a hot lady as he made a promise to his own lady to be true and kept it. Then there is the rocking, soulful shuffle "Two Hearts."

The album closes with a lengthy, ably performed, rendition of Buddy Miles' "Them Changes," with bassist McDonald channeling "Tighten Up" during his solo. This crowd-pleaser closes out an excellent recording that shows why Castro continues to have such a large following.

I received my review copy from Alligator.  I received my review copy from Alligator Records. This review appeared in the November-December 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 381), although I may have made minor changes. Here Tommy Castro and the Painkillers are seen performing "Two Hearts."

Monday, June 10, 2019

Ken Wiley Cuerno Exotica

Ken Wiley
Cuerno Exotica
Krug Park Music

The French horn, usually heard backing other instruments normally providing texture and color in brass and wind ensembles, has become in the hands of Ken Wiley a solo instrument providing a distinctive solo voice. I was impressed by his previous recording "Jazz Horn Redux," and the varied music on his latest builds upon that. Mark Leggett's acoustic guitar and the flute of Dan Higgins (who also plays tenor sax, clarinet, and piccolo as well as did the arrangements) are the other principal soloists here. There is a rhythm section of Dave Loeb on piano (Wiley also plays the piano, but the selections he plays on is not identified), Dominick Genova on bass, Bernie Dresel on drums, and Luis Conte and Kevin Ricard on percussion that ably provide tasteful, supportive backing.

With the 'Bolero Horns' added, the album opens with a Latin-tinged take on Ravel's celebrated "Bolero," with Wiley's melodious playing set against the easy pulse of the backing. Leggett's acoustic guitar opens up "Carilô," with Higgins' soaring flute also featured on this diverting performance. "Cubano Blue" is an easy going, bluesy performance with a light Afro-Cuban groove with Loeb's clean piano leading to Wiley's evocative solo. Other pleasures here include a breezy take on Cal Tjader's "Black Orchid," and more energetic treatment of McCoy Tyner's modal "Sama Layuca," opening with Higgins on tenor sax set against Loeb's insistent piano with Loeb taking a more energetic solo before Higgins' takes a robust, twisting sax solo. Genova takes a dynamic bass solo before Wiley's dulcet horn provides a counterpoint to Higgins leads the performance to a faded close. The stately "Gato Magico" evokes the bull fighter's ring with the harmonious unison statement of the theme by Wiley and Higgins along with concise, appealing solos.

The album closes with the title track which sports a light, Afro-Cuban groove provided by the rhythm section on a soothing, yet stimulating performance with the charm characteristic of the beautiful music throughout "Cuerno Exotica."

I received a review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the November-December 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 381), although I may have made minor changes. Here is "Sama Layuca," from this album.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Peter Lin New Age Old Ways

Peter Lin
New Age Old Ways
Lintet LLC

I was impressed with Peter Lin's previous album "With Respect," and his new album is is another recording that left a strong impression on me. This is with what he calls his TNT Quartet, TNT referring to 'Trombone N' Tenor." Lin, who has studied with Slide Hampton, Curtis Fuller, Conrad Herwig, and Steve Turre, is joined by a band of which tenor saxophonist JD Allen, one of the most prominent new tenor sax voices, is the most familiar. New Jersey natives bassist Ian Kenselaar and drummer Nic Cacioppo are new to me. The piano-less quartet format as well as the album title (suggestive of Old and New Dreams, the Ornette Coleman alumni band), suggests that his band is heavily influenced by Coleman. Lin states this and also notes the influence of a mid-range timbre of a trombone and tenor frontline (such as Al Grey and Jimmy Forrest). I also note a definite influence of the blues as an anchor to much of this

