Thursday, April 30, 2020

Albert King Live in the 70s

Albert King
Live in the 70s

While there are several excellent live Albert King albums available, this 2014 release is one that should not be overlooked. This is a compilation of four several different shows and venues. There is a lack of detail on personnel and the sources of these recordings.

From the Fillmore East in 1971, we get strong performances of "Blues Power," 'Crosscut Saw," and "Personal Manager." King is certainly in good voice, and his pinched note guitar is in force as well. There are five selections for The Forum in Hollywood from 1972 with sterling performances of "Angel of Mercy," "Oh Pretty Woman," "Breaking Up Somebody's Home," and "Stormy Monday." From St. Charles, Illinois in 1974, King does "Born Under a Bad Sign" and his interpretation of Ray Charles' "I Believe To My Soul." Finally, we go to The Double Door in Chicago, where Albert digs deep in "I'll Play the Blues With You."

Sound is very good at the minimum, and with the riffing Horns and the strong support from his backing bands, King sang and played out some first-rate blues.

I purchased this. Here is Albert King in 1981.


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis Ow! Live at the Penthouse

Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
Ow! Live at the Penthouse
Reel To Real

This is the latest production by Zev Feldman and Corey Weeds from previously unissued radio airchecks from Seattle's Penthouse jazz club. It presents nearly an hour of the two tenor saxophone jazz (recorded over two weekends), Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis with a rhythm section of Horace Parlan on piano, Seattle bassist Buddy Catlett, and Art Taylor on drums.

For those not familiar with the music of Griffin and Davis, there is plenty of hot tenor saxophone backed by a great rhythm section. As James Carter observes in an interview included in the marvelous liner booklet, it is Davis (out of the Hawkins-Webster school of tenor saxophones) generally takes the first solo, with Griffin taking the later solo, often displaying his ability to play at a blistering speed. In any event, this is music for the heart and not the head starting with a torrid rendition of the Gene Ammons-Sonny Stitt classic "Blues Up and Down." It is followed by a rollicking take on Dizzy Gillespie's "Ow!" Of course, the two tenor saxophones are not the only attraction. Parlan was one of the great pianists, as shown on his solo after Davis' opening solo on 'Bahia." Then there is a spirited "Blue Lou," on which both (but especially Griffin) dazzle with the speed they play. Energized renditions of Billy Eckstine's "Second Balcony Jump" and Lester Young's "Tickle Toe" are complemented by the walking groove of "How Am I To Know?" and the exquisite ballad-playing on Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady."

In addition to the superlative music, the accompanying booklet provides considerable background on their partnership and music. Commentary from Michael Weiss, James Carter, and Kenny Washington add special insight into the music. This is terrific steak and potatoes jazz and will be welcome to the fans of Griffin and Davis, whose music stands up nearly a half-century later.

I purchased this. Here Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis are heard in Scandanavia.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Vito Dieterle - Joel Forrester Status Sphere

Vito Dieterle - Joel Forrester
Status Sphere
Ride Symbol Records

I am most familiar with the versatile pianist-composer Forrester from the Microscopic Septet. Tenor saxophonist Dieterle is new to me. Originally from Chicago, he has been part of the New York scene for the past decade and recently been a member of Forrester's quartet. This recording is centered around the music of Thelonious Monk as the two perform 6 Monk compositions (one in two takes). Forrester wrote five originals in a Monk-inspired vein. The inspiration of Monk is also reflected in the album title and this CD's cover, which is a play on the cover of the classic Riverside album, "Monk's Music" with two spheres sitting in a red child's wagon.

Forrester is a marvelous pianist who brings a bit of stride in his playing while Dieterle impresses with his hearty, but lyrical playing. Forrester leaves plenty of space in his playing if not quite as spare or quirky as Monk himself. Dieterle plays with restraint, and the performances breathe with a relaxed lyrical quality as they nourish the roots Monk's compositions provide.

Two poignant takes of "Crepuscule With Nellie" stand out, as does the evocative beauty of the duo's interpretations of "Ruby My Dear" and "Pannonica." Of the originals, "Mock Time," one of Forrester's originals, charms with their bouncy performance. Another original "About Francoise" is a contrafact of "I Can't Get Started. It is a showcase for Dieterle's marvelous ballad playing. While the publicity materials suggest his playing recalls Charlie Rouse, I observe his playing touches the listener similarly to Houston Person or Eric Anderson as well as rouse.

