Saturday, August 31, 2019

Tony Holiday Porch Sessions

Tony Holiday
Porch Sessions

I am not familiar with harmonica player Holiday and guitarist Landon Stone, but the two have been traveling around the country, playing with and recording with a variety of blues folks. With Kid Andersen adding his bass, they ended up with this enjoyable recording with 13 tracks. They hook up on this recording with such artists as Charlie Musselwhite, James Harmon, John Nemeth, John Primer, Bob Corritore, Kid Andersen, Aki Kumar, Rockin’ Johnny Burgin, Kid Ramos, and Mitch Kashmar for a collection of enjoyable, informal blues performances.

Holiday is on harmonica on these tracks but is glad to have others take the spotlight starting with James Harman's whose amusing shuffle "Pickpocket Fingers," has a fine vocal and Kid Ramos adds his guitar. Holiday takes the harmonica chair on Harman's excellent vocal on "Special Friend," while he and Holiday both are heard on a nice country blues styled shuffle, "Goin' To Court." Bob Corritore adds harp behind John Primer's superb Muddy Waters' styled blues "They Call Me John Primer," with a terrific vocal and slide guitar in the vein of Waters with whom Primer played with. Primer also sounds terrific on Howlin' Wolf's "Tell Me Baby" with Corritore wailing on harmonica. Jake Friel sings gruffly on "A Woman Named Trouble" with John Nemeth adding harmonica along with Holiday. Nemeth takes a strong vocal on "Blues Hit Big Town," with Holiday's harmonica taking the tune out.

Aki Kumar sings on "That's All Right" with Charlie Musselwhite and Holiday also on harmonica. Rockin' Johnny adds his guitar on this entertaining, informal jam of a blues classic. It's like the other performances, fun and very entertaining if not classic. Holiday is an able singer as displayed on "Three Way Party" where the third person at the party is a bottle of Jim Beam with Mitch Kashmar and Ronnie Shellist both adding harmonica accompaniment and solos. Rockin' Johnny adds atmospheric guitar behind Holiday on "Coin Operated Woman," a nicely sung humorous lyric. "Hip To It" is a harmonica trio with some intriguing interplay between Kashmar, Shellist and Holiday.

While most of the recording is of Chicago styled blues, the closing track is a small group rendition of an old Bobby Bland number, "This Time I’m Gone For Good," that the late Johnny Adams recorded on his final album. William G. Kidd, a blue-eyed soul-blues singer, who is originally from Virginia, is excellent on this with Ronnie Shellist on harmonica. It is the highpoint of this CD along with the Primer tracks, but the level of these informal recordings is high. One does wish that the packaging provided more detailed information on who was doing what on each selection, and also that Holiday showcased himself up front a bit more, but few will listen to this and not be highly entertained.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. Here is one of several videos from Tony Holiday's Front Porch Sessions, Ali Kumar singing "That's All Right" with Charlie Musselwhite and others on Musselwhite's Front Porch.


Friday, August 30, 2019

Brandon Robertson Bass'd On a True Story

Brandon Robertson
Bass'd On a True Story
Slammin Media

Bassist Brandon Robertson is a ten-year veteran of the Florida music scene and joined by various collaborators from a range of jazz scenes to best fit each tune’s particular flavor. Those present include Avis Berry - Vocals; Adrian Crutchfield - Soprano Sax; Lew Del Gatto - Tenor Sax; James Suggs - Trumpet; Mason Margut - Piano; Leon Anderson - Drums; Zach Bartholomew - Piano; and Gerald Watkins Jr. - Drums. Eight of the ten songs are originals that reflect something important in Brandon's development both as a person and as a musician. As he says, "Each song is attached to a memory that I hang on to; memories from significant moments in my life. From the birth of my kids, to my experiences in New Orleans."

Robertson establishes the authority of bass playing at the first notes of the opening "East of the Sun" in which he states the melody as Margut comps behind him. He plays comfortably taking the lead as well as keeping time and his full tone and his melodic sense underly the strong playing here. Del Gatto's tenor sax is heard on "The Next Thing To Come," stating the theme before Robertson takes the lead with Bartholomew and Watkins filling out the selection. Inspired by Kenny Wheeler's "Smatter," Robertson also anchors this straight-ahead swinger with Suggs showcasing a distinctive sax sound with Watkins trading fours with him. The other non-original is a spirited rendition of Benny Golson's "Stablemates," with Margut excellent while Anderson tastefully pushes the performance along. "Majestic Nights" has a slight Latin tinge with a full horn section with Robertson and Watkins having a vibrant duet before Suggs fiery trumpet solo and substantial contributions from Del Gatto and Bartholomew.

Inspired by Thelonious Monk, "Mr. Lonious" opens with an extended bass solo before Margut and Anderson enter, with Margut's use of chords and phrasing evoking the angularity of Monk's compositions. "Lullaby With Noelle" is a beautiful ballad opening with a bit of adorable dialogue by Robertson and his daughter, and followed by Robertson's splendid Arco playing. "Better Days Will Come" was written and dedicated to his late mother-in-law Ada Campos. It is a song that projects hope and that one should not lose sight of one's dreams that is beautifully sung by Avis Berry with Adrian Crutchfield on soprano sax weaving in and around her vocal while Anderson is particularly energetic backing a stirring performance.

"Phat Friday" was Robertson's first composition and written in New Orleans four months before Hurricane Katrina devastated that city. There is a strong New Orleans flavor by the rhythm under the weaving interaction between Del Gatto and Suggs before Bartholomew's solo builds in intensity. Robertson then takes the lead before trading fours with Watkins. A bass solo, "Maven's Arrival," again showcases Robertson's robust attack and tone, and his ability to structure a melodic improvisation. It closes Robertson's most appealing recording debut.

This CD will be released on September 13. I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is a performance by Brandon of Benny Golson's "Stablemates."

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Texas Horns Get Here Quick

The Texas Horns
Get Here Quick
Severn Records

The Texas Horns, comprised of Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff (tenor sax), John Mills (baritone sax), and Al Gomez (trumpet), are one of the most in-demand horn sections for both recording sessions and on tour with some of the biggest names in the roots music world. "Get Here Quick" is their own album of blues, soul and roots music, backed by an all-star group of supporting musicians. Special guests include singers Curtis Salgado, John Nemeth, Gary Nicholson, Guy Forsyth, and Carolyn Wonderland; as well as guitarists Ronnie Earl, Anson Funderburgh, Johnny Moeller, Denny Freeman, Derek O'Brien, and Jonn Del Toro Richardson. Also, Red Young and Nick Connolly play keyboards.

"It took us a year to make 'Get Here Quick,'" recalls Mark Kazanoff, who with his horn-mates arranged all the songs and horns on the sessions. "I don't usually like to do record production projects like that. But this time, we had so many wonderful guest musicians in mind that we knew we would never be able to get everyone together in one place for a week or two; so we did the CD bit-by-bit. That also allowed us to use a couple of different rhythm sections."

There is a mix of vocals along with rhythm and blues instrumentals in the vein of King Curtis and Junior Walker. One of the top tracks, "Guitar Town," opens this recording. Guy Forsyth sings John Mills clever lyrics about knowing about every dive in the city, but it is hard being to be saxophonist in a guitar town. Anson Funderburgh is the lead guitarist and trades fours with Kazanoff, Mills, and Gomez respectively. Carolyn Wonderland sings vigorously and plays lead guitar on the driving performance of Kazanoff's "I'm Doin' Alright, at Least for Tonight," supported by a blistering Gomez trumpet solo. Mills composed the instrumental "Feel No Pain," with Johnny Moeller's stinging guitar set against the riffing horn before Mills wails on the baritone sax followed by Moeller's terrific guitar solo.

