Thursday, October 31, 2019

Jay Anderson Deepscape

Jay Anderson

Bassist Anderson captivates listeners with a new recording that finds him in diverse musical settings that range from a bass solo to chord-less quartets and quintets to a bass-harmonium duet as he performs compositions by Keith Jarrett, Billy Joel, Gil Evans, and Morton Feldman. On this recording, he is joined by Billy Drewes, alto sax, soprano, and bass clarinet; Kirk Knuffke, cornet; Matt Wilson, drums; 
Frank Kimbrough, harmonium; and Rogério Boccato.

While I was not familiar with Anderson before this recording, he has performed with Maria Schneider, Michael Brecker, Frank Kimbrough, Ryan Truesdell, Bob Mintzer, Ira Sullivan, and Red Rodney. It was with the Red Rodney Quartet in 1988 that he participated in the first of over 100 recording sessions for Steeplechase. He has played on recordings by Vic Juris, Harold Danko, Dave Stryker, Paul Bley, Stanley Cowell, Freddie Redd, Louis Smith, and many others. Nils Winther of Steeplechase asked in early 2018 if he would be interested in his own project, and the result is this CD.

The title track opens this disc. Over a prerecorded drone, Anderson plays a melody and then recorded two additional layers of other bass sounds. The other bass solo is an extended examination of the melody of Billy Joel's "And So It Goes," where he displays the tone, articulation, and ability to improvise around the theme. There is an Ornette feel to the performances of two Keith Jarrett compositions, "Shades of Jazz," and "Southern Smiles." Knuffke establishes himself with a darting style while Drewes' alto playing has a bluesy spirit, and their interplay is outstanding. Anderson is rock solid while Matt Wilson is perhaps more Billy Higgins than Ed Blackwell, but helps drive and swing these performances.

There is a different feel to the interpretation of Gil Evans "Time of the Barracudas" with the horns riffing in support of Anderson's bass lead with Wilson providing adroit rhythmic accents before Drewes takes a soprano solo. The rendition of the standard "Sweet and Lovely" starts as a duet between Anderson and Wilson (the latter playing almost in a New Orleans groove. Knuffke enters midway, and his playful playing is reminiscent of the late Lester Bowie with a mix of slurs, short bursts, and extended notes. There is a lively, playful performance of "Bradford Marsalis' "The Mighty Sword."

On three selections, Anderson is joined by Kimbrough on the harmonium. The first of the three is the 5th Movement of Morton Feldman's "Rothko Chapel," where, in addition to bass Anderson also plays the Tibetan singing bowl. Drewes soprano sax floats over Kimbrough's harmonium along with Wilson's drums and Boccato's percussion for what is a haunting performance. The same musicians are heard on Jim Pepper's "Witchi-Tai-To." Anderson opens by stating the underlying chord sequence and the melodic phrase. Wilson's cymbal work leads to a transition into Drewes' soprano sax taking the lead over the accompaniment centered around the leader's bass. Kimbrough's harmonium lends a rendition of "Tennessee Waltz" a feel of an Irish folk song before turning into a captivating duet with Anderson's bass which 'sings' this classic country song.

"Deepscape" is a splendid recording with an intriguing mix of material and musical settings, as well as the superb performances by Anderson and his compatriots.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386), although I made minor stylistic changes. Here is Jay Anderson performing in 2012.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Coco Montoya Coming in Hot

Coco Montoya
Coming in Hot
Alligator Records

"Coming In Hot" is the latest Alligator release from blues-rocker and powerhouse guitarist Coco Montoya. Like his prior recording, "Hard Truth," this is produced by drummer Tony Braunagel and recorded by Johnny Lee Schell, who plays rhythm guitar on wight of the 11 tracks. Others on this recording include Mike Finnigan on keyboards, Billy Watts on rhythm guitar on three songs, and Bob Glaub or Mile Menell on bass. Jon Cleary plays piano on one selection.

Montoya's searing guitar and forceful vocals continue to impress those who like a solid blues-rock mix. He certainly puts so much into his singing as on "Good Man Gone." The title track has a catchy, rhythmic groove as he tells his woman to get her fire burning as he is coming in hot tonight with a stunning guitar solo. He channels Albert Collins on Collins' classic slow blues, "Lights Are On But Nobody's Home," with terrific guitar and one of his most compelling vocals here. Warren Haynes' ballad, "What Am I?" is a nice change of pace with his relaxed vocal and the somewhat restrained backing, although he takes a fiery solo. There is a cover of a less-known Bobby Bland recording, "Ain't it a Good Thing." Shaun Murphy shares the vocal on this splendid performance with some terrific blues guitar from Montoya.

A rocking shuffle "Water to Wine" closes this album with Montoya celebrating this woman who can do almost anything such as change 'water to wine.'" It closes another CD of varied, nicely paced, and played performances. Coco Montoya continues to deliver the goods for those who like their blues with a rock-edge.

I received my review copy from Alligator. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386), although I made minor stylistic changes. Here is a relatively recent performance by Coco Montoya.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

TuneTown There From Here

There From Here
Slammin Media

"There From Here" is the debut album from Canada's newest collective, a chord-less trio, TuneTown. TuneTown was formed in 2015 and pools the talents of Kelly Jefferson (saxophones), Artie Roth (bass), and Ernesto Cervini (drums). The three are among Canada's top improvisers and contributed individually or collectively eight compositions that are played here along with covers of Duke Ellington and Cole Porter. There are, of course, precedents for this chord-less bands, including Sonny Rollins (Live at the Village Vanguard), Ornette Coleman classic quartet, Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd's School Days Band, and Bill Dixon-Archie Shepp Quartet. In more recent years, we have had notable saxophone trios such as Joe Lovano, J. D. Allen, and Ravi Coltrane (with Matthew Garrison and Jack DeJohnette). Such a musical setting often can be a high-wire act without a net, but the trio is exemplary. There is plenty to stimulate the listener's attention throughout "There From Here."

One obvious thing is how well the members of TuneTown play together. While dedicated to Thelonious Monk, Cervini's "The Monks of Oka" is named after the monks in Quebec who make "really stinky cheese." It is a performance that suggests a classic Ornette Coleman recording with Jefferson's exhilarating saxophone elaborating on Cervini's theme. Roth and Cervini provide backing in a manner of Charlie Haden and Eddie Blackwell, before they each take very crisp, focused solos. Based on the Sammy Fain composition, "Alice in Wonderland, Artie Roth's "As She Wonders," is dedicated to his mother. As Roth's bass anchors the trio, Jefferson on soprano sax displays a mastery of dynamics in crafting his solo. On a standout interpretation of Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady," Roth's bass and Cervini's skillful use of brushes back Jefferson's exquisite tenor sax.