The performances certainly have the feel of the Atlantic era Ornette Coleman with the bluesy, swing opening with "A Path To Understanding," with Cacioppo especially impressive in supporting the leaders. Lin has a strong expressive range with his steel wool tone while Allen is robust and turbulent. "Celestial Being" in inspired by Lin's love of manga and anime and after the two horns state the theme, Kenselaar takes a swirling solo over which Lin enters in a rambunctious fashion. The track, "New Age, Old Ways," Lin states refers to the musician’s struggle to play an older style of music in a relevant way. It is marvelous to see how they develop this performance over a bluesy motif. The title "Red Label" was inspired by Lin drinking some Johnny Walker at a wedding gig that allowed him to relax. It is an excellent blues, with Kenselaar's opening slow drag bass leading to Lins' rumbling tailgate blues solo and Allen's gutbucket tenor. Lin calls "TNT Theme" an "effort to recreate the excitement of the ‘two tenor blowing sessions’ similar to Sonny Stitt & Gene Ammons." It is a heated blues with an intriguing rhythmic flavor and some inspired fervent playing from Lin and Allen over the percolating groove.

The remainder of this recording is of similar high quality. Peter Lin and his TNT Quartet impresses with the absorbing music on a fabulous recording. Incidentally, there is apparently a manga by Lin available online.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the May-June 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 384) although there may some minor changes from the review that appeared there. Here is a video of Peter Lin and the TNT Quartet playing "Celestial Being."

Friday, June 07, 2019

Lindsay Beaver Tough As Love

Lindsay Beaver
Tough As Love
Alligator Records

Bruce Iglauer writes, in the liner notes to "Tough As Love," "I never expected to choose a female singing drummer from Halifax, Nova Scotia in easternmost Canada to be the newest member of the Alligator Records family. … Lindsay delivers blues, R&B and old school rock ‘n’ roll in a voice brimming with attitude and soulfulness. She’s described her music as “punk blues,” but that’s too narrow a term. She comes at every song with urgent intensity, soul-baring emotion, a distinct swagger and a take-no-prisoners confidence."

Beaver currently lives in Austin, Texas, after spending time in Toronto where she went to music school to hone her skills on a drum kit and where she led a band, the 24th Street Wailers. With them, she recorded five albums and while performing caught the ear of Jimmy Vaughan who encouraged her to check out the Austin scene and after a few visits, settled there in 2018, making new musical friends including her touring band of guitarist Brad Stivers and bassist Josh Williams. Musical influences include Billie Holiday, Nick Curran, The Ramones, Amy Winehouse, Sam Cooke, and Earl Palmer (her only influence on drums). She has guests on this recording that include Marcia Ball, Laura Chavez, Matt Farrell, Sax Gordon, Dennis Gruenling, and Eve Monsees.

She produced this recording, her Alligator debut and first under her name, She wrote 7 of the twelve songs and handled the vocals and drums. One is impressed with the opening tough blues "You're Evil," with Dennis Gruenling's harmonica adding to the energy of this performance and she scores a knockout with her husky, robust singing. She certainly can belt it out while Stivers blasts off on his guitar solo, if a bit frenetic. Her singing might be likened to Etta James with a rockabilly spirit, while she keeps a crisp shuffle groove throughout.

One of the highlights of this album is "Too Cold To Cry," a Louisiana blues styled number evoking Earl King's "Those Lonely Lonely Nights," with Marcia Ball on piano evoking Huey 'Piano' Smith, while Stivers channels Johnny 'Guitar' Watson. With Sax Gordon taking a blistering baritone sax solo, "What a Fool You've Been" sounds like vintage 50's West Coast rock'n'roll, while the rendition of Little Willie John's "You Hurt Me," is a terrific slow blues with Stivers channeling Ike Turner crossed with Otis Rush. Stivers shares the vocal on a tight original rock and roll performance with rollicking piano and a crisp guitar solo.

She does tone down her strong vocals on her cover of Slim Harpo's "Got Love If You Want It," which is wonderfully played. Stivers is excellent here as is Gruenling, while Beaver's crisp drumming is right on. "Oh Yeah" is another solid piece of rock and roll as she tells everybody to get wild, followed by another superb slow blues, Angela Strelhi's "Lost Cause." Another choice cover is a lesser known Art Neville song, "Let's Rock," with a fine vocal and strong backing including Matt Farrell's piano.