Gary Nicholson wrote and sings "Fix Your Face," on which he also plays guitar. After Kazanoff takes a honking tenor sax solo that the late Big Jay McNeely would have been proud of, Ronnie Earl displays his distinctive style. Nicholson also contributed the bouncy "Soulshine," with Anson Funderburgh on lead guitar and a terrific tenor sax chorus from Kazanoff. Gomez' instrumental "2018" has a New Orleans meets Bo Diddley groove. Moeller and Nick Connolly play short guitar breaks before a section of the interplay between the three horns.

Riffing horns provide a setting for Johnny Moeller's guitar leads on one of Kazanoff's instrumentals "Better Get Here Quick." There is fiery Gomez trumpet and an electric piano break from Young. Kazanoff also wrote the soul-ballad, "Love Is Gone" with a terrific John Nemeth vocal and, a booting Kazanoff tenor sax solo. Mills' "Sundown Talkin'" showcases more blue-eyed soul with a passionate Curtis Salgado vocal. Kazanoff sings in an almost talking blues manner "You Can't Be Serious," a protest blues about this 'rich man's paradise." It has a concise Jon Del Toro Richardson guitar solo while Derek O'Brien adds slide guitar fills.

If there is one fault, the horn section unison leads generally are not as memorable as the vocals or various solos are. Still, there are some exceptional performances throughout, even on those that are merely entertaining.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here are The Texas Horns performing in 2018.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Manx Marriner Mainline Hell Bound for Heaven

Manx Marriner Mainline
Hell Bound for Heaven
Stony Plain Records

The Manx Marriner Mainline is a project of Harry Manx and Steve Marriner, two of Canada’s most award-winning blues and roots music artists. The two two multi-instrumentalists (Manx on slide guitar, banjo and his trademark Mohan Veena and Marriner on electric, slide, baritone and 12-string guitars, harmonica, bass, Hammond organ and drums) Both sing ad contributed songs to the disc that also includes several venerable blues and gospel songs including a Charlie Patton blues, and gospel numbers from The Staples and Reverend Gary Davis. Clayton Doley adds Hammond organ, and Moe Duella is on drums on some of this recording.

There is a nice mix of material that is well sung and played starting with the opening Manx blues "Nothing," with nice guitar and harmonica from Marriner, along with an ice shuffle groove and Manx's appealing, slightly gravelly singing. In contrast, Manx's "Everybody's Knows" is a nice country-tinged number with Marriner adding atmospheric guitar. Marriner's "My Lord" is a solid gospel blues with some nice acoustic 12-string guitar and harmonica. Manx plays a banjo lead and delivers a wistful vocal to a lovely ballad "My Only One," with Doley adding Hammond organ. Manx sings an engaging, straightforward, vocal on a small ensemble reworking of Charlie Patton's "Rattlesnake Blues." This is one of three covers as Marriner does a nice rendition of the Staple Singers "Wish I Had Answered," with an accompaniment that evokes Howlin' Wolf and Ray Charles. On Rev. Gary Davis' "Death Have No Mercy,"  Manx adds slide guitar to Marriner's 12-string guitar

The last song is an enticing ballad performance, "Rise and Fall In Love." It is sung by Manx with Marriner's adept electric guitar accompaniment with Jim Bowskill adding viola and violin at the end. It closes this delightful collaboration by Manx and Marriner that brings us fresh renditions of older songs mixed with intriguing, idiomatic originals that are wonderfully played ad well sung.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the May-June 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 384) although some stylistic revisions have been made to the published review. Here is the official music video for "Nothing."

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Kalya Ramu Living In A Dream

Kalya Ramu
Living In A Dream

"Living In A Dream" is the debut jazz recording by the Toronto based vocalist Kalya Ramu. Ramu is very active in the Toronto music scene, leading, writing for and performing with multiple groups, including her blues-rock band Angora, The Bettys, her own band Kal’s Hot Four. On this recording she is backed by a quartet of Jacob Gorzhaltsan - Tenor Saxophone & Clarinet; Ewen Farncombe - Piano; Connor Walsh - Upright Bass; and Ian Wright - Drums. There are special guests including William Lamoureux - Strings; Andrew McAnsh - Trumpet; Nathan Ford - Vocals; and Nathan Martin & Jackson Welchner - Background Vocals. Ramu wrote 4 of the 11 songs, the others being classics. She cites Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan as significant influences, but she has developed into a marvelous singer with a lovely voice, clear diction and nuanced phrasing who will sometimes add an appealing scatting.

Her quartet is superb backing her on her original "Little One," that introduces listeners to her delightful vocals. Gorzhaltsan adds cottony clarinet behind her soothing voice with a tasteful backing vocal present. On tenor sax, Gorzhaltsan kicks off a brisk "Just You Just Me," with her melodious voice and scatting. Gorzhaltsan contributes a vigorous tenor sax solo while the band swings like tomorrow will never come. On "Find In Me," strings enhance the longing expressed in her vocal. She displays a perkier side on "Four or Five Times" with Farncombe's delightful, stride-inflected piano and another energetic Gorzhaltsan tenor sax solo. There is a jaunty revival of "Am I Blue," with Andrew McAnsh's growling muted trumpet in the mix along with Gorzhaltsan's clarinet, and a sublime vocal duet with Nathan Ford on "Tea For Two." There is also a marvelous interpretation of "What's New," with Gorzhaltsan's cottony sax evoking Ben Webster and other tenor sax players. Also of notes is the spirited rendition of "It's a Good Day," and a wistful treatment of "You Go To My Head."

Throughout this recording, Ramu's pitch, phrasing, intonation, and lyrical interpretation are exquisite. This and the beautiful backing result in a superb vocal jazz recording. It is no dream that Kalya Ramu is so good.

Received as a download from a publicist. This review appeared in the May-June 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 384) although some stylistic revisions have been made. Here she is heard in a recent performance.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Atomic Road Kings Clean Up the Blood

Atomic Road Kings
Clean Up the Blood
Bigtone Records

The Atomic Road Kings is a joint project of guitarist-vocalist-songwriter--engineer Big Jon Atkinson and harmonica wizard Eric Von Herzen. The two are present on all 12 tracks (11 written by Atkinson and one by Von Herzen) along with Bill Stuve on bass and Malachi Johnson on drums. While Atkinson is the vocalist throughout, he only plays lead guitar on four tracks and rhythm on 4. Scot Smart, Danny Michel, and Tony Delgado take the lead on other selections and pianist Robert Welsh guests on 1.

Atkinson recorded this using vintage, all analog gear and was done live to tape with the effort to capture the sound of the 50s gospel, blues and the like and presented in mono as opposed to stereo. The result is solid retro-oriented blues performances. Atkinson comes across as a robust, straight-forward singer on solidly-played, idiomatic Chicago-styled blues. Similarly, Von Herzen is a marvelous harmonica player with a full tone in the manner of George 'Harmonica' Smith.