The remainder of "Status Sphere" is as marvelous as the selections I have highlighted. The two are excellent interpreters of Monk's compositions who honor Monk's legacy with the splendid playing on this release.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here are Dieterle and Forrester, as members of Forrester's Quartet performing "About Francoise."

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Nighthawks Tryin' To Get To You

The Nighthawks
Tryin' To Get To You
EllerSoul Records

With their 50th Anniversary coming towards the end of 2021, The Nighthawks have a new line-up but still show that they are a seminal American roots music band with this latest release. Joining original Hawk, Mark Wenner (vocals and harmonica) and drummer Mark Stutso (who has been with the band 10 years are guitarist Dan Hovey and bassist Paul Pisciotta. Traveling the blues roots highway, There are two originals from Hovey and two from Stutso and his longtime collaborator Norman Nardini, and nine covers of songs that have not been overdone to death.

Pisciotta replaces Castle seamlessly as a rhythm duo, while Hovey certain displays his own flair as a guitarist. Mark Wenner remains a robust vocalist and his horn-like harmonica playing is still at the top of his game. They open up with a lesser-known Jimmy Reed number with Wenner taking the vocal lead on "Come Love," as the band hits a lazy shuffle groove. Wenner also handles the vocal on the title track that Elvis originally recovered. The Nighthawks version has a definite country feel. Wenner transforms The Manhattan's "Searchin' For My Baby," into a chugging blues performance.

I believe it is Hovey taking the vocal on a relaxed cover of T-Bone Walker's "I Know Your Wig Is Gone," with his jazzy jump guitar joined by Wenner's horn-like solo. Hovey sings strongly on the brooding rendition of Hank Ballard's "Rain Down Tears," and a fine interpretation of Los Lobos' "Don't Worry Baby." Then there is the unplugged groove of Hovey's "The Cheap Stuff," with Wenner channeling the second Sonny Boy Williamson.

With Hovey channeling Jimmy Nolen, Stutso potently handles James Brown's "Tell Me What I Did Wrong." There is an urgent quality in Stutso's of his original, "I Hate a Nickel," with its memorable tagline, "cause it ain't a dime." It is not his only impressive vocal. He sings a superb rendition of the "Chairman of the Board" (originally recorded by the group of the same name). Set against the "Mannish Boy" groove, Stutso tears into the lyric with the band solidly backing him.

The Nighthawks keep rocking and roiling down the blues highway. "Tryin' To Get To You" is another splendid addition toothier discography.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a set of the Nighthawks performing in Takoma Park, Maryland, in 2019.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Take 5 with Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown was an amazing, pioneering woman. 'Discovered' at Washington D.C.'s Crystal Caverns (alter the Bohemian Caverns) she was a major rhythm and blues star with Atlantic Records which became known in part as The House That Ruth Built. While she had many hots for Atlantic, after her hit-making days were over she revived her career on Broadway as well as a big band vocalist with the Thad Jones-Mel Louis Orchestra (now The Vanguard Orchestra. She was never strictly a blues singer as that was too narrow to describe her artistry, although the focus of her later day recordings was the blues.

We start this short playlist with one of Ruth's big hits for Atlantic, "Hey Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean," this was a live recording with the Paul Williams Band.

Next up is a performance from the musical "Black and Brown Revue," "If I Can't Sell It, I'll Sit On It."

Often overlooked is Ruth's recording with the great Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. Here she sings with them in 1969, "I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts of Town."

Here is Ruth with the title track of her album, "A Good Day For The Blues."

We close with a duet with B.B. King, "Ain't Nobody's Business."

Friday, April 24, 2020

Ella 100: Live at the Apollo

Ella 100: Live at the Apollo
Concord Jazz

As the title of this new Concord Jazz album indicates, this recording is of the October 22, 2016 celebration at the famed Apollo Theater of the Ella Fitzgerald centennial. Included here are performances of songs that still are associated with the "First Lady of Song" by an All-Star Cast.

David Allen Grier and Patti Austin hosted and performed at this concert with the music provided by the Count Basie Orchestra (augmented by strings) and the Ella 100 All-Star Quartet giving support. There was quite a cast of performers besides Grier and Austin, including Andra Day, Lizz Wright, Ayo, and Afro Blue from Howard University, Cassandra Wilson, Ledisi, and Monica Mancini (accompanied by guitarist Brian Nova. The accompanying booklet has liner notes from jazz and pop vocal music authority Will Friedwald, and Greg Field, who produced this concert. Full personnel for the performances is also provided in the booklet.