Roth's "Split Infinity" is a contrafact of "All The Things You Are" and again displays the bassist's virtuosity whether anchoring the trio or soloing. On Cole Porter's "All of You," Jefferson plays vibrantly in a manner of Sonny Rollins or Joe Lovano with Cervini displaying his ability to accompany and enhance the tenor sax solo. Jefferson's "Kindling," has a terrific serpentine soprano sax solo along with an excellent drum solo. "Transient Space" closes this recording on a meditative tone. It opens with Arco bass with it has an unhurried tempo. Jefferson's soprano sax adds to the reflective quality of the performance.

While the members of TuneTown are each excellent players, playing together they are a superlative trio. Their terrific debut is highly recommended.

I received a review copy as a download from a publicist. Here is a publicity video for this release.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Okeh Rhythm & Blues Story 1949-1957

The Okeh Rhythm & Blues Story 1949-1957 (Epic/Okeh/Legacy E3K 48912) is a three compact disc set surveys excellent rhythm and blues recordings that appeared on Okeh between 1949 and 1957. Okeh was the label that first issued a blues recording with Mamie Smith. During the 1920’s it was acquired by Columbia and faded with the depression. Columbia reactivated Okeh to replace the Vocalion logo which passed to Decca in 1940, although wartime exigencies led to its demise in 1942. Okeh was revived in 1948 to expand Columbia’s presence in the nascent rhythm’n’blues market, although the label was unable to make the market impression the small hustling independent labels did. Despite not being a major market force, Okeh had a number of records hit the charts, and recorded some of the earliest recordings by major postwar stars Chuck Willis, Joe Williams and Big Maybelle. Also on Okeh were artists who may have had some success with small independents and moved on to Okeh such as Joe ‘Mr. Google Eyes’ August, Larry Darnell, Hadda Books, Paul Gayten and Annie Laurie. Other Okeh artists had a couple records and disappeared into obscurity.

Much of the music here is in the jump blues vein best represented by the young Joe Turner influenced Joe Williams, who certainly gets a groove going backed by drummer Fred Saunders’ tough combo. These brash vocals will be a revelation for those familiar only with Williams’ ballad style or his work with Count Basie. Williams was not the only one to show a heavy debt to Joe Turner. Singer Irlton French’s My Run Around Baby  is a rocker with phrasing and shouting style very much like Big Joe’s pre-Atlantic recordings. Earl Williams also shows a debt to the Turner-Wyonnie Harris school of singing. The small combo, Chris Powell & the Five Blue Flames cover Jimmy Preston’s hot jump blues Rock This Joint which later would be a hit for Bill Haley, while the Five Scamps show more indebtedness to Nat Cole than Amos Milburn on their reworking of Milburn’s Chicken Shack Boogie.

Chuck Willis show his roots as he urges everyone to Let’s Jump Tonight. The harmonies of one of the earliest of the postwar vocal groups, The Ravens, enliven the jumping Honey I Don’t Want You, while the ballad singing of New Orleans vocalist Annie Laurie, is showcased in It’s Been a Long Time. Another New Orleans artist, Joe ‘Mr. Google Eyes’ August evokes Roy Brown’s influence on the crying blues Rough and Rocky Road. Hadda Brooks had enjoyed commercial success for Modern. A torch and cabaret singer (she recorded That’s My Desire before Frankie Laine), and a sophisticated pianist, her two songs here are in a jump blues vein with solid boogie based piano. In contrast to Brooks cabaret influenced style, Big Maybelle’s church rooted vocals come at you with the force of a hurricane and she is represented by Gabbin’ Blues and the rocking One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show.

Okeh adapted with the times and also recorded novelties like The Treniers’ salute to dee jay Allen Freed, The Moondog and Hurricane Henry’s rendition of The Last Meal, one of Jimmy Rogers’ more unusual recordings. Sometimes Okeh hit the jackpot with Screaming Jay Hawkins’ I Put a Spell on You. Of local interest are recordings by Billy Stewart and the short-lived group, the Marquees, that included a young Marvin Gaye from sessions organized by Bo Diddley

An attractive booklet provides information on Okeh’s history and the performers. Information on recording dates and initial release (where applicable) of the songs is also provided, although not full discographical information. This collects many artists whose recordings have been hard to find on compact disc at all. It is a well programmed anthology with plenty of variety, and will be a must for jump blues devotees.

This was part of a review with other Columbia/Legacy reissues that I reviewed this past Friday. It originally appeared in issue 188 of Jazz and Blues Report in 1994. I received review copies from Columbia Records.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Take 5 With Jimmy Witherspoon

While I only had the pelasure to see Jimmy Witherspoon perform once live, I was long a fan of his recordings. while often compared to his idol, Big Joe Turner, he was also a terrific Ballad singer. For this short playlist, I start with what was a major hit for him, "Ain't Nobody's Business," with Jay McShann on piano.

Spoon was one of the blue singers who often was backed by some of the greatest jazz players. His recordings with tenor saxophonist Ben Webster were special. He heis live at the Renaissance Club in LA with Jimmy Rowles on piano and Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax doing Leroy Carr's "How Long How Long Blues."

 The first Jimmy Witherspoon album I purchased was "Evenin' Blues," on Prestige. The session included T-Bone Walker on guitar and Clifford Scott on tenor sax. Here is "Money Is Getting Cheaper," a remake of "Times Getting Tougher Then Tough," which I believe was the first track of this album.

I would be remiss if I did not include a selection from his recordings with blues-rock guitarist, Robben Ford. What might have seemed an unlikely partnership, was actually one that worked quite well. Here they do a song spoon had recorded a number of times before that was also a hot for Big Joe Turner, "S.K. Blues."

Finally, here is a set of Spoon with a group led by former Count Basie saxophonist, Earle Warren, live in Europe. Enjoy.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Columbia / Legacy Roots N’ Blues Reissues

Columbia / Legacy Roots N’ Blues Reissues

The latest batch of Roots N’ Blues reissues from Sony Corporation maintain up the series’ high standard. One of the latest releases is Bessie Smith, The Complete Recordings Vol. 4 (Columbia/Legacy C2K 52838) which brings us near the end of her recording career, and contains some of her most celebrated recordings, including Me and My Gin, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, Empty Bed Blues, You’ve Got to Give Me Some. Other numbers may not be as well known, but are memorable for the total conviction of the performances. James P. Johnson’s stride piano enlivens a number of performances , and the cornet of Ed Allen or Louis Metcalfe is heard on several tracks. But it is the majesty of Bessie’s vocals that make this so memorable, and the sound reproduction from the vintage 78s is quite good.