Things start "I Got Time," continue with "Rumors" that feature a terrific Tony Delgado solo. On "My Way Back Home," Atkinson plays driving, lead acoustic guitar with Von Herzen's effectively repeating a riff in the backing. Then he plays some stinging electric guitar on the doomy title track with the harp adding to the atmosphere of the performance. In a similar vein, "Vibrations," has Danny Michel's stinging guitar along with Welsh's piano, while "Ain't For Me," is a moody shuffle.

The Atomic Road Kings strongly evoke the sound and feel on the '50s styled Chicago blues on "Clean Up the Road," a splendid recording that will appeal to fans of classic Chicago blues.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2019  Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 383), although there have been minor stylistic changes to the published review. Here is a teaser for the CD.


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Bob Corritore & Friends Do the Hip-Shake Baby!

Bob Corritore & Friends
Do the Hip-Shake Baby!
Vizztone/SWMAF Records

"Do the Hip-Shake Baby!" is Bob Corritore's latest blues party recording with a variety of artists including vocalists Mighty Joe Mislap, Alabama Mike, Oscar Wilson, Henry Gray, John Primer, Bill 'Howl-N-Madd' Perry, and Jimi 'Primetime' Smith. Backing musicians include Corritore on harmonica throughout, Gray on piano, Primer on guitar, Andy T and Anson Funderburgh on guitar, LA jones, on guitar, Fred Kaplan on keyboards, and Kedar Roy on bass. There are many others, and the poor layout makes getting some details like songwriting credits hard to read.

Those familiar with the previous recordings Corritore has produced will not be surprised by the solid revivalist Chicago and swamp blues performances heard here. It opens up with a solid rendition by Mighty Joe Mislap of Slim Harpo's "Do the Hip-Shake Baby!" that allows Corritore to display his harp skills over a swampy, trebly foundation. Milsap, who is also backed by the Fremonts, also ably sings another Slim Harpo song, "I'm Gonna Keep What I've Got." Alabama Mike, with LA Jones guitar and Corritore on unamplified harp, rock Jimmy McCracklin's jump blues, "Gonna Tell Your Mama." His performances include two Sam Cooke styled performances, "Worried Blues" and Junior Parker's "Stand By Me," both ably backed by the Andy T Band. Henry Gray sounds pretty vigorous for a pleasant revival of "The Twist."

Oscar Wilson does a nice Jimmy Reed cover, "Bitter Seed," with Corritore emulating Reed's harp style and Fred Kaplan lays down some nice piano in the backing. Jimi 'Primetime' Smith also does a solid Jimmy Reed shuffle, "I Got The World In A Jug," with Corritore on amplified harp, Fred Kaplan on piano, Bob Stroger on bass and Brian Fahey on drums.

Bill 'Howl-N-Madd' Perry wrote and delivers a solid down-home vocal on "You Better Slow Down," that sounds like an unissued Excello recording as Corritore wails in his backing, while John Primer does a homage to his former boss Muddy Waters on "Love Deep As The Ocean," with Bob Welsh channeling Otis Spann. With Junior Watson swinging on guitar, Sugaray Rayford energetically (perhaps a bit over the top) revives Bobby Saxton "Trying to Make a Living" with a fresh arrangement. His other performance is a Howlin' Wolf styled original, "Keep The Lord On With You!" with Kid Ramos on guitar that is the closing track.

With a variety of performers and consistently solid, idiomatic blues performances, Bob Corritore has delivered another winning collection of traditionally oriented blues.

I received my review copy from Vizztone Records. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 384). Here is "Do the Hip-Shake Baby!"

Friday, August 23, 2019

Rockin' Johnny & Quiqué Gomez Dos Hombres Wanted

Rockin' Johnny & Quiqué Gomez
Dos Hombres Wanted

Singer-guitarist Rockin' Johnny Burgin has unquestionably established himself as a practitioner of old school Chicago style blues through his work with the likes of Taildragger, Eddie Taylor Jr, Mary lane, Little Arthur Duncan, Mary Lane, Jimmy Lee Robinson and Willie Buck as well as on his idiomatic recordings. Hailing from Madrid, Spain, singer-harmonica player Quiqué Gomez has a reputation as a jazz-influenced blues singer who also is a Sinatra stylist with a Spanish Big Band. They have joined forces on an album of 11 originals, and three choice covers backed by Eric Przygocki on bass and Stephen Dougherty on drums with Christian Dozzler on piano or accordion, Josh Fulero on guitar on three tracks, Greg Izor on harp for one track, and Farris on trombone on one track.

This recording will appeal to Chicago blues fans as this is a tight band led by two strong singers and players evident from Rockin' Johnny's opening shuffle "Your Charm Won't Help You," with a short fiery solo. Gomez establishes himself as a most capable singer on "Take It Like It Is" with his full-bodied harp solo following solos from Fulero and Burgin. He also sings on Burgin's "You Can't Steal My Sugar," although the performance is a bit too frenzied. A real surprise is a cover of Robert Lockwood Jr.'s "Funny But True" with a strong vocal by Gomez and Rockin' Johnny evoking Lockwood's unique guitar style.

With Dozzler adding accordion, Rockin' Johnny delivers a clever lyric using gambling analogies on 'Ain't No High Roller," the performance of which includes a particularly strong harmonica solo, followed by a stinging guitar solo. There is also an outstanding slow blues sung by Burgin, "Coffee Can Blues." Kudos to Przygocki and Dougherty who throughout provide steady and firm support. "Livin' Day to Day" is a topical blues played with against a Jimmy Reed shuffle groove on which Gomez delivers a fine vocal. More Jimmy Reed shuffle flavor is evident on Gomez's "Otro Hombre," a jaunty performance sung in Spanish.

With trombone and accordion, Burgin's "Step it Up Bro," is a change of pace that is more in the vein of a Nat King Cole jive blues. It sports exceptional harmonica that owes as much to Toots Thielemans as Little Walter and a jazzy guitar solo. "Are You Ever" is a first-rate Louisiana styled swamp blues-rocker in the manner of the late Lazy Lester with perhaps Burgin's best vocal on this recording. Gomez takes the lead vocal on a relaxed reworking of Tampa Red's "Don't Blame Shorty," which again has marvelous and imaginative harmonica along with Burgin's evocative classic Chicago blues guitar. It is a splendid close to a marvelously entertaining Chicago styled blues album.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 383). Here the two perform Little Walter's "Rocker."

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Moonshine Society Sweet Thing

Moonshine Society
Sweet Thing
Mojo Music Group

"Sweet Thing" is the second album by the DC area band, Moonshine Society. The core of the band is guitarist Joe Poppen and vocalist Black Betty (Jenny Langer), along with bassist Chris Brown and drummer Rodney Dutton and they have developed their blues and roots music stew. Lending support on some of the tracks are keyboardists Wes Lanich and Benjie Porecki, bassist Tod Ellsworth, and the horns of the great Ron Holloway, Vince McCool and Ken Wenzel. Jason Ricci's harmonica was added onto two tracks. Black Betty and Poppen, when not fronting Moonshine Society, are members of The Ron Holloway Band.