The celebration opened with an imagined recreation of Ella's legendary appearance at the Apollo's weekly amateur talent contest on November 21, 1934. Ayodele Owolabi (Ayo) of Afro Blue plays the young Ella Fitzgerald with David Allen Grier playing the role of Ralph Cooper, the Apollo's first amateur night host. To this listener, it is enjoyable if a bit awkward. It does serve as an intro to the evening that Grier introduces before introducing his fellow host, Patti Austin. Austin, with the Basie Orchestra, launches into vibrant renditions of "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," and then "When I Get Low I Get High," with her wondrous intonation and phrasing.

Andra Day was a special guest that night and provided a deeply reflective rendition of "Ain't Misbehavin'" with a luscious backing from the Basie Orchestra and strings. Austin introduces her co-host Grier, who, backed by the Basie Orchestra, sings a wonderful interpretation of "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me." I was unaware Grier played Sportin' Life in an acclaimed revival of "Porgy and Bess." Still, his warm baritone evokes the great Ellington male singers such as Herb Jeffries and Al Hibbler, with the Basie Band outstanding recreating the Oliver Nelson and Sam Nestico arrangement. Basie Orchestra bandleader Scotty Barnhart takes a marvelous trumpet solo.

The All-Star quartet, led by pianist Shelly Berg, has a sparkling backing for Lizz Wright behind her horn-like phrasing for Ellington's "Love You Madly." Berg, guitarist Brian Nova, and bassist Nathan East take solos on this. Wright mesmerizes on her unaccompanied intro to "The Nearness of You," before the Quartet enters. Like the other performances, there is love and appreciation for Ella but distilled through each artist's own musical approach. This is evident from the outstanding interpretation of "Lady Be Good" by Ayo and Afro Blue with some striking scatting. Afro Blue and the Basie Orchestra provides support for Austin on a sublime "How High the Moon," with breath-taking scatting.

After an intermission, the Count Basie Orchestra swings Frank Foster's arrangement of "Back to the Apollo! (Apple)," with tenor saxophonist Doug Lawrence soloing. Then, in tribute to the Ella Fitzgerald-Louis Armstrong duets, Austin and Grier provide their versions of "I Loves You Porgy/ That's a Boat Leaving' Soon for New York." Their vocals are caressed by the enhanced Basie Orchestra with a masterful solo from Barnhart. There is a singular rendition of "Cry Me a River" by Cassandra Wilson, followed by the effervescent swing and scatting of Ledisi's "Honeysuckle Rose." The Basie Band packs plenty of punch behind her. Accompanied by guitarist Brian Nova's appealing accompaniment, Monica Mancini (Henry's daughter) captivates on the intimate performance of "Once in a While," originally recorded by Ella with Joe Pass.

Austin and Grier close out the concert with a swinging "You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)/ Paganini Bows Reprise." They trade verses as the Basie Band explosively accompanies them before they call and acknowledge the rest of the performers to take their bows. A bonus track of Ella singing "People" is an encore for the CD. It is a delightful coda to this outstanding recording of a remarkable night at Harlem's Apollo Theater.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Lizz Wright's performance of "The Nearness of You" from this concert.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Avey Grouws Band The Devil May Care

Avey Grouws Band
The Devil May Care

Based in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois along the Mississippi River, the Avey Grouws Band has developed quite a following since vocalist Jeni Grouws, and guitarist and vocalist Chris Avey met at a Blue Jam. The band has competed in 2018 and 2020 at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, and both times made it to the semi-finals round. Grouws and Avey are joined by Bryan West on drums, Randy Leasman on bass, and Nick Vasquez on keyboards.

"The Devil May Care" is the band's first album, and Avey and Grouws wrote all ten songs which include some straight blues as well as bluesy rock with some roots touches. Several things stand out about this band and recording. First of all, Jeni Grouws catches one's attention with her unforced, grainy, expressive singing. Avey is a firsthand-rate guitarist who displays restraint as well as imagination. The rhythm section also stands out with crisp, tight backing. Finally, there is a nice variety of originals from deep blues to some light-hearted party blues that showcase their talents.