"Mean To Me" is another bluesy piece of rock'n'roll, crisply played with Stivers and Laura Chavez both soloing and then trading fours. It is a spirited close to an excellent recording. Lindsay Beaver is an excellent singer who brings plenty of passion to her vocals. Her original songs possess the spirit of classic rock'n'roll and blues. She is also a solid drummer who, along with Josh Williams, anchors a superb rhythm section on these wonderfully played and paced performances. Putting all this together and one has an exceptional release.

I received my review copy from Alligator. This review appeared in the January-February 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 382), although I have made corrections and minor changes. Here is a video Lindsay playing "Mean To Me."

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones Complicated Mess

Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones
Complicated Mess
EllerSoul Records

A new recording by Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones is quite welcome for fans of traditional Chicago blues as well as Texas and West Coast swing with a dose of honky tonk country mixed in. Deming is a very good, honest singer and a deft, fleet guitarist who primary inspirations include Charlie Christian, T--Bone Walker and Robert Lockwood Junior. He has quite a nice group of musicians backing him on ten originals and three covers. Andy Gohman handles the bass, while Marty Dodson handles the drums except for one track where Sam Farmer occupies the drum chair. Little Charlie Baty adds guitar to three tracks, while Harmonica players Kim Wilson and Madison Slim each play on two tracks. Sax Gordon and Tino Barker play (where heard) tenor and baritone saxophones respectively, while Bob Welsh is on piano and Chris Codish handles the organ. Except for one track, this was recorded by Big Jon Atkinson at his Big Tone Records studio, and this recording has a marvelous sound.

It sounds like Deming incorporates, into his playing, a Buddy Guy riff from Junior Wells' "Snatch it Back and Hold It" on the title track where he sings about trying to do his best, but he and his woman are though. There is robust Kim Wilson chromatic harp present on the moody "Sweet Poison," about this seductive lady with a forceful vocal. Little Charlie Baty joins Deming on an imaginative country-tinged rendition of "You Rascal You," with some jazzy, swinging guitar from both along with a straightforward vocal. Codish's organ helps lend a Memphis soul cast to the soulful "Hold On" Madison Slim adds harp behind the lazy Jimmy Reed shuffle groove on "Need My Baby," with Slim evokes Reed in his playing here. There is a country tinge to a rocking rendition of Lazy Lester's "Blues Stop Knockin'," with Welsh playing rollicking piano and Wilson adding some complimentary harmonica.

It sounds like Deming is channeling sixties Buddy Guy with his strong playing on a fine slow blues "Deep Blue Sea," with Welsh again outstanding behind a strong vocal. "Someday Pretty Baby," with the two saxophones present (Gordon plays a husky tenor sax solo) suggests Chicago artists like Ricky Allen and Harold Burrage. "Captain's Quarters" is a very appetizing instrumental with Baty and Deming each showcasing their fleet, swinging fretwork. "Just A Moment Of Your Time," is a swamp pop original with a booting baritone sax solo from Barker followed by Deming evoking Guitar Slim and Earl King with his gritty guitar here.

"I'm Walkin'" is a credible, high stepping cover with a booting Gordon solo. It is followed by the delightful "Cookin' at the Kitchen," a variation on Amos Milburn's "Chicken Shack Boogie," with new spoken lyrics about some of the folks at this session with Madison Slim's harp adding sax-like lines. An ebullient instrumental, Rat Killin'," allows Deming, the horns and rhythm section to all solo. It provides a close to this splendid recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the November-December 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 381), although I have made minor changes. Here Doug Deming performs "Blues Stop Knocking."

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Stanley Booth Red Hot and Blue: Fifty Years of Writing About Music, …

Red Hot and Blue: Fifty Years of Writing About Music, Memphis, and Motherf**kers
Stanley Booth
2019: Chicago Review Press
400 6X9 pages.