There is a fascinating mix of blues, blues-rock, and soul starting with the opening title track that was penned by Langer. It might be viewed as an answer song to Muddy Water's "Mannish Boy," with Ricci providing some energetic harmonica behind Langer's insistent vocal as she tells her man not to play games with her. "Shake" has a nice groove with a riff that evokes Nick Gravenites "Born in Chicago." Langer sings about going out and dancing the night away with Poppen laying down some fiery single note runs while Holloway has a booting solo. A particular standout selection is the reworking of the Ruth Brown hit, "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean." It is set to a New Orleans second-line groove with Porecki on piano laying down some Crescent City styled piano. Vince McCool takes a brief, fiery trumpet solo, and Holloway on tenor sax and Wenzel on baritone sax take robust solos with the three horns leading the second line until performance fade out. Langer's "Come On Home" is a stunning performance in a Memphis soul style with Porecki channeling Booker T and Poppen evoking Steve Cropper.

There is a tribute to Johnny Winter on "Southern Road," which is more in a blues-rock vein with Ricci adding to this wide-open performance. Another highlight is a mash-up of Bill Withers' "Use Me" and Dr. John's "On Gilded Splinters," with her striking vocal backed by Poppen's explosive blues-rock guitar. Langer ably covers Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind," with a nicely shaped guitar solo and backing Langer whose vocal builds with passion as the performance unfolds. "Deal the Devil Made" contrasts with a more restrained vocal and backing. Poppen takes a solo on acoustic guitar on this selection.

A bonus track, "The One Who Got Away," is included. It was recorded in cooperation with "Cancer Can Rock," with a different backing band but also serves as another example of Langer's powerful, focused singing. It adds to the pleasures of an impressive recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of a recent live performance of "Sweet Thing."


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Mighty Sam McClain A Diamond in the Rough

Mighty Sam McClain
A Diamond in the Rough
Sledgehammer Blues

I miss Mighty Sam McClain. One of the finest of the deep soul singers who recorded a bunch of classic 45s, his career blossomed after he started recording albums and crossing over to the blues audience. "A Diamond in the Rough" contains his final recordings made shortly before his passing in 2015, which are stripped-down recordings on which the only accompaniment is by Pat Herlehy's acoustic guitars with saxophones or flute added to some.

There is the celebratory feel of "My Everything" where his performance evokes Solomon Burke and followed by a slow blues, "When the Hurt is Over," that he soulfully sings over Herlehy's simple backing while Herlehy adds some single note runs. "Grooving" is a mid-tempo song on which Herlehy adds tenor sax over his guitar backing as he pleads for his woman to hold him and groove him as he growls, shouts and scats the lyrics. Charles Neville collaborated with McClain on "Love's Gonna Find," another soulful song with a gospel flavor, with McClain's fervent singing enlivened by some gutbucket tenor sax.

"Love Me If You Want To" has another solid blues vocal on a theme related to the James Cotton classic "Love Me or Leave Me," where he tells his woman he's tired of waiting on her, so make up your mind. One has to be impressed by the vigor and the virtuosity if McClain's singing throughout, but kudos go out to Herlehy with his solo on "Question" particularly impressive. Herlehy is on flute on "Believe" where Sam sings we can make it if we try, and let's get together to set us free. Perhaps he was aware of his mortality when singing "Southern Land" and reflecting about "going back to where it all started from" and how he misses it.

"Holy Ghost Fever" is a stirring, gospel lyric set to a blues groove and recollections of Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf and others. The acoustic nature of these performances lend them an intimacy but also these performances sound as if not completely finished. A full horn section and a rhythm section would have provided a fuller backing to frame the vocals. For this reason, this atypical recording will most appeal to those already fans of Mighty Sam McClain. For those not familiar with his music, one might suggest "Sledgehammer Soul and Down Home Blues," "Sweet Dreams," or "Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whiskey)" over this recording.

I received my review copy from the record company. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 384), although a couple of minor stylistic changes have been made. Here he is heard on "When the Hurt is Over."

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Fruteland Jackson Good As Your Last Dollar

Fruteland Jackson
Good As Your Last Dollar

Blues advocate, educator and acoustic blues artist Fruteland Jackson returns with this new album. He is heard singing as well playing acoustic guitar, National Resonator guitar, and mandolin. Fruteland is supported by Harrison Kennedy, who supplies backing vocals on three selections; guitarist Jack de Keyzer; pianist Julian Fauth; bassist Alex Fraser and drummer Bucky Berger. These four also provide backing vocals where heard.

There are some interpretations of classic blues as well as original, sometimes topical songs. Discussing the title track, Fruteland says "I learned during the Great Recession, that no matter how long you've had a relationship with a utility or cable company, if you are late or unable to pay, you become only as "Good As Your Last Dollar." Nothing more, nothing less. Living through the Great Recession was a time of Economic and Psychological depression. For some an unscripted test of survival." The songs and the performances resonate with Fruteland having lived much of the music.

It has been several years since Fruteland's last recording. It has been worth the wait as he sings with authority, while forcefully playing resonator slide guitar on "Two Steps To Hell." It is a blues about the hard times while also being two steps to hell and one step from his baby's door. The delta blues approach of that number contrasts to the small group backing (Fauth's piano is impressive too to the gospel performance of "Death Creep." Here there is a blend of fingerstyle guitar and slide guitar, and an uncredited harmonica player (Harrison Kennedy?). The title track is a haunting performance as he remembers when one's word was bond, but now cash in hand beats a payment plan. Fruteland's interpretation of "Careless Love" uses a fresh arrangement for a heartfelt vocal. Harrison Kennedy adds vocal asides on a standout performance.

Fruteland observes that "It's odd isn't it that so many Blues songs are written about a spouse or lover breaking one's heart, while so few Blues songs are written about our parents." "All the Daddy I Had," set against a Muddy Waters styled backing is a song about a father breaking his heart. It is a moving performance with Fruteland wondering if Daddy loved Fruteland recalling that his daddy never said a kind word to Fruteland. "All Pain No Gain." is another engaging performance as he sings of trying to survive during a bad economy. "Damaged Goods" is a relaxed shuffle about having his heart and self broken by an ex, but noting that we are all damaged goods. Also of note is Fruteland's performance of "Love in Vain," where he pays tribute to Robert Johnson and playing original instrumental touches as well as a terrific vocal. Again there is some fine harmonica heard here.

"Good As Your Last Dollar" is a gem of acoustic blues with compelling performances of intriguing original blues songs and fresh, choice interpretations of classic blues songs. It has been way too long since Fruteland Jackson's last album, and this is a more than welcome addition to his body of recordings.

I received a digital download from Fruteland Jackson. Here is Fruteland performing "Midnight Special."

Monday, August 19, 2019

Carol Sudhalter Quartet Live At Saint Peter’s Church

Carol Sudhalter Quartet
Live At Saint Peter’s Church
Alfa Music

A pioneering woman in jazz, Carol Sudhalter since the early 1970s been advancing the cause of women in jazz as a musician (she is among the finest baritone saxophonists of the past several decades but also quite accomplished on tenor sax and flute), big band and combo leader, producer, and educator. She played with the first female Latin band and founded the Astoria Big Band (still active for 33 years). She had a discography of over ten albums which this new release, recorded at a performance at New York’s famed St. Peters Church is a welcome addition.