There is the boogaloo funk of the opening "Come and Get This Love" and the title track with Grouws singing about how her lover's touch makes her sanctified. "Rise Up" is a call to action to make things right set against a groove this writer finds evocative of the Neville Brothers. "Long Road" has a southern rock feel while "Let Me Sing My Blues," is a nice blues-rocker where she tells someone to let her take care of her own problems. it is played and sung at a relaxed, walking tempo with a nice piano solo. "Dirty Little Secret" has a melodic line that evokes "Who's Been Talkin'," and "Black Magic Woman." Grouws pours everything into her vocal while Avey's solo displays his effective use of tone as well as his skill in building a solo. It is followed by a solid slab of rock and roll, "Dig What You Do," Grouws shares vocal with Avey, who takes a concise, crisply played solo.

Horns are added to the jazzy "Two Days Off (and a Little Bit of Liquor)," with a sly lead vocal and nimble, jazz-tinged guitar as Grouws sings about having a couple of days off from work with a little bit of liquor to help pass the time. It is the closing selection on a most entertaining blues and blues-rock CD.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2020 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 389). Here the Avey Grouws Band perform "The Devil May Care."

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Eldar Djangirov Rhapsodize

Eldar Djangirov
Twelve Tone Resonance, LLC

Pianist Eldar Djangirov came to this country from the former Soviet Union and soon established himself as a child prodigy, appearing on Marian McPartland's piano jazz at the age of 12, and had released two albums before he attended the University of Southern California on a full scholarship. He signed with Sony at the age of 17 and released several critically acclaimed recordings for that label. About 2011's "Three Stories," a solo piano recording, I observed, "Eldar's virtuosity and command of the classical and jazz traditions is astonishing." Listening to this recording reinforces that observation.

On "Rhapsodize," Djangirov leads a trio with Raviv Markovitz on bass and Jimmy Macbride on drums. They complement and add heat on this recording that opens with a tour de force rendition of "A Night in Tunisia." On this, Djangirov inspired playing conjures up Bud Powell crossed with Chucho Valdes with a breathtaking improvisation with him handling the breakneck tempo and tempo shifts with the preciseness of his touch, like a Gold Medal skier negotiates a shalom course. "Anthemic" is an original built upon a captivating left-hand riff for an exciting performance set against a tumultuous backing. His further showcases his ability to develop a solo over a simple motif is also displayed on "Airport." A relaxed, lyrical take on "Willow Weep For Me," provides a welcome contrast.

Other selections include the percolating bop of "Burn," a meditative interpretation of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," and the startling "Variations on a Bach Prelude" where his virtuosity is on full display. The remaining selections are similarly impressive. Djangirov's extraordinary technique and musical inventiveness, along with the first-rate backing provided, result in this outstanding recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Eldar Djangirov playing "Night in Tunisia."

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James Steve Franz

The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James
Steve Franz
BlueSource Publications: St Louis

Initially published in 2002 and reprinted in 2008, Steve Franz's biography of Elmore James, one of the greats of the post World War II blues, was made available in June 2019, shortly before Franz's unexpected passing. This is a richly researched and detailed biography of the slide guitar master, but as Franz shows, James was so much more.

Franz recalls an unusually warm January day in 1987 when he was first formally introduced to Elmore James' music. He had just transferred to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville when he heard a ceramics student blasting music. It reminded him of a song he heard on a compilation album. Franz reacted similarly to myself when I first heard Elmore a couple of decades earlier.

"I found the music invigorating and mesmerizing, all at the same time. Just then there was a lull in our conversation, as the opening notes of "Standing at the Crossroads" broke out over the speakers. I was completely transfixed. I had heard music that rocked my soul before, but never anything quite like this. My whole being was so focused on the music emanating from the tiny speakers, that all activity, time, and motion in the surrounding world seemed to slow down or fade away, while the only thing that traveled through it was Elmore James, singing this song. I remember thinking to myself at the time that 'Elmore was singing it like was the best goddamn song ever written.'"

Before launching into the biography, Franz provides an overview of how interest in Elmore among blues enthusiasts (himself included) at the same time he had passed. There is a brief description of the early research into James' career, including pioneering research by Europeans. Also, there is a brief overview of the release and reissue of his recordings before Franz details his life.

I am not going to go into great detail about the contents, but Franz takes us from Elmore's early days growing up in the Mississippi farmlands, his learning to play music, and more. There is a description of his playing with Robert Johnson and Sonny Williamson II. Those that knew Elmore, including Homesick James, Floyd Jones, Sunnyland Slim, Houston Stackhouse, and David 'Honeyboy' Edwards, provide their recollections as Elmore became a juke joint musician. Later after serving in the Navy during the Second World War, Elmore worked in a radio shop where "he began to work out the ideas for an acoustic guitar amplification system that would guarantee a unique sound."