Author of the excellent collection of blues- and jazz-related pieces, "Rythm Oil," Stanley Booth, has another compilation of mostly blues- and jazz-related pieces in this new book (In addition to chapters on such folk as Bobby Rush and Phineas Newborn Jr, there is a piece on photographer Williams Eggleston). To say Booth is opinionated is an understatement, but to give a minor sense of the flavor of his writing there is this quote from the opening article, "Blues Dues" about reading a galley about a book on blues whose publisher sought his endorsement:

"So, finally, I picked up one of the proofs to look it over. I hadn’t read far before I came upon these words: “The weekend I was in Memphis …” Unlike many before him, who’d simply bought a lot of blues records, listened to them, and written a book, this writer had made the extra effort of going to the blues museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi, passing through Memphis on his way there, thus becoming an authority. I, who lived in Memphis twenty-five years, going in the course of my research to the city and county jails as a guest more times than I cared to remember, found it hard to restrain myself from hurling the galley all the way back to New York. …

There’s the blues, an emotional state, and there’s the blues, an art form, or a group of art forms. Believe me, when you’re in the Memphis jail, city or county, you got the blues. When you’re in your cozy room, listening to Robert Johnson’s plaintive tunes, you’re hearing the blues. Two different worlds. But some people, people from Berkeley, or Boston, or wherever, are so highly imaginative that they make a leap of funk and become Spokesmen of the Blues. No, really, they make a living this way. People in Dublin, London, Kyoto, Amsterdam, and Lower Slobbovia read them and feel somehow enhanced, enlightened, end manned by the blues.

I never intended to have anything to do with the blues. They came into my life through my bedroom window when I was a child. It wasn’t a matter of choice. What I learned, I paid for in experience at the school where they arrest you first and tell you why later."

There are brief portraits like the one on King Oliver (that ends "Oliver died two months later, on April 10, 1938. His sister used her rent money to bring his body north and gave up her plot in Woodlawn for him. But there is still no headstone on the grave of one of the true founding fathers of jazz.") and a lengthier one on Ma Rainey which includes a brief history of minstrel shows and development of music to the blues before chronicling her life and career and another one on Blind Willie McTell with its detailed chronicling of McTell's Library of Congress recordings and the account that McTell was allegedly paid ten dollars for the session.

There are two chapters on Furry Lewis that are based in part on the close relationship between the two and tell Furry's story and gives a glimpse about how good Booth's writing is. "Furry put the candle down and leaned back in his chair. '
When I was eighteen, nineteen years old, he said, 'I was good. And when I was twenty, I had my own band, and we could all play. Had a boy named Ham, played jug. Willie Polk played the fiddle and another boy, call him Shoefus, played the guitar, like I did. All of us North Memphis boys. We’d meet at my house and walk down Brinkley to Poplar and go up Poplar to Dunlap or maybe all the way down to Main. People would stop us on the street and say, ‘Do you know so-and-so?’ And we’d play it and they’d give us a little something. Sometimes we’d pick up fifteen or twenty dollars before we got to Beale. Wouldn’t take no streetcar. Long as you walked, you’s making money; but if you took the streetcar, you didn’t make nothing and you’d be out the nickel for the ride.'"

Then Booth describes Furry's life today. "Furry has been working for the City of Memphis Sanitation Department since 1923. Shortly after two o’clock each weekday morning, he gets out of bed, straps on his artificial leg, dresses, and makes a fresh pot of coffee, which he drinks while reading the Memphis Press-Scimitar. The newspaper arrives in the afternoon, but Furry does not open it until morning. Versie is still asleep and the paper is company for him as he sits in the kitchen under the harsh light of the ceiling bulb, drinking the hot, sweet coffee. He does not eat breakfast; when the coffee is gone, he leaves for work."