She is backed by a tight quartet that includes Patrick Poladian-Piano, Kevin Hailey-Upright Bass, and Mike Campenni-Drums and they perform fresh renditions of songs by Jobim, Sonny Rollins, Benny Golson,  Tadd Dameron, Bill Evans, Hank Mobley, Don Redman, and two originals. The opening rendition of Tadd Dameron’s “On a Misty Night” quickly establishes the authority and inventiveness she brings to the baritone sax with her robust, brawny attack while the backing trio provides strong support throughout this swinging, modern jazz set. There is a haunting Benny Golson ballad “Park Avenue Petite,” that exhibits her emotional range on the baritone sax while Hailey contributes a melodically grounded solo. There is a lovely flute solo on Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered.” There is a bit of swagger to her playing on Hank Mobley’s “Funk in Deep Freeze” along with some stunning piano which leads into a crisp drum solo.

She sings with a certain charm on “Colin Blues” which is dedicated to one of her students. It should be noted that the vocal, along with spoken announcements, is not well miked. Poladian is terrific here as is the leader on flute. There is a strong rendition of Sonny Rollins’ “Valse Hot” along with Poladian‘s swinging “Fun in the Alley” with the leader’s playful flute. Bassist Hailey is featured on “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You,” set against some excellent piano while Campenni varies his stick work to complement the two. A short melodic reading of Jobim’s “Luiza” closes this strong live recording by a woman who should be much better known.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 383). Here is Park Avenue Petite,” from this album.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Kenny Parker Hellfire

Kenny Parker

Albert King may have sung about the "Cadillac Assembly Line," but Kenny Parker worked at the Cadillac Factory during the day while playing in the bands of Detroit blues artists Mr. Bo (Louis Bo Collins) and The Butler Twins at night. While touring Europe with the Butler Twins in 1996, he caught the attention of John Stedman of JSP Records who recorded his debut recording "Raise the Dead" with The Butler Twins along with harmonica master Darrell Nulisch.

Parker is not the most prolific recording artist as the present album is only his third album. He is backed by his band that includes vocalist and harmonica player Dave Devins, bassist Mike Marshall and drummer James Marcaccio on drums with former Mitch Ryder guitarist Jim McCarty added on six of the 12 tracks). Among others present are keyboardists Bill Heid (who recorded decades ago with Koko Taylor and Fenton Robinson on Alligator) and Chris Codish (who graced the late Johnny Bassett's band). Parker is not a singer but wrote 11 of the 12 songs with the other contributed by Omar Dykes.

This recording is a straight-ahead modern blues date with occasional rock and roll touches. Things get off with a nicely played, relaxed shuffle "I Got My Eye on You" with not only a solid vocal from Devins but a nice harmonica solo with parker and McCarty swapping solos while Heid lays down some rollicking piano. Some funky organ and slashing guitar is present on the funky "Baby Come Back To Me," while there is a deep blues feel to the slow "Blind and Paralyzed," and then some hot rock and roll on "Bye Bye Baby," with Leonard Moon's buoyant piano and McCarty's sizzling slide guitar. The title track is a tough cautionary take of this woman Ruby whose kiss might blow your mind but be the death of one.

"Goin' In Circles," has a lazy, loping Jimmy Reed shuffle groove as Devins sings about going in circles over this woman with Heid pounding the 88s in support, although "Dance With Me" is less convincing in part because of its hypersonic tempo. "I'm Missing You" is a nicely done southern soul lament in the vein of Percy Sledge, while "Half Crazy" is a marvelous rocking blues shuffle. Another slow blues, "Backup Plan" may be the top performance here with Devins' best vocal and some superb playing from both guitarists standing out.

A hard rock, blazing interpretation of Omar & the Howlers topical "Hard Times in the Land of Plenty" robustly closes out Parker's very memorable new recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 383). Here is a video of The Kenny Parker Band.


Friday, August 16, 2019

Billy Price Dog Eat Dog

Billy Price
Dog Eat Dog
Gulf Coast Records

It has been at least four decades since Billy Price and the Keystone Band issued their first album. After relocating to Baltimore from Pittsburgh, Price remains quite active with his deep blue-eyed soul. He traveled to Kid Andersen's Greaseland Studios to record this latest recording. He has quite a studio band including Andersen on guitar and assorted instruments, Alex Petterson on drums, Jerry Jemmott on bass, Jim Pugh on keyboards, Eric Spaulding on tenor sax, Jack Sanford on baritone sax, and John Halblieb on trumpet. Congas are present on most selections and played by Jon Otis (one of the late Johnny Otis' sons and Vicky Randle. Randle was also one of the background vocalists along with Lisa Leuschner Andersen, Charlie Owens and the Sons of the Soul Revivers. There are also guest appearance from Rick Estrin, Alabama Mike, and Mike Zito, who is Gulf Coast Records co-founder.

Standout tracks on this include the original "Lose My Number" as he tells his former lover that she can forget about him, as he is still hooked. Then there is a brassy, strutting interpretation of Bobby Byrd's "We're on Love." The title track was written by Rick Estrin who adds chromatic harp and solos superbly. Alabama Mike adds his powerful singing to that of Price on a topical blues about trying to make it in a world where they sing describing various social ills. Price's cover of Otis Rush's "My Love Will Never Die" gets to showcase Andersen's incisive guitar as well as the horn section. "All Night Long Café" is a funky original with Mike Zito adding some searing guitar. French guitarist Fred Chapéllier, t, a frequent collaborator with Price, co-wrote the cheating blues "Remnants," and the soulful ballad "More Than I Needed." The latter number evokes the classic Philadelphia soul sound.

"Dog Eat Dog" is another well-produced and solidly recorded new release adding to Price's fine body of recordings.

I received as a download from a publicist. Here he is from a recent performance with his Charm City Rhythm Band.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Rhythm Future Quartet and Friends

Rhythm Future Quartet
and Friends

One might disagree with the press release that describes the Rhythm Future Quartet as "America’s premiere Gypsy jazz ensemble," but there is no doubting that this is a tight acoustic quartet that plays with an irresistible swing. Incidentally, I prefer the term manouche jazz or hot club jazz to describe this music. They are composed of Jason Anick on violin, Olli Soikkeli on guitar, Max O’Rourke on second guitar and Greg Loughman on bass. On their new recording, they have special guests: the acclaimed singer Cyrille Aimée), Brazil’s top bandolimist Hamilton de Holanda, and the great manouche jazz guitarist Stochelo Rosenberg.

The album opens with the spirited "Jaytude No. 1 in Em" composed by violinist Anick who shines here along with guitarist Soikkeli as O'Rourke and Loughman maintain a steady pulse. In contrast "Cachoeira" captures a more reflective mood. Cyrille Aimée contributes a soft, charming vocal to a cover of Duke Ellington's "Solitude" with Anick's obligatos adding to the performance's appeal. Soikkeli' "Olli's Bossa" is a feature of his deft, guitar pyrotechnics along with some sweet, soaring violin and intriguing interplay between to two.

Then there is the marvelous acoustic bebop of the group's interpretation of Oscar Pettiford's "Tricotism," which opens with Loughman setting the tone opening this performance and Anick sounding superb here. Hamilton de Holanda adds the bandolim, an instrument derived from the mandolin and engages with Anick and O'Rourke in the unusual "Jazz Chimes." Manouche jazz lends itself to romanticism, and that is evident on Anick's "Treetops." On "Desvairada" by the legendary Brazilian composer and guitarist Garoto, the quartet provides their take on Brazilian choro music.

The Quartet also is heard on a lively rendition of Django Reinhardt's classic "Minor Blues," with Soikkeli terrific. Rosenberg joins the Quartet on Anick's "Sleepless" and adds some spectacular, breath-taking guitar here. The album closes with O'Rourke's "136 Harrison" which has a string octet from the Berklee College of Music lending this performance an almost nostalgic tone. It closes this a thoroughly engaging recording by a terrific acoustic jazz quartet.