The original recording of "Dust My Broom"

Elmore and Sonny Boy Williamson II began a fruitful performing relationship, which also led to some of Elmore's earliest recordings on Trumpet Records with Sonny Boy and Willie Love. This led to Elmore recording "Dust My Broom." Franz demolishes the myth that Elmore was tricked into recording the song. He also details how Joe Bihari recorded Elmore while James was under contract to Trumpet, and various legal proceedings that led Bihari to have to sit on the recordings for a period.

There is much devoted to his performing career as well as subsequent recordings. These included discussion of the various specific songs he waxed and sideman sessions he was on with Big Joe Turner for Atlantic and Junior Wells for the States label. The analysis of these sessions also provided considerable space devoted to The Broomdusters. One of the finest post-war Chicago blues bands, it consisted of pianist Little Johnny Jones, tenor saxophonist J.T. Brown, bassist Ransom Knowling, and drummer Odie Payne.

Franz chronicles Elmore's time playing in various Chicago clubs and the problems he had with the union in great detail. The various union issues that prevented him from playing or recording in Chicago, so he relocated back down south, are discussed. Also, the circumstances that led him to record for Bobby Robinson are given. The personnel of the various sessions are listed, including the shifting changes in the personnel of The Broomdusters.

There also are brief snippets of those who saw Elmore live, including James Meredith's relatively well-known recollections. The late George Adins recalled, "Elmore James will always remain the most exciting and dramatic blues singer and guitarist that I've ever had a chance to see perform in the flesh."

In addition to Adins, Jacques Demetre and Marcel Chauvard saw Elmore at a Chicago Lounge. "All was ready for the grand ritual of pure blues. What do I say? What words can I use to describe this? How to put the music on this paper—bluesy, one-hundred percent.... From the public's side, exclusively black except for the two of us, it was a party. A great festival... Elmore James was, at the instant, a shaman, and had a precise role—to exorcise their misery and to make them forget their troubles. It was during this time, while he was singing and playing that exclamations of encouragement came from the public without stop. "Yes, you is right, man!", "Talk to me!" and others "That's the truth!", forming like a choir, sustaining... his presentation... ."

"The band sounded rather wild," Demetre and Chauvard noted, "but their music was very beautiful. Elmore sang just like a preacher, using many gospel effects. He accompanied himself magnificently on his electric guitar, a small metal slide on the little finger of his left hand. His stunning 'Hawaiian' style reminded us of Robert Johnson and Kokomo Arnold. Next to him, Sunnyland Slim played a mean boogie-woogie accompaniment on the piano."

Elmore was about to be reinstated by the Chicago Musicians Union, record again, and play in Chicago when he suddenly passed. Franz considers Elmore's legend among his fellow musicians and fans. He then provides information on the post-Elmore James careers of Johnny Jones, J.T. Brown, and Odie Payne. Another chapter considers Elmore's musical legacy, including the various artists who adopted Elmore's "Dust my Broom" guitar lick. The artists range from Boyd Gilmore, Woodrow Adams, and Lil Son Jackson, to B.B. King and Juke Boy Bonner, L.C. 'Good Rockin' Robinson to Hop Wilson, and Ike Turner, Eddie Taylor, to Earl Hooker to mention some of those artists.

Then there is a chapter devoted to the Keepers of the Flame. It provides an overview of the careers and music of those who played in the style of Elmore. These include Joe Carter, Hound Dog Taylor, Johnny Littlejohn, J. B. Hutto, and Homesick James. These portraits of these artists are reasonably detailed. I do note that Franz missed one Keeper of the Flame. New Orleans guitarist, Deacon John Moore has shown himself in live performance, including on a live CD, more than a little familiar with James' music. One might understand how Deacon John was overlooked because he was a studio musician, and his commercial recordings did not show him as a Keeper of the Fame. But to hear him do "Standing at the Crossroads," one appreciates his love of Elmore, even if only a small portion of his repertoire.

Some appendices deal with various issues. One is devoted to the myths and folklore about Elmore. Here Franz provides considerable detail about the myth Elmore was hoodwinked into recording "Dust My Broom." There is a full discography of Elmore's recording sessions, including the personnel and the various releases a song was issued on.