Blind Willie Johnson, The Complete  (Columbia Legacy C2K 52835), duplicates what has been available for a couple years on two Yazoo albums. Blind Willie Johnson was one of the most astonishing practitioners of the bottleneck guitar (his standard guitar playing was adequate), and sang in a raspy, hoarse shouting style with an intensity reminiscent of  Son House. House’s formidable slide guitar playing can sound rudimentary and mechanical compared to Johnson. Johnson’s recordings including Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed, It’s Nobody’s Fault But
Mine, If I Had My Way I’d Tear the Building Down, Lord I Can’t Help But Keep From Crying, You’ll Need Somebody on Your Bond and John the Revelator are classics of African-American roots music, and influenced numerous numerous others who adapted them including Gary Davis, Son House, Muddy Waters, and Fred McDowell. Johnson’s masterpiece was Dark Was the Night- Cold Was the Ground with his wordless vocalising and slide guitar accompaniment, that later Ry Cooder played homage to. Sam Charters provides a lengthy annotation that covers Johnson’s life, his music, and his impact. This is essential music, the only question being whether one already has the Yazoo albums.

New Orleans Barrelhouse Boogie (Columbia/Legacy CK 52834) collects Champion Jack Dupree’s first recordings made for Okeh in 1940 and 1941. Several of the 25 recordings are previously unissued alternate takes to issued sides. Most of the songs here find Dupree’s piano and vocals backed by just  a bass, although the final eight recordings feature Jesse Ellery’s nimble guitar. New Orleans Barrelhouse Boogie is a fitting title, describing his driving two handed piano style, although his bass heavy playing here lacks the touch and articulation found in his later recordings. A major reason for Dupree’s appeal was his soulfully delivered vocals that were ebulliently delivered, and his downhome country supper lyrics which touched a chord with those listening to him sing about ‘those greens those Cabbage Greens.’ Junker’s Blues  and Angola Blues reflect his New Orleans roots, while New Low Down Dog is a barrelhouse version of a Leroy Carr recording which he later recorded as Stumbling Blocks. While Dupree sang about drugs and prison, these songs were not based upon Dupree’s personal experiences, but from knowing people, and personalizing their stories. This marriage of lyric and performance that make these Champion Jack
Dupree recordings stand up half a century later. This collects some of his finest recordings.

The Slide Guitar, Bottles, Knives & Steel Vol. 2 (Columbia/Legacy CK 52725) is the second such collection in the Roots N’ Blues series. While there are no selections from Robert Johnson or Blind Willie Johnson, this provides a diverse sampling of slide players, with a healthy number of selections featuring Tampa Red, perhaps the most influential of all slide guitarists. One interesting song by him is Things Bout Coming My Way, heard in both instrumental and vocal versions. Derived from Sitting on Top of the World, he later revamped it as It Hurts Me Too. Perhaps the most influential slide guitarist in blues hisory, he was not represented in Rhino’s supposedly essential collection. Sam Montgomery, who recoded as the King of Spades is heard on the previously unissued Where the Sweet Orages Grow, a Kokomo Blues variant recored a few months before Robert Johnson waxed Sweet Home Chicago. Other slide guitarists heard here include  Casey Bill Weldon’s with lively Hawaiian style playing on the Hokum Boys’ Caught Us Doing It; Barbecue Bob backs Nellie Florence’s powerful singing; Curley Weaver’s slide is heard with the Georgia Browns and supporting Buddy Moss  sober vocals; and  Sylvester Weaver, is heard on the selections by Helen Humes and his partner Walter Beasely.

The most intriguing of these releases may be the two compact disc set, White Country Blues-
Lighter Shade of Blue (Columbia/Legacy C2K 47466), devoted to recordings of blues by various white performers of what was then marked as old time or hillbillymusic. As the respected country music historian Charles Wolfe notes, there was a distinct white country blues tradition that certainly reflected the influences of pioneering African-American performers, but reached a different audience. Some performances, like Frank Hutchinson’s lively K.C. Blues are not far removed from contemporaneous recordings of Furry Lewis, and the hawaiian style steel guitar heard on some of these will remind some of Tampa Red’s hokum recordings, or Casey Bill Weldon. In a blindfold test, the Blue Ridge Ramblers might be mistaken for a Memphis based jug band, and Larry Hensley stays pretty faithful to Blind Lemon Jefferson Match Box Blues, even if he can’t replicate all of the nuances of Jefferson’s recording. After all, who can.  Other recordings, like those by Charlie Poole with the North Carolina Ramblers, are string band blues performances that have few recorded counterparts by African-American musicians. While some of the performances here are more country than blues, they are more than dry historical specimens, and illustrate the influence and reach of the blues outside of the African-American community long before the rock and roll era. They also show how skillfully and movingly the music was adapted by white southerners who were drawn to the power and simplicity of the blues, just like many of us are drawn to the blues today.

This review appeared in issue 188 of Jazz & Blues Report from 1994. The original review also included "The Okeh Rhythm & Blues Story 1949-1957" which I will reprint on Monday the 28th. I received review copies from Columbia Records. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Gracie Curran & Friends Come Undone

Gracie Curran & Friends
Come Undone

Originally from Boston but now living in Memphis, "Come Undone" is singer and songwriter Gracie Curran's second release. Her first album, 'Proof of Love," was nominated for a Blues Music Award as Best New Artist Debut. She co-produced this new release with Damon Fowler who plays guitar on it — also playing on this Matt Walker on guitar, bass and Wurlitzer; Pat Harrington on guitar on the first track; Victor Wainwright and Jeremy Powell each playing on keyboards for two of the eight tunes; Doug Woolverton on trumpet; Mark Earley on sax; and Reba Russell on backing vocals.

Some of the publicity material compare her vocals to that of Mavis Staples. I would not go quite that far, but she certainly impresses the listener on the title track, which is a very appealing serving of Memphis soul with a reggae accent. In contrast, "Ernestine" is a folk-roots styled performance with Reba Russell complementing her country-flavored singing. "Stay Up!" is a jump-style party blues with plenty of swagger in her vocal with a crisp guitar solo and the horns doing a call and response with each other. Trebly guitar adds to the atmosphere to her insistent vocal on "The Things We Like" as she sings about not wanting to but having to let one go.

"Sweet Sativa" is a blues about marijuana with stinging slide guitar (could be lap steel guitar) taken at loping tempo. "If Mama Ain't Happy" is a rocking blues with some outstanding piano from Wainwright and a brief, crisp guitar solo. Perhaps the most outstanding song is a soulful ballad, "Love Is The Cruelest Thing I Know," It shows how nuanced a singer she is and how convincing she is with the restraint exhibited here. The closing track "Chasing Sunset" shits gears to a delightful country roots rocker.

The strength of Gracie Curran's performances is that while she can belt out a lyric, she focuses more on timing, phrasing, and vocal dynamics. The songs were fascinating, and the backing excellent. The only fault might be the eight songs only last a little over a half-hour. There are no complaints about the actual music heard on a very notable album.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. Here is a performance of "Come Undone."