I received a download from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 383). Here they perform "Minor Blues."

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Vin Mott Rogue Hunter

Vin Mott
Rogue Hunter

New Jersey blues stylist, Vin Mott is heard on his second recording with his vocals and harmonica backed by his tight band of Dean Shot on guitar, Steve "Pretty Boy" Kirsty on bass and drummer Matt Niedbalski. Mott wrote all twelve of the songs here and the performances come across like a good cold draft of one's favorite beer.

Certainly, one can identify with the sentiment of "Car Troubles Give Me the Blues" as well as the rocking shuffle "Give Me Cornbread." Both display his raw harmonica as well as powerful singing that is full of passion while his backing trio provides a full but not crowded sound. Shot is a reliable and versatile guitarist who can add fills or take a single-note solo. On the title track, he adds some Elmore James-Homesick James influenced slide guitar with Mott taking a nicely paced solo. There is some subtle interplay between Shot and Mott, while Kirsty and Niedbalski provide a tight bottom. The backing of "Ice Cold Beer" evokes some early 50s Memphis band blues from the Sun Studios, as Shot conjures up Willie Johnson backing Howlin' Wolf.

Then there is "Honey" where Mott's harp is in the vein of Rice Miller, the second Sonny Boy Williamson, with a relaxed vocal and lazy accompaniment. In contrast, "Whistling By the Graveyard," is a spirited original that makes use of the" John Henry" melody.  The backing has a skiffle band feel. It is followed by the superb topical blues of a Northern city's decay, "Patterson Is Crumblin'," with tough harp and guitar. The closing instrumental "Greaser," has an unusual structure that underlies the moody performance that serves as a coda to this wonderfully played album of traditionally grounded blues.

I received a review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 383), although I have made some edits to that published review for clarity. Here is a video for "Honey."

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Brian Newman Showboat

Brian Newman

A Cleveland native, singer and trumpeter Brian Newman debut recording is this Verve release. Before coming to New York, he studied trumpet at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. In New York he started playing around while bartending, eventually leading his quintet playing several nights a week which developed its tight sound. He made a name for himself as a consummate entertainer on the NYC club circuit in recent years with extended engagements at The Oak Room, Birdland, The McKittrick Hotel and The Rose Bar. A friend of Lady Gaga who he met while bartending, he sometimes plays on her shows, and she appears on one selection. Newman's quintet backs him here and is comprised of Steve Kortya (Saxophone, Flute), Alex Smith (Piano, Keyboards), Joe Peri (Drums), Daniel Foose (Bass), and Paul Francis (Drums, Percussion). Some originals are mixed in with American Songbook classics on this disc which was produced by Dae Bennett, Tony Bennett's son, and record producer.

Newman is quite a capable trumpeter with a swinging, bright tone while saxophonist Kortya is  quite impressive as on the opening "San Pedro." This is a driving number that displays how good the rhythm section is as the horns trade fours with drummer Francis. His singing is decent but not as strong as his melodious trumpet as can be heard on the catching original, "Tropicalia." "Dancing In The Moonlight" has a funky reggae-flavored groove along with hot and appealing playing by Newman and Kortya. "Sunday in New York" is a lively tribute to his current home city with a credible vocal and more spirited playing.

Lady Gaga is, of course, a celebrated popular vocalist who has established herself as a singer of standards with her duets with Tony Bennett. She takes the spotlight on "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," with her personality exhibited here with strong trumpet accompaniment. The old pop instrumental "Spooky" is revived with a melodic rendition with Smith on the organ. Newman sings poignantly on "You Don't Know What Love Is," with some touching trumpet and Smith adding an engaging solo. Then there is the effervescent, swinging 'Pennies From Heaven," with choice piano and strong tenor sax. Bassist Foose is solid throughout, but especially vigorous here where he also solos.

With a lively Afro-Cuban big band feel, Tom Waits' "Jockey Full of Bourbon," closes this recording with a capable vocal and vivacious playing. With the strongly played and engaging music on "Showboat," Brian Newman and his Quintet display the reasons for the considerable appeal of their music.

I received this as a download from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 383), although I have made some edits to that published review for clarity. Here is the audio to "Spooky."

Monday, August 12, 2019

Battle of the Blues: Chicago vs Oakland

Battle of the Blues: Chicago vs Oakland
Delta Roots Records

Twist Turner is a multi-talented drummer, songwriter, and producer who spent several decades in Chicago playing with a who's who of Chicago blues artists. In a book, "Blues With a Twist" he has chronicled his life in the blues starting from growing up in the Pacific Northwest to his time hustling and surviving in Chicago. In recent years Turner moved to Oakland, and while suffering severe health issues, he began starting to record some of the under-recorded blues artists in the Oakland area. Returning to Chicago, he found artists similarly needing exposure resulting in this release. This recording is not Turner's first efforts at producing blues albums. He produced the harmonica blues recordings of the "Chicago Blues Harmonica Project" that were issued on Severn Records.

Concerning "Battle of the Blues," Twist plays drums on all tracks, wrote 12 of the 13 selections, made all of the horn arrangements and plays others instruments on various tracks and wrote the liner notes including short artist biographies. There are numerous sidemen throughout this collection including guitarists Rusty Zinn, Maurice John Vaughan, and Dave Workman; saxophonist Skinny Williams; keyboardists Chris Burns, Roosevelt Purifoy, and Allen Batts; and bassists Art and EG McDaniel. Despite the wonderful musicianship heard in the backing, the focus (with one exception is on the singers heard here.

In the booklet, Turner quotes trumpeter Nicholas Payton "Just because its a twelve-bar form with some variation of I-IV-V chords, don't think your laying "the Blues" … it has no particular form. Relegating "the blues" to a form refutes its function. It can be found in many shapes and sizes." Payton's quote leads to Twist's discussion of the evolution of the blues, especially in the black community. He tells a story about how listening to a Syl Johnson record at Hip Lankchan's apartment, he initially responded it wasn't blues. Hip responded, "Its the blues, just a different kind of blues." The music on this recording is this different kind of blues, what some might call soul-blues. It is in the vein of Bobby Bland, Z.Z. Hill, Artie 'Blues Boy' White, Charles Wilson and Barbara Carr.

This collection opens with, Mz. Sumac, the only female, represented. The daughter of bluesman Craig Horton, Mz. Sumac displays the sass and fire of Barbara Carr as she sings about wanting a man who will give her what she needs. Skinny Williams provides a booting tenor sax solo. Aldwin London plays bass on several tracks including his vocal feature reviving Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away." It is a fine vocal that is pretty close to Joe Hinton's hit although London is not quite up to Hinton as a singer.

The remarkable Freddie Roulette is represented by two instrumentals "Take It Easy," and "Red Tide" that display his spine-tingling lap steel playing. He is also heard behind Country Pete McGill's "Hootchie Coochie Mama," a blues that musically descends from "Hootchie Cootchie Man." McGill is the most down-home blues performer here, while Roulette's accompaniment and Roulette's solo is scintillating, Chris Burns piano on this track merits mention. It is hard to believe that Nat Bolden is 91 from his robust vocal on "Good Morning Mister Blues." This selection has the flavor of the uptown Chicago blues of Fenton Robinson and Andrew Brown with superb Rusty Zinn guitar set against a tight horn section.