This book is copiously illustrated with photos, trade magazine ads, label shots, and newspaper ads for club listings. There are over 880 footnotes,  an extensive bibliography, and other sources. This book was a labor of love and joins biographies of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, B.B. King, and others that belong in any blues lover's library. The original printed edition may be hard to find, so, fortunately, this is available as an e-book.

Also, Steve Franz, under the name Sleepy Boy Hawkins,  hosted a radio show, Blues Unlimited, which delved into various blues topics. These shows are available as downloadable podcasts on Bandcamp, There are four episodes devoted to Elmore James that might serve as a musical soundtrack to this book. These are episodes 321, 326, 327, and 328.

I purchased my e-book. Here is Elmore James doing "The Sky Is Crying."


Monday, April 20, 2020

Sergio Mendes In the Key of Joy

Sergio Mendes
In the Key of Joy
Concord Records

"In the Key of Joy" is the title of the new Sergio Mendes album, the title of a documentary about his amazing career that spans six decades, and a description of the spirit of joy that is a thread weaved through his musical legacy. He celebrates his lengthy career in this release. Included here is an all-star cast of special guests including Common, Cali y El Dandee, João Donato, Buddy, Sugar Joans, Joe Pizzulo, Gracinha Leporace, Hermeto Pascoal, Rogê, Guinga, and Sheléa. In addition to the twelve songs on this new CD, the Deluxe edition has a second CD containing the documentary's soundtrack.

This recording was recorded both in Brazil and his adopted home of California. The music contained is a true celebration, mixing waves of Brazilian rhythms with horns and voices in such a seamless fashion. This is evident on the opening "Sabor Do Rio," a lively piece of Brazilian pop with a rap from Common embracing the music and his man Sergio. Then there are the irresistible rhythms of "Bora Lá" featuring the vocals of samba star Rogê and Sergio's wife, Gracinha Leporace.

There is so much more to relish in this buoyant mix of Brazilian music, pop, and soul. The Voice alum Sugar Joans graces the exuberant "Samba In Heaven" as she sings in English about the fever that Samba gives her. Her father, Joe Pizzuto, the ages the vocal on the romantic pop of 'Love Came Between Us." Steve Tavaglione is listed on the ewi sax, and likely responsible for the harmonica sounding instrument in the mix.

Bossa pianist João Donato co-wrote and performed on the effervescent "Muganga," with exhilarating, propulsive horns supporting Gracinha Leporace's lead vocal and the solo by guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. The title track, featuring rapper Buddy, ties together a celebration of good times and Sergio, while Mika Mutti's breezy "Romance in Casablanca" allows Mendes to display his breezy, jazz piano playing. Singer-songwriter Shelea's conveys a touch of heartache on the ballad "Time Goes By." Guinga contributed (and plays acoustic guitar on) the enchanting "Tangara' that closes the new recording.

If this sterling CD was not enough, the bonus cd of the Deluxe Edition with the documentary's soundtrack takes us from "Mas Que Nada' to 'Fanfarra – Cabua-Le-Le." There is a new version of Jobim's "Agua De Beber" with rapper, as well as familiar Brazil 66 hits as "The Look of Love," "Going Out of My Head," and "Constant Rain," along with the hot Brazilian instrumental "Primitivo," and Mendes' hit "Never Gonna Let You Go," with the memorable vocals of Joe Pizzuto and Leza Miller. Like the new recordings, this encompasses the broad scope of the joyous music Sergio Mendes has brought listeners since the 1960s.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2020 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 389). Here is a 2013 performance of "Never Gonna Let You Go."

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Take 5 With Esther Phillips

This installment of Take 5 is a short playlist of Esther Phillips. Esther Phillips had a remarkable career starting with her first recordings with Johnny Otis on "Double Crossing Blues," and continuing decades later when she had a disco hit with "What A Difference a Day Makes." She was one of the great post-war women of the blues and those who select the Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame inductees for the Blues Foundation should be ashamed that she has not already been inducted posthumously.

First up is her hit, "Double Crossing Blues," with the Johnny Otis and The Robins.

Another one from her early years was for Federal with the Dominoes, "The Deacon Moves In"

Esther had hits with songs that were not strictly in the rhythm and blues vein such as "Release Me," and "When a Woman Loves a Man." Her cover of the Beatles' "And I Love Him," so impressed them, that they flew her to England to perform on tv with them.