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Michael O'Neil Quintet with Tony Lindsay Pacific Standard Time

Michael O'Neill Quintet with Tony Lindsay
Pacific Standard Time
Jazzmo Records

"Pacific Standard Time" is a fascinating new album of vocal jazz by former Santana vocalist Lindsay backed by Michael O'Neill's Quintet. The members of the quintet are O'Neil on tenor sax, bass clarinet, clarinet and flute: Erik Jekabson on trumpet and flugelhorn; John R. Burr on piano; Dan Feiszli on bass; and Alan Hall on drums. Mile Olmos replaces Jekabson on two selections and Omar Ledezma is on percussion on three selections. This is a longstanding group, with O'Neill, Feiszli and Hall being together since the group formed, with Burr joining in 2006 and Jekabson coming aboard in 2011. This is the quintet's fourth album, but not the first with a vocalist as Kenny Washington was featured on their earlier recordings.

As suggested by the title, this is a collection of standards with the members providing arrangements to give a different flavor to these familiar numbers. This is evident with the opening "Just Friends" in which drummer Hall provided the setting in which Lindsay quickly establishes his vocal presence is no novelty. he brings warmth along with a flexibility in phrasing and his dynamics set against the quintet's wonderful backing and solos. I am not familiar with Sting's original of "Fragile," but Lindsay is quite at home from his years as part of Santana with the the leader's Latin jazz setting. Jekabson's brass solo is spirited and lyrical and followed by the leader's robust improvisation and Burr's fluid piano solo. 

On "Summertime," O'Neill's arrangement makes it into almost a suite with three movements with changes in tempo and groove starting as a lament before a funky groove kicks in with O'Neill tearing it up on his solo. Jekabson provided a 12/8 tinge for Lindsay's soulful vocal on Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia," with more sterling accompaniment. There is pianist Burr's reharmonization of Hart & Rodgers' "The Way You Look Tonight," along with the leader's reworking of Monk's "Rhythm-a-ning," with Lindsay's horn like singing of Jon Hendricks' lyrics and terrific tenor sax and trumpet solos.

 Lindsay is superb whether with exquisite ballad singing on "Come Rain or Shine," or his relaxed delivery on "Night and Day" against a lively groove. Then there is the closing ballad, "You Don't Know What Love Is," with Feiszli's inspired arrangement employing O'Neill's woody bass clarinet and Jekabson's muted trumpet. O'Neill's plays a wonderful bass clarinet solo while Lindsay sings so fervently here.  With Lindsay's first-rate vocals and the superb backing and solos from O'Neill and band, "Pacific Standard Time" is terrific.

I received my review copy from a publicist.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Fabrizio Sciacca Quartet Gettin' It There

Fabrizio Sciacca Quartet
Gettin' It There

Fabrizio Sciacca is an Italian-born bassist who came to the United States to study at Berklee, where he studied with such teachers as John Patitucci, Danilo Perez, and Victor Bailey. After graduating from Berklee, he moved to New York, where he studied with Ron Carter and earned a Master’s Degree in Performance and Composition from the Manhattan School in 2018. On his debut recording his leads a quartet with Jed Levy on sax, Donald Vega on piano, and Billy Drummond on drums on a program of straight-ahead modern jazz.

He displays a big sound and firm, driving touch opening and anchoring Sam Jones' "One For Amos," with Vega trading choruses with Drummond on a swinging trio performance. A fellow transplanted Italian, pianist Andrea Domenici, composed the lovely ballad "Lullaby in Central Park." with Sciacca anchoring Vega's spare, imaginative solo and Drummond's light stick work on an exquisite performance. Levy's sax is added to the trio on Sonny Clark's "Zellmar's Delight." It is a hard-swinging boppish performance of a relatively obscure composition with Vega and Levy terrific before the leader displays a clean, firm touch on his solo.

"For Sir Ron" is a delightful original thatg Sciacca composed to honor his mentor Ron Carter. Vega, who is the pianist in Carter's trio, dazzles here before the leader trades fours with Drummond. With Drummond on brushes, Sciacca takes the lead in stating the theme to a charming, contemplative rendition by the trio of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square." Levy is back for the quartet's performance of Levy's evocative "Lonely Goddess." A wonderfully paced performance with superb piano and sax solos. The quartet closes this CD out with a spirited take on Elmo Hope's hard bop swinger, "One Second Please." It concludes an impressive recording debut by Fabrizio Sciacca.

I received a review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386), although I made minor stylistic changes. Here is Sciacca, Vega and Drummond performing "For Sir Ron."

Monday, October 21, 2019

Johnny Burgin Live

Johnny Burgin
Delmark Records

Rockin' Johnny Burgin notes that this new live recording is his first in 20 years, and first since he moved from Chicago to the West Coast. It was recorded in January of 219 at the Redwood Café in Cotati, California. His regular band of Chris Matheos on bass and Steve Dougherty on drums is augmented by Kid Andersen on guitar, harmonica players Aki Kumar and Charlie Musselwhite, saxophonist Nancy Wright, and vocalist Rae Gordon. Kid Andersen and Robbie Yamilov and was mixed by Andersen at Greaseland Studios. The 14 selections include twelve brand-new originals performed, as Burgin observes, "by artists who don't play together regularly… ."

This collection of performances is a very good collection of West Side Chicago style blues. Burgin has definite appeal as a vocalist with his high pitched, heartfelt singing. He may not be a great singer, but there is a marked absence of a harsh vibrato or false emoting in his straight-forward, fervent vocals. This is matched by his guitar playing that evokes early Buddy Guy, Jody Williams, and (especially) Jimmy Dawkins in his top-notch, imaginative soloing. From the opening "You Got To Make a Change," whose melody evokes early Clifton Chenier on Specialty, with Kumar's outstanding harp until the closing "Jody's Jazz," an instrumental dedicated to Jody Williams that hints at "Lucky Lou" and also showcases Wright's chicken scratching sax, Burgin impresses.

There are echoes of early Buddy Guy in his fiery fretwork "Can't Make It Blues," while one of the covers is a choice rendition of Earl Hooker's "The Leading Brand" where Burgin's slide guitar dances with Kumar's harp. Vocalist Rae Gordon surprises with her robust singing, whether enlivening a duet with Burgin on "I Got to Find Me a Woman" or pouring her heart, and asking a lover to come home in "Late Night Date Blues." Nancy Wright makes notable contributions to these performances. Backing her vocal on "You Took the Bait," Burgin lays down one of his most stunning solos before Wright adds her raspy sax. This song borrows from the melody of Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson's "Kidney Stew." Charlie Musselwhite joins Burgin with some brilliant harmonica on the torrid paced cover of Jimmy Rogers' "Blues Falling." It is followed by another hot shuffle, "California Blues," where Burgin sings about moving to California, and the three-in-the-morning slow blues, "When a Bluesman Comes To Town."