Chicago singer James Newman impresses with his understated soulful singing on "Hit and Run Lover," and "Me and My Guitar." Maurice John Vaughan is the guitarist on the former song, Mark Wydra is listed for the latter tune. Emery Williams Jr passed away in 1996, and his two songs may be the earliest selections here. Maurice John Vaughan is the guitarist behind Williams on "Hurtin' On You," where he tells what he will do if he catches this person with his wife. On "Mama Don't Weep" Williams' gospel roots are evident, as he tells a former lover that he is sorry things did not work out as Bernard Anderson wails on tenor sax.

Turner observes that Gerald McClendon is known in Chicago as the Soulkeeper. He lives up to that moniker in"Cold on the Streets" with his passionate vocal about a cold-hearted woman but who is "hot in the sheets" giving good loving all night long." The other performer is "Mr. Excitement" Del Brown, a second cousin of James Brown, who is heard on his first recordings as a frontman. "Now That I Am Gone" is a terrifically sung deep soul ballad with some breathtaking vocal leaps. "Time Slippin' Away" is a heartfelt vocal about getting older and his hair turning grey as he struggles to pay his bills and survive with biting guitar fills.

"Battle of the Blues" is an excellent set of blues with a variety of marvelous blues singers handling some fascinating original material, solidly backed and well recorded. Kudos to Twist Turner for making these terrific performances available.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a demo of Gerald McClendon singing. This song is not on the CD and again this is a song demo but it gives you an idea about how good a singer McClendon is.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Vaneese Thomas Down Yonder

Vaneese Thomas
Down Yonder
Seque Records

Blues and soul fans will ll be delighted by this new album by Vaneese Thomas, the youngest daughter of Rufus Thomas. On the twelve originals, she is backed by guitarist Al Orlo, keyboardist Robbie Kondor, bassist Will Lee, and drummer Shawn Pelton. Also collaborating with her are Lawrence Boo Mitchell and Reverend Charles Hodges along with trumpeter Marc Franklin and baritone saxophonist Kirk Strothers from The BoKeys. Older sister Carla Thomas added backing vocals, and Kevin Bacon sings a duet with Vaneese.

This recording certainly gets off to an impressive start with the swampy Tony Joe White feel of the opening “Ebony Man.” Singing with a delivery that has a hint of Tina Turner, she forcefully spins the tale of a sharecropper with whining slide guitar and a hard groove. The mood switches to the Memphis soul feel of the pleading “I Tried” with the Memphis Horns section and the organ of Hodges. Then there is the country-soul flavored “Highway of Regret,” with a reflective vocal and Katie Jacoby’s moody violin. It is followed by the Memphis grinder “Wake Me,” with the horns blasting away as she sings about waking her from the nightmare, and pain she feels. Carla is one of the backing singers on the song of hope “Second Chance,” about folks needing “a second chance when it comes to love and romance… .”

Another standout selection is the funky blues-tinged ”Lies” when she tries to get to the truth of the matter as her lover keeps lying. There is some marvelous blues guitar, and the horn section is brassy and punchy. “Handle Me Gently” is a wonderfully sung soul-blues ballad about needing some tender loving to help her recover from being hurt so many times. “Legacy of Pain” is a poignant duet with Bacon about murders in Mississippi that remain unprosecuted with a plea bring justice to the crimes. After the slow-burning soul of “Last Kiss,” there is “Gone,” where guitarist Orlo evokes Pops Staples on a gospel-rooted performance in the manner of the Staples. The album closes with more gospel flavor on the title track as Vaneese sings about being a vagabond who keeps getting drawn back to the city on the Riverbank.

Vaneese Thomas continues to impress listeners with the latest album. This recording mixes strong original songs, focused backing musicians with superb soulful singing. It provides more evidence of how marvelous a singer, not merely a soul-blues singer, Vaneese Thomas is.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Vaneese (from 2015) performing a Syl Johnson-AL Green classic.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Augie Haas Dream a Little Dream

Augie Haas
Dream a Little Dream
Playtime Music

Haas is a versatile singer, trumpeter composer and educator in New York currently in the orchestra for the show Aladdin. His background includes being in many big bands including those of Harry Connick Jr, Maria Schneider, Ryan Truesdell (the Gil Evans Project) the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and the Birdland Big Band. The present recording has him performing several standards along with several doo-wop standards. He is backed by a 15-piece string orchestra and a rhythm section that includes pianist Carmen Staaf.

Haas is more of a crooner with a soothing quality, who also invests a definite personality into these songs. His trumpet playing has a similar attractiveness employing the trumpet's middle register for his lyrical solos. While some will be familiar with the title track from Cass Elliot's recording, it does go back quite a period and is an alluring opening track. An instrumental rendition of the Beatles' classic "Blackbird" follows with some deft piano from Staaf along with the sweetening provided by the strings.

Among the more notable selections is "Georgia on My Mind," with an expressive trumpet that extends to the upper ranges of the instrument. "Will You Still Love Me" is based on the Shirelles recording. Staaf contributes some funky organ and a short piano solo in support of Haas' vocal. "I Only Have Eyes For You" dates back to the 1930s, but was a hit for The Flamingos. Haas' genial singing and muted trumpet results in an alluring rendition. More charm is evident on the swinging instrumental version of "Love Me Tender," especially when Haas starts playing without a mute. Of course, there are limitations to Haas' vocal approach as on "Stand By Me," where he lacks the passion of Ben E King's original. In contrast, he is more successful with The Five Stairsteps "Ooh Child."

Augie Haas has provided us with some entertaining performances of well-known songs of the past few decades. Perhaps not every cover on this succeeds, however overall there is an appeal for listeners here. It should be mentioned that the use of an orange color type on the brown background on the album packaging makes the acknowledgments and other matters unreadable.

I received my review copy from a publicist.


Thursday, August 08, 2019

Delbert McClinton Tall Dark & Handsome

Delbert McClinton and Self-Made Men + Dana
Tall Dark & Handsome
Hot Shot Records

"Tall Dark & Handsome" is the 26th album from Delbert McClinton and is another collection of his roadhouse roots stew mixing blues, jazz, Americana, honky-tonk country, rhythm and blues, and more. Delbert, his long-time keyboard player Kevin McKendree and his guitarist Bob Britt co-produced this recording. It was recorded at the Rock House in Franklin, Tennessee that is owned and operated by Kevin McKendree. Kevin, Britt, and Kevin's son, Yates, were the engineers. Kevin and Britt did the mixing.

Delbert was involved in the writing of all 14 selections, many with Britt, McKendree or bassist Michael Joyce of Delbert's band. Delbert's current band of Dana Robbins (saxophone), Jack Bruno (drums), Mike Joyce (bass), Bob Britt (guitar), James Pennebaker (guitar), Quentin Ware (trumpet), Dennis Wage (keyboards) plays on this. However, on most of this McKendree and Britt are joined by Joe Maher on drums and Glenn Worf on bass with Jim Hoke on reeds and leading a horn section.