There are chapters on Elvis, one on Elvis in 1967 and one on the aftermath of his death and what happened to Elvis' Doctor who became a scapegoat for some after Elvis passed away who believed (contrary to the autopsy which said Elvis did not die of drugs) the Doctor was responsible and pictured as a pusher. A chapter on The Memphis Soul Sound takes us to The Bar-Kays funeral; Otis and Steve Cropper working on and recording "Sitting At the Dock of the Bay"; Issac Hayes and David Porter working up a song; a visit to American Studio and Donald Crews and Dan Penn; and WDIA's annual Goodwill Revue including Carla Thomas story. Booth notes that the next night after the Goodwill Revue Otis Redding and most of The Bar-Kays would be dead.
In his history of Beale Street, the chapter "Beale Street's Gone Dry," he writes,
"In 1959, having graduated from Sidney Lanier High School for (white) Boys in Macon, Georgia, I moved with my family to Memphis. I knew little about the place other than that it was on the Mississippi River and had an association with the kind of music I liked. I soon learned that Memphis was, if anything, even more “Southern” and puritanical than Macon, with no liquor served by the drink and almost no integration. Restaurants, taxis, hotels, parks, libraries, movies, all were segregated. Blacks still sat in the back of the buses. Whites who wanted to hear black music went to an all-white club called the Plantation Inn across the river in West Memphis, Arkansas, and listened to a singing group called the Del Rios or to Loman Pauling and the Five Royales. My first experience on Beale Street was being thrown out of a Ray Charles concert at the Hippodrome for sharing a table with some black classmates from newly integrated Memphis State University. There were tables for blacks and tables for whites, but no mixing allowed. 'What you mean, pattin’ these nigger girls on the ass?' a cop asked me. 'I haven’t patted anybody on the ass yet, sweetheart,' I said, finding myself seconds later face-to-face with the gravel in the alley. Living in Memphis, off and on, for twenty-five years, learning the blues, I would come to know those alleys, that downtown gravel, well."

Then there is a piece he wrote about Phineas Newborn, Jr., that ended up being an obituary in the Village Voice, where he traced the Newborn family history, including the father, drummer Phineas Sr. and brother, guitarist Calvin, as well as Phineas Jr.'s life and brilliant career, not ignoring the psychological issues this piano genius experienced. "Phineas Newborn, I would learn, was to some people a living symbol of African American genius, the ultimate product of a tradition whose roots are mysterious and deep. His family life and American music were one and the same, with a cast including Elvis Presley, B. B. King, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus. His style resembled that of Secretariat, or the young Muhammad Ali. He could think of things to do that no one else had ever done, and then he would do them. He had, another Memphis pianist once observed, “a boogie-woogie left hand, a bebop right hand, and this ... third hand.” But it was not simply unsurpassed technique that made his work so affecting: his music derived power from its own emotional range—the outer-space comedy of 'Salt Peanuts,' the nostalgic humor of 'Memphis Blues,' the rhapsodic sadness of 'The Midnight Sun Will Never Set,' the majesty of 'The Lord’s Prayer.'"

The article on Bobby Rush brought much about Bobby that went way beyond his musical persona, but assesses his stature as a major blues artist. "In the following account, I try to avoid invidious comparisons between Bobby Rush—it’s a stage name, and he likes it used in full—and great historical figures like B. B. King and John Lee Hooker, who have not made an exciting recording in years. Bobby Rush, in his mid-sixties, continues to make first-rate R&B records and to have the best stage show since Ike and Tina broke up. If my friend Mick Jagger were hip enough and wanted to revive his career—instead of endlessly dragging his scrawny ass around the planet regurgitating his greatest hits—he would cut Bobby Rush’s 'Jezebel.' But he’s not hip enough, nowhere near as hip as this senior citizen from Houma, Louisiana, southwest of New Orleans, within spitting distance of the Gulf of Mexico. Not Houma proper but a farm near there. Bobby Rush is the real thing, as country as a tree full of owls or a passel of possums. But he’s also at least as up to date as Kansas City."

There is a brief appreciation of Marvin Sease and extended one of his friend, the celebrated photographer William Joseph Eggleston. The closing chapter, which gives this volume its title is on legendary Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips and takes us from his heyday, through his fall and his funeral with Elvis and Priscilla there. This chapter, like practically everything in this superb collection of Stanley Booth's writing, authoritative, evocative, informative, and compelling reading.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is a video of Phineas Newborn.