With so many first-rate performances, Johnny Burgin's adds to his fine body of recordings.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here is a video of Johnny and Aki Kumar performing "When a Bluesman Comes To Town."

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Take 5 With Lester Young With Count Basie

For this installment of Take 5, we have a brief playlist of Lester Young, the great tenor saxophonist who was not merely a great tenor saxophone stylist, but also a significant influence on saxophonists who came after him. This is limited to his early sides with Count Basie. First up is Lester Young as part of the Jones-Smith Five date for Vocalion with Count Basie on piano, Young on Tenor sax, Carl Smith on trumpet, Walter Page on bass, and Jo Jones on drums. The song is "Lady Be Good."

The original "Boogie Woogie" was recorded at the Jones-Smith date. Here it is done by the full Basie Band with Jimmy Rushing handling the vocal as he did on the original. Besides his brief intro and obligattos, Prez takes a simply sublime solo. Incidentally, this number would be performed by a variety of Jump Blues acts, including Wyonnie Harris and Roy Milton. Redd Foxx's "Shame on You" is musically a cover, although Foxx's recording has different lyrics. Chicago blues pianist Little Johnnie Jones also recorded this with Elmore James on guitar.

There are so many Count Basie recordings that one can choose. "Taxi War Dance" is an outstanding one.

Young is, of course, featured on some of the Basie classics, including "Jumping at the Woodside." Herschel Evans is the clarinetist on this track.

Finally, here is the original recording of his blues that became a jazz standard, "Lester Leaps In."

I will be posting some of Lester Young's recordings backing Billie Holiday in a few weeks.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Johnny Griffin-Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis Quintet At Onkel Pö's Carnegie Hall

Johnny Griffin-Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis Quintet
At Onkel Pö's Carnegie Hall

Onkel Pö's Carnegie Hall was a Hamburg Germany music venue in the 1970s and 1980s that presented a wide variety of music. This CD by the quintet led by the two famous tenor saxophonists, Johnny Griffith and Eddie "Lockjaw' Davis is one of a number of releases of live recordings by such artists as Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, Albert Collins, James Booker, Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, Louis Hayes-Junior Cook Quintet, Louisiana Red, The New Woody Shaw Quintet, Esther Phillips and others.

The present album has the very dynamic saxophonists backed by the trio of Tete Montoliu on piano, Niels-Henning Ørsted-Pedersen on bass, and Art Taylor on drums. There is nothing fancy here, just a hard-swinging set of swing and bop standards with seven performances (roughly 100 minutes) spread across the two CDs, starting with Davis on cymbals and bass drum kicking off a rousing, relatively brief "C Jam Blues." Its a friendly battle as the two joust playing "On Green Dolphin Street," with Ørsted-Pedersen and Montoliu introducing the theme before the two jointly state the theme and take off, both playing robustly on this lengthy performance. Then there is a winsome rendition by Griffith of Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" with a lengthy, melodious piano solo and a tight bass solo. The first disc concludes with a spirited rendition of Monk's "In Walked Bud."

Lockjaw Davis is featured with some splendid ballad-playing "I Can't Started," opening the second disc followed by a lengthy, high-spirited "Stomping at the Savoy." The two blast off on the simple motive of Benny Green's "Funky Flute" with Griffith's high energy matched by his fellow tenor sax master with Taylor exploding with bombs in support as Montoliu once again demonstrating why he was so highly regarded. After Ørsted-Pedersen solos, Taylor's takes an explosive drum solo, before the horns ride it out. It concludes this excellent straight-ahead set by the two tenor sax giants.

I purchased this. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386) although I made minor stylistic changes. Here is a video of Johnny Griffin and Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis performing. Incidentally, a new CD by the two, "Ow! Live at the Penthouse,"is coming out on Black Friday, Novermber 29, 2019 on Reel to Real Recordings.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Antonio Adolfo Samba Jazz Alley

Antonio Adolfo
Samba Jazz Alley
AAM Music

Pianist and arranger Adolfo has been one of the more prominent artists who, influenced by bebop, soul, and West Coast Jazz trends, crafted a more rhythmically robust instrumental interpretation of the lithe and flirtatious bossa that became known as 'Samba Jazz.' The title refers to an obscure dead-end alley in the heart of Rio de Janeiro’s storied Copacabana neighborhood that served as a breeding ground for the city’s up-and-coming instrumentalists and singers during the heyday of bossa nova. Adolfo advises us that the alley was known as Bottles Alley' because "neighbors in taller buildings used to throw bottles down from their apartments to protest the loud music and boisterous conversations below." The alley "was like a cauldron of jazz, samba and bossa nova… ."

Recorded in Brazil, Adolfo has a core ensemble that features the three-horn frontline of trumpeter Jessé Sadoc, woodwind artist Marcelo Martins and trombonist Rafael Rocha, and a rhythm section of Adolfo guitarist Lula Galvão, bassist Jorge Helder, drummer Rafael Barata, and percussionist Dada Costa. There are guests on some songs. Of the nine selections, two are Adolfo compositions, and the remainder features his arrangements of classic bossa nova compositions.

The music is bright, breezy, and full of slow-burning heat starting with "Ceu E Mar (Sky and Sea)" with his clean, crisp, horn arrangements giving a fuller sound than the three horn line-up might suggest along with his deft piano. Martins is impressive in his fiery tenor sax solo, followed by Adolfo's lyrical playing and Helder's bass solo. "Hello, Herbie" is a tribute to the Herbie Hancock that is in part a contrafact of "Cantaloupe Island" and Jesse Sadoc's solo is incendiary, followed by Galvāo's fleet guitar. "So Por Amor (Just For Love)" from Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes opens with some precious piano, and this beautiful performance features Rocha's marvelous, romantic trombone solo. Edu Lobo's "Casa Forte" refers to a neighborhood in the northeastern Brazilian town of Recife.

"Tristeza De Nos Dois" is a gorgeous bossa ballad and features the harmonicas of Mauricio Einhorn, one of the composers of this number and a legendary player, and Gabriel Grossi, a current harmonica sensation. The weaving of the two harmonica's is engrossing and adds to the charm here. Two Jobim numbers round out this album, "Passarim (Little Bird)" with Martin's marvelous soprano sax solo, and a performance of the celebrated "Corcovado" with the spotlight on Adolfo's deft piano, Sadoc's mellifluous flugelhorn and Martin's alto flute. These splendid performances close another superb recording from this Brazilian jazz master.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386), although I made minor stylistic changes. Here is "Ceu E Mar" from "Samba Jazz Alley."

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Nick Moss Band Feat. Dennis Gruenling Lucky Guy!