Now 78 one should not be surprised that Delbert is not quite as robust a singer as he was some years ago. If he doesn't project as powerfully and reach certain notes, he more than compensates by his timing, phrasing, and sometimes employing a  more conversational style. There is little that detracts from the pleasures to heard here. There are strong originals like the opening jump blues "Mr. Smith" where McClinton shouts about a hot band in a performance that the late Big Joe Turner might applaud. Then there is the honky-tonk flavored "If I Hock My Guitar" with Britt's stinging guitar. Stuart Duncan's fiddle adds a western swing accent to the bouncy "No Chicken on the Bone," while there is a Tex-Max accent on "Gone to Mexico." Hoke adds norteno flavored accordion along with with his sax, and Dana Robbins' sax.

Both "Lulu," and "Ruby & Jules," exhibit a sophisticated flavor with jazz-accented backing. In contrast, "Loud Mouth"  a rocking blues shuffle on which Britt's guitar channels B.B. King. "Any Other Way" is a late-night sounding saloon blues with a thoughtful, vocal. It is followed by "A Fool Like Me" a rocker with a New Orleans second-line groove. One lyric that stands up is "Can't Get Up," where he remembers his younger days but now realizes he can't get up to get down as he did before. McKendree, who is outstanding on the B-3 here, is superb throughout, as are the rest of the backing musicians here. With excellent original material, excellent production and McClinton's heartfelt vocals, "Tall Dark & Handsome" will have the roadhouse jukeboxes rocking tonight.

Received from my review copy from a publicist. Here Delbert performs "No Chicken on the Bone."

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Dave Stryker Eight Track III

Dave Stryker
Eight Track III

This CD is the third edition of guitarist Dave Stryker's s reimagining of classic pop tunes from the ‘70s with his working trio plus vibes. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris, who told Stryker he needed to complete the trilogy, joins Stryker, organist Jared Gold, and drummer McClenty Hunter on these nine tracks, five of which also have congas and percussion from Mayra Casales. Harris was on the first of these recordings with Steve Nelson being on the second.

Stryker suggests playing these classic melodies is a great way to connect with people and bring more folks into the music. This may be easy to listen to, but that stems as much from this familiarity. Listening to the ensemble and ensemble on the marvelous rendering of Steely Dan's "Pretzel Logic," or the Temptations' hit "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," one gets melodious performances with fresh, imaginative solos. The groove is swinging at a nice measured pace.

Stevie Wonder's "Too High" opens with Stryker's sparkling guitar with a deft touch and thoughtfully constructed solo followed by Harris' effervescent vibes and then Gold's greasy B-3. Then there is The Carpenter's ballad, "We've Only Just Begun," with deliberate, spare playing by Stryker and Harris adding to the preciousness of this ballad performance that is beautifully played at a slow tempo. In contrast, the group plays Burt Bacharach's "This Guy's In Love With You," at a brisker tempo, with Gold superb here. Roy Ayres' "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" is a bright feature for Harris' vibes, while Stryker and company perform a strong, blues-infused rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Joy Inside My Tears," that builds with smoldering intensity leading to its conclusion.

The music here is as entertaining, engaging and substantial as the two earlier volumes and serves as a solid conclusion to the "Eight Track" series if this is indeed the final set of the series.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 384). Here is a recent video of them performing "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Big Joe and the Dynaflows Rockhouse Party

Big Joe and the Dynaflows
Rockhouse Party
Severn Records

"Rockhouse Party" is a surprise recording by Big Joe Maher. It has been several years since the DMV drummer, jump blues singer and bandleader has had a new recording. His last album "You Can’t Keep a Big Man Down," was issued in 2011. Recorded in Franklin Tennessee, Maher is reunited with Kevin McKendree, the original Dynaflow keyboard player. He and McKendree co-produced this, and others heard here are young prodigy Yates McKendree on guitar, Robert Frahm on guitar, and Tom "Mookie" Brill on bass and vocals. On one track another guitar prodigy, Erin Coburn guests. Engineering the music is Evan Sarli, son of the late Jeff Sarli, who was the original bassist with the Dynaflows.

There is a nice mix of material that might be labeled urban blues as much as jump blues starting with a rendition of "Driving Wheel." While patterned after the Junior Parker recording, this is no copy and Maher delivers a relaxed heartfelt vocal strongly backed with the organ helping lay down a musical foundation, and there are terrific guitar solos displaying the contrasting attacks of Yates and Frahm. Brill has not previously been featured as a vocalist. I recall him doing a solid Howlin' Wolf styled vocal, but was not prepared for his soulful singing on Little Milton's "So Mean To Me," and O.V. Wight's "8 Men 4 Women," again with some strong backing.

Maher has always had an affinity for Smiley Lewis recordings and does a credible rendition of "Go On Fool" while laying down a solid second-line groove while Kevin McKendree plays driving boogie-woogie inflected piano. It is followed by an excellent Maher original "World Gone Wrong," with atmospheric accompaniment, and well-considered solos, to go with the topical lyrics. Brill sings a rollicking shuffle interpretation of an old Nappy Brown recording, "If You Need Some Lovin,'" on which Maher and Erin Coburn provide backing vocals. There is a cover by Brill of Fenton Robinson's "Tennessee Woman," that has a rockabilly flavor but comes off as a bit frantic. His other vocal is a solid rendition of Mack Self's 1958 Sun rockabilly recording, "Vibrate."

Maher's "Go With The Flow" is a strong original jump blues celebrating his new Dynaflow automobile, followed by another original "I'm a Country Boy," that sounds like it came from a Snooks Eaglin session for Imperial with Erin Coburn adding her solid fretwork. Two instrumentals, "Overdrive" and "Sleepy Joe" showcase the two guitarists. The two wrote the latter number with its ingratiating lazy groove. Percy Mayfield's "Two Years of Torture" closes this album with a superb 'three o'clock in the morning' flavored performance.

There are no surprises here for those familiar with Joe Maher on an excellent recording full of fine vocals, marvelous playing and a nice variety of blues songs.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the January-February 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 382). Here is a video from a few years back of Big Joe Maher with Anson Funderburgh on guitar.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Take 5 With Henry 'Red' Allen

One of my favorite jazz trumpeters of the swing era is Henry 'Red' Allen. Son of a legendary Brass Band leader, he first came to notice as part of Luis Russell's Band with whom he made some memorable recordings. He was also in Fletcher Henderson's Big Band in the thirties and later formed a small group similar to Louis Jordan. In the fifties, until his passing in 1967, he played predominantly in a trad jazz vein.

Here he is with Luis Russell's Big band where he is featured on trumpet on "Jersey Lightning." Pops Foster is on bass and J.C. Higginbotham on trombone.

Here is a fabulous recording with Red Allen's trumpet the highlight along with Coleman Hawkins in "Queer Notions" from Fletcher Henderson.

Later in the Mills Rhythm Band, they recorded this feature for Red Allen, "Ride Red Ride," which he would record numerous times including with Coleman Hawkins on a 1957 RCA Victor album.

The first time I heard Red Allen was listening to Phil Schaap over WKCR on Saturday Nights when he opened with "The Crawl." This was simply a stunning jump blues and we have a soundie of them performing this.

Finally, we find him in a swing-trad vein from the classic television show "The Sound of Jazz" performing "Rosetta." Besides Coleman Hawkins and Pee Wee Russell, there is Vic Dickenson on trombone, Rex Stewart on cornet, Jo Jones on drums, Danny Barker on guitar, Milt Hinton on bass and Nat Pierce on piano.

I could easily have chosen many more tunes by him. There is such joy in Red Allen's playing and his music is well worth sampling.