The Nick Moss Band Feat. Dennis Gruenling
Lucky Guy!
Alligator Records

About the previous album by The Nick Moss Band, "The High Cost of Low Living," I observed that "there is strong and varied material (including choice songs to cover), very good singing, and excellent playing. This is also wonderfully recorded, resulting in a superb straight-no-chaser Chicago blues recording." Now, guitarist and vocalist Moss, along with harmonica wizard and vocalist Dennis Gruenling, return with this new disc. Others in the band include Taylor Streif on keyboards and background vocals; Rodrigo Mantovani on bass and background vocals; and Patrick Seals on drums and background vocals. Kid Andersen adds rhythm guitar to several tracks as well as baritone guitar and mandolin, and Mighty Mike Welch plays lead guitar on one track. The album was co-produced by Moss and Andersen and recorded and mixed by Andersen at Greaseland Studios. 13 of the 14 tracks are originals with Moss having written 11 and Gruenling two.

Moss plays and sings with considerable authority, although 'occasionally' his diction can come off as a little mush-mouthed (in the manner of Junior Well and Carey Bell) as on the rocking paean to his hometown "312 Blood" where Moss celebrates his hometown of Chicago. Streif takes a two-fisted solo, while Gruenling wails on his break before Moss adds to the instrumental fire. Johnny O'Neal Johnson's "Ugly Woman" shows the wit Moss's performance can bring. It is one of the tracks with uncredited horns with Gruenling riffing behind the vocal, and Streif takes a rollicking solo. The title track is an upbeat shuffle with scintillating guitar and a solid vocal before Gruenling's soaring sax-like harp solo. Moss' own solo shows how much of the Chicago blues guitar tradition he has absorbed in developing his superb attack.

Moss' "Sanctified, Holy And Hateful," set to the melodic theme of "Half Ain't Been Told," is a stellar slow blues about the hypocrisy of certain evangelicals with a terrific vocal, Gruenling's robust chromatic harp playing and Moss playing with so much passion here. Gruenling shows himself to be a capable vocalist on his hot shuffle, "Movin' On My Way," with Moss and Kid Andersen taking crisp solos and trading fours with Gruenling's swooping horn-like harp taking this performance out. Moss follows this up with the relaxed, mellow feel of "Tell Me There's Nothing Wrong," with Gruenling taking a tasty solo in a Sonny Boy Williamson vein followed by Moss' shattering solo. "Me and My Friends" is set to a groove that evokes Phillip Walker and Jimmy McCracklin ("Steppin' Up In Class") with horns adding to the atmosphere here. "Simple Minded" had Andersen on mandolin, and the performance brings back memories of the late Johnny Young with Gruenling playing in a Walter Horton manner and Streif hinting at Otis Spann.

"Hot Zucchini" is an instrumental in the vein of Booker T & the MGs with greasy Hammond B-3 from Streif, stinging guitar from Moss and riffing horns. Another instrumental, "Cutting the Monkey's Tail," provides space for Gruenling and Moss to shine. The concluding track, "The Comet," is an atmospheric Muddy Waters styled blues that is a tribute to the late Mike Ledbetter with whom both Moss and Monster Mike Welch had played. The two duet with Welch taking the lead (and soloing in accompanying Moss' vocal. While the contributions of Moss, Grueling and Streif have been spotlighted, one cannot ignore the first-rate backing provided by Mantovani and Seals. This is one terrific band, and given the authority and imagination that Moss, Gruenling, and Streif play with, blues fans are in luck with the fabulous "Lucky Guy!"

I received my review copy from Alligator. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386) although I made minor stylistic changes. Here is a recent performance by Nick Moss with Dennis Gruenling.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Getz at The Gate: The Stan Getz Quartet Live at the Village Gate, Nov. 26, 1961

The Stan Getz Quartet
Getz at The Gate: The Stan Getz Quartet Live at the Village Gate, Nov. 26, 1961
Verve Records

A revelation many are calling this release of two sets from a 1961 Greenwich Village engagement by Stan Getz at the famed New York Jazz Club. Earlier that year, Getz had returned from three years in Europe and recorded earlier that year his famed album, "Focus," which merged Eddie Sauter's compositions for strings and Getz's spontaneous improvisations. Upon returning to the United States, Getz contacted bassist Scott LaFaro who agreed to join Getz if he could put together the rhythm section and recruited Steve Kuhn, who had been with John Coltrane, on piano and drummer Pete LaRoca, who would be replaced by Roy Haynes.

In the booklet accompanying this release, Bob Blumenthal notes "It took a while for the quartet to gain popular traction, but it worked fairly steadily. (Again, hindsight is deceptive. While LaFaro made important recordings with Ornette Coleman and Bill Evans in this period, most of his performing time was spent with Getz.) Many of these gigs were on double bills opposite the man who had dethroned Getz in the music polls, John Coltrane." The group developed quickly, and Blumenthal observes they apparently were in exceptional form at the July 3 Newport Jazz Festival. LaFaro died in a car crash on July 6 and replaced by bassist John Neve.

Blumenthal's essay provides more of the details about Getz's group and some recordings before the present archival one. This release documents two sets from the fourth and final night of a triple-bill at the Village Gate that also included Chris Connor and Les McCann (those who have seen reproductions of New York City newspaper ads from the time will be familiar with these multiple billings that had several major acts at one time. I remember going to see Otis Rush at the Gate in 1978, and Hugh Masekela was also on the bill. The press release for this notes that these performances were "professionally recorded, possibly for eventual release, but was soon forgotten and the tape languished in the vaults for almost 58 years." We are indeed fortunate that the tape was apparently not in the Universal Music vaults that suffered fires several years ago as disclosed in recent New York Times accounts.

As Blumenthal observes, there is plenty of toughness and fire in much of Getz's playing in contrast to his image as the epitome of 'cool jazz." This is immediately evident in the bursts of notes in "It's Alright With Me," which might contrast with the more legato, feathering playing that some might think about Getz's music. But this is 1961, and the music of Coltrane and Rollins is at the fore. Haynes' fiery playing, including a short solo and trading fours as well as Kuhn's use of block chords here and elsewhere, make for fascinating listening. On Gigi Gryce's "Wildwood," with its nice relaxed tempo, Getz displays a bit more of a feathery tone, although his playing also has more toughness, and his tonal dynamics match his creativity here. His ballad playing is exquisite as on "When the Sun Comes Out" and "Stella By Starlight." He tears up Sonny Rollin's "Airegin," one of the numbers which have parts where Kuhn lays out, and it becomes almost a duet with Haynes, although Neves keeps a steady pulse. There also is a nice relaxed "Blues" and the brisk "It's You Or No One," with some sterling piano. The rhythm section is featured on "Impressions" that Getz introduces as "So What."

The two lengthiest tracks close out this double disk set. Monk's "52nd Street Theme" provides some lengthy and imaginative playing by the leader and has Haynes' longest solo on this recording. It is followed by an encore in which Getz is heard noodling on "The Breeze and I" and "How High the Moon," after which someone urges him to play the blues. This urging leads to a rendition of Lester Young's "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid," taken at a slower than usual tempo.  It capped an excellent evening from the Stan Getz Quartet, but this group disbanded by year's end. In 1962, Getz began his collaboration with guitarist Charlie Byrd, and in February, they recorded the hit album "Jazz Samba" which took his playing in another direction. The music on "Getz at the Gate" indicates a course that Getz might have made if he had not gone the Bossa Nova route. Based on the music on this invaluable historical document, it would have been as musically productive and satisfying in its own way.

I received a download to review from a publicist. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386) although I made minor stylistic changes. Here is "Yesterday's Gardenias" from "Getz at the Gate."

Monday, October 14, 2019

Big Jack Reynolds That's a Good Way To Get To Heaven

Big Jack Reynolds
That's a Good Way To Get To Heaven
Third Street Cigar Records

"That's a Good Way To Get To Heaven" is a CD/DVD dedicated to the music of Big Jack Reynolds, who passed away a little over twenty-five years ago. The CD provides twenty songs displaying Big Jack Reynold's deep down-home blues style, while the DVD has a documentary about him as seen by the musicians who played with him or were his contemporaries. It also has as extras, his only television performances, and an interview with him.

This CD/DVD set is a wonderful labor of love for one Marshall "Big Jack" Reynolds. The details of his life are provided in the booklet that accompanies this release (including a moving poem from Joel Lipman that was written when he passed away). Reynolds was born in Albany, Georgia, in 1921, who grew up surrounded by country blues. Having relatives in Ohio and Michigan, he often visited them with his family. Johnson eventually moved north, becoming part of the vibrant Detroit blues scene that produced the likes of John Lee Hooker, Eddie Burns, Eddie Kirkland, Washboard Willie, Calvin Frazier, and others and recorded for Fortune and other labels including Hi-Q and Mah's. By the late 1960s, he was spending increasing time in Toledo and by the 1970s made Toledo his permanent home. In Toledo, he played with other groups, including playing drums with the Griswolds. Reynolds, in fact, recorded with the Griswolds for the Blue Suit. In the mid-eighties, he hooked up with the band, the Haircuts that included guitarist Larry Gold who produced the CD, John Newmark on bass, John Rockwood on harmonica, and Marc Cary on drums. With the Haircuts, Big Jack recorded some 45s that are included on the CD.

But also around this time, his health began to decline with diabetic and liver issues, leading him to need dialysis with friends like John Rockwood, taking him to get his dialysis treatments. Another friend was John Henry, a financial services company CEO, owner of Third Street Cigar, and a die-hard blues fan who championed Big Jack's music and when Big Jack passed away December 29, 1993, and no next of kin could be located. John Henry and another fan Paul Croy paid for Big Jack's funeral service and cremation, and when Third Street Cigar opened, John Henry placed the urn with Reynolds' remains a Rockwood photograph, and a guitar in a dedicated memorial spot. It was at this store where the plans that led to this memorial began.

If I could find any fault with the documentary, it might be the shortness of actual performance clips incorporated in it; the two songs are included as extras on the DVD. His life, his music, his influences (a prime dose of Jimmy Reed) and what he meant to those who knew him are given life through the recollections of photographer Rockwood, Gold, Newmark and the other members of the Haircuts, as well as other members of the Detroit and Toledo blues scenes who knew him. He could be a rascal and a hard band leader (telling the drummer he was messing up), but he wanted his music played right, And when he got the blues played right, it could be quite moving and real.

By itself, the DVD would be worth the price, but the CD with 20 solid down-home blues performances from various sources. There are solid covers of Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do," "Go On To School," and "Shame, Shame, Shame" along with the swamp blues of Slim Harpo's "Scratch My Back." Even when the backing gets the tempo a tad too brisk as on the cover of "Help Me," or "Walk On Up (But Keep That Red Dress On)" (set to the melody of "Fannie Mae"), or the shuffle "Poor Boy," Reynolds sings authoritatively while his harp playing goes far beyond being merely a Jimmy Reed copy. On "Poor Boy," Larry Gold plays some excellent guitar.

On "Mean Old People," he sings about going back South with his country blues guitar adding to the flavor of the performance. "Hot Potato" is a hardy, funky instrumental with him on guitar, while "Gonna Love Somebody" is his heartfelt reworking of a Muddy Waters number with just his harmonica. "Going Down Slow" was recorded in 1963 for Fortune Records and shows what a robust singer he was then. "Made It Up In Your Mind," with the drummer laying down a mambo groove, finds Big Jack's vocal suggesting New Orleans Snooks Eaglin. It is followed by the shuffle "I Had a Little Dog," with some greasy organ in the backing as he sings about pitching a boogie-woogie. There is also a vibrant rendition of Muddy Waters' "She Moves Me" with just vocal and harmonica.

One won't claim Big Jack Reynolds was one the iconic blues giants, but this reissue establishes that he was a more than capable with his robust, deep singing and excellent, idiomatic harmonica and guitar. The result is a highly recommended blues reissue that, with the documentary, provides a marvelous memorial to this Big blues artist who was a mainstay of the Toledo blue scene.

I am not sure where I got this but likely from Third Cigar Store Records. Here is a video that was associated with the premiere of the documentary about Big Jack Reynolds.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Take Five With Nat King Cole

This year makes the centennial of Nat 'King' Cole, one of the most talented jazz pianists and vocalists who later became a vocal superstar. Here are five choice examples of Mr. Cole's incomparable artistry. First up is his rendition of what has become a standrad, "Route 66."

Then there is "Hit The Jive Jack," with some exquisite guitar from Oscar Moore.

The first two elections have him with his imcomparable trio. The next performance is from the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert where he anchored a band that included Illinios Jacquwt on tenro saxophone and Les Paul on guitar. While Jacquet is the star, Cole is superb in this jam context.

There are many possibilities for later recordings when the emphasis shifted to his vocal stylings. I have picked "Mona Lisa."

There were so many other possible choices including "Unforgettable, "Smile," "The Ballad of Cat Ballou," and "Stardust." I have chosen one of the most famous holiday songs, "The Christmas Song."

I initially decided to do the short Take 5 playlists on the 5th of the month. I have decided to try to do this on most Saturdays. Hope you enjoy this.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Jason Ricci & the Bad Kind My Chops Are Rolling!!

Jason Ricci & the Bad Kind
My Chops Are Rolling!!
EllerSoul Records

I am not sure if Jason Ricci is considered the Bad Boy of the Blues, but he brings a punk attitude along with his harmonica virtuosity to this new release. He is accompanied by his high energy band of John Lisi on guitar and dobro, Andy Kurz on bass, and John Perkins on drums. Kaitlin Dibble adds guest vocals. Most of the songs are originals from Ricci or Lisi.

While if some of the songs might not fit a traditional notion of blues, they are not heavily rocked out, and there is an understated quality in the performance of some songs such as "Break in the Rain," on which Ricci showcases not only his harp chops but his original, imaginative soloing. Lisi's dobro work is also quite evident here. "Don't Badger the Witness," a more traditional blues structure opens with Ricci's full-toned harmonica sports of gravelly vocal, and one wonders if the theme of not badgering the witness arose from his own experiences. Lisi's guitar, with his use of vibrato and tremolo, adds to the performance's atmosphere. The next track, "F_ck the Falcons (Who Dat Nation)," is a celebration of the New Orleans Saints and profanity-filled lambasting of NFL officiating and the NFL Commissioner set to a hot second-line groove with Slats Klug playing accordion and Lisi laying down a memorable solo. The final track "Who Dat Nation" is a radio-friendly version of this.

"Going to California" is a fascinating instrumental that shows how Ricci is not simply a technical virtuoso, but able to spin a jazz-inflected, soulful solo on the chromatic harmonica before Lisi enters with a contrasting high-energy electrified slide solo. It is followed by Kaitlin Dibble's endearing singing on the Barbara Lynn classic, "If You Should Lose Me," with Ricci's accompaniment and solo full of magic. The title track is a funky slice of music as, in what is almost a throwaway vocal, he celebrates his chops rolling and plays some astonishing harp licks against Lisi's funky guitar as the rhythm gets down with the groove.

"The Way I Hurt Myself" is a fabulous slow straight-forward blues performance with an intense vocal, some terrific blues guitar, and an excellent showcase of Ricci's use of tonal and volume dynamics in his pull-out-all-the-stops, three o'clock in the morning solo. It is followed by the energetic rockabilly-styled "Think It Over." Jason Ricci's chops are indeed rolling on a fascinating blend of blues and roots that showcases a broad and engaging musical personality with a tight, driving band.

I received my review copy from EllerSoul Records. Here is Jason Ricci performing this year with Joe Krown, John  Fohl and others at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Blind Lemon Jazz After Hours

Blind Lemon Jazz
After Hours
Ofeh Music

Blind Lemon Jazz is James Byfield, who has recorded several blues albums as Blind Lemon Pledge. Byfield has written 13 originals songs inspired the Great American Songbook, as well as arranged, produced this album, and plays guitar. Ben Flint handles keyboards and contributed some arrangements, while Peter Grenell is on bass, and Joe Kelner is on drums, all in support of Marisa Malvino vocals. This is not a blues record and not strictly a jazz record. The music is bluesy in a sense of singing about having a bluesy feeling. Musically this is in the vein of late-night saloon music in the manner of Frank Sinatra singing "One For My Baby (And One More For the Road)."

Malvino's smoky, evocative singing lends it that feel as does the light, sympathetic backing. Pianist Flint impresses with his touch and nuanced accompaniment to her singing, and the lyrics contribute to this flavor, such as the title song (not the Avery Parrish instrumental), as she sings about after-hours dancing soft and slow, and the time is right for love. Then there is the evocative song for "If Beale Street Was A Woman," I would take her for my bride, and if Memphis was a singer, the blues would be her song. Flint takes a crisp, blues-tinged solo in the middle of her world-weary vocal. The bouncy "Rich People in Love" is modeled after classic standards about folks going to the parties, arriving fashionably late.

There is a bluesy flavor to the lament "How Can I Still Love You," as well as on the torch song, Bobbi's Blues," and her blue ballad, "Livin' My Life With the Blues," with some choice piano. "Moon Over Memphis" has a reflective feel as Malvino sings about a whippoorwill calling out her lover's name. There is also a homage to Buddy Bolden singing about the day the pioneering jazz cornet player passed, "Buddy Bolden's Song," which borrows some lines from "St. James Infirmary." James Byfield sings ably and plays guitar on the closing lament "Blue Heartbreak."

Malvino's nuanced vocals with restrained, subtle backing and Byfield's intriguing original compositions make for fascinating listening, and no one should be surprised if some of these songs become familiar vehicles for performance by other artists.

I received a review copy from Jim Eigo. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386) although I made minor stylistic changes. Here is a video for "Bobby's Blues," from this CD.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

The Flying Horse Big Band Good News!

The Flying Horse Big Band
Good News!
Flying Horse Records

The Flying Horse Big Band is a big band out of the University of Central Florida's Jazz Program under the direction of tenor saxophonist Jeff Rupert. "Good News!" is the sixth album by what is becoming a very highly regarded university big band. On this album, they are joined on several selections by the UCF Studio Orchestra, and on one selection, The Jazz Professors are heard. The music heard are from such jazz masters as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Bob Mintzer, and Michael Phillip Mossman. Mossman, a former member of Machito's legendary big band provided and Rupert, each provided several arrangements to this recording.

This is one hard-swinging aggregation starting with the heated rendition of Miles Davis' "The Serpents' Tooth" with some raucous baritone sax from Saul Dautch. This performance also has robust trombone solos from Jeremiah St. John and Christian Herrera while the band roars behind them. If this does not get the temperature rising, call an ambulance. While Miles Davis is credited with "Vierd Blues," it is likely a John Coltrane composition. Trombonist Herrera and guitarist Chris Medina solo against the unusual Mossman arrangement. Mossman also provided the handsome arrangement for Jobim's "Aqua de Beber," one of the three compositions the UCF Studio Orchestra play on to great effect. St. John takes a serpentine-shaped trombone solo followed by Dautch on alto saxophone with a somewhat dry tone.

Mossman provided the ingenious, inspired arrangement of Monk's "Tinkle, Tinkle," with the sections playing off each other. Dautch plays impressively on baritone sax while bassist Zach Greene provides a motif to anchor this performance. This is followed by The Jazz Professors and the UCF Studio Orchestra interpreting Monk's "Round Midnight." Jeff Rupert provided the arrangement as well as tenor sax on a performance opening with the Orchestra providing the setting for Rupert's statement of theme and solo. It segues into The Jazz Professors playing this theme with solos from pianist Per Danielsson, guitarist Bobby Koelble, and bassist Richard Drexler. John Lennon's "Imagine" is heard in two mixes, one a shorter radio mix and also an extended mix with Rupert's arrangement and the Orchestra. Jeff "T-Bone" Gerard provides narration and a moving vocal with some strong tenor sax from Rupert.

We should not forget the keyboards of Mikal Mancini and the drums of Devon Costanza who with bassist Greene and guitarist Medina make a superb rhythm section. They help drive this terrific big band on an excellent recording.

I received a download from a publicist. This review appeared in the September-October 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 386).