She never strayed far from the blues however as can be heard in this medley with Johnny Otis titled "Cry Me a River Blues," but so much more.

Finally, we close with her harrowing performance of a Gil Scott Heron song whose lyrics Esther unfortunately lived. This performance was so stunning that Aretha Franklin gave the Grammy to her because she thought Esther deserved a Grammy more than she did.

While I normally stop at 5 tracks, I have a bonus today with a clip of her with Nina Simone, Carmine McRae, Maxine Weldon, and Morgana King paying tribute to Billie Holiday.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Max Light Trio Herplusme

Max Light Trio
Red Piano Records

I write this on the day (April 16, 2020) Max Light was supposed to perform at the Smithsonian American Art Museum as part of the Museum's Take 5 series. Alas, the performance was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Light, a guitarist from the Washington DC area, is now resident in New York City. Light finished in second place in the 2019 Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Jazz Competition. The rest of the trio consists of Simón Willson on bass and Matt Honor on drums. Light has written eight compositions with performances that emphasize ensemble interplay. The inspiration for many of these is growing up and childhood memories.

There are moments where Light leads with some abstract pointed phrases. Other moments find him sounding more lyrical. There are some echoes in Simón's bass solo, while Honor deconstructs and restores a groove on the opening "Boy." One might suggest Light's approach is part of a post-Abercombrie generation of guitarists. By the end of "Boy," there is a mesmerizing quality to the performance. "Overcrooked" is inspired by a skateboarding trick as well as subdivision. This latter point is shown by Light's shifting between subdivision of 4, 5, 6, and 7 sixteen notes per quart note. The result is an unstable, unsettling groove but intriguing track. In contrast, Light plays in a more genial, lyrical manner on a ballad, "Pumpkin Pie."

Other selections bring together shifting rhythms with melodic phrases that sometimes segue into no-time changes segments. They also may employ unusual time signatures with the trio's members playing off each other in an engaging manner. For example, "Baby's Hard Times," utilizes a 13/8 meter, but also has some of Light's most imaginative soloing. "The Things You" is a radical recomposition of the standard "All the Things You Are." This recomposition involved the removal of some bars from the piece. A result is that the song seems familiar yet strange.

This is Light's debut recording and brings forth a fresh and unique approach. It is a recording that had me awaiting the now-postponed performance. Hopefully, the wait for his live performances will not extend too far in the future. His website is

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Max Light's semi-final set at the Hancock Institute Jazz Guitar Competition.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Andrew Alli Hard Workin' Man

Andrew Alli
Hard Workin' Man

Born in 1988 in Richmond, Virginia, Andrew Alli delivers a straight-ahead, no-frills collection of harmonica blues. Recorded at Jon Atkinson's Bigtone Studio, this is old-school blues in the vein of Little Walter and George "Harmonica" Smith. Backing Alli's vocals and harmonica are Atkinson on guitar and bass, Danny Michel on guitar, Carl Sonny Leyland on piano, and Devin Neel or Buddy Honeycutt on drums.

There is a no-nonsense quality to Alli's blues, starting with the title track where he proclaims with his robust tenor that he is a hard-working man and lays down some raw, amplified harmonica. This song is followed by a tight instrumental, "AA Boogie," and an excellent interpretation of George 'Harmonica' Smith's "Good Things, with biting guitar fills and cohesive rhythm. "Walter's Sun," is an instrumental performed in the manner of the recordings Walter Horton made for Sun Records and the Modern label before he moved to Chicago. Then there is Alli's original "30 Long Years," where he sings about being in this town for 30 years, but it feels like he has to break out. Alli lays down some chromatic harmonica on the rollicking instrumental "Chron-A-Thick," delivers a brisk tempo shuffle, "Easy Going Fellow," and solidly covers Little Walter's "One More Chance."

With strong originals and the complimentary backing provided for Andrew Alli's strong singing and robust harmonica, "Hard Workin' Man" is a splendid debut album.

I received my review copy from Ellersoul Records. Here is a brief preview of this recording.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Meghan Stewart Yesterdays

Meghan Stewart
Bubble Bath

Originally from Alabama, singer Meghan Stewart has been in New Orleans since 2011. Initially, she studied opera and choral education. Shortly before graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi, Stewart started singing with a friend's jazz band. Soon after that, she relocated to New Orleans, where she continued her musical education and developed her performing career. "Yesterdays" is her debut album and has he backed by Steve Lands on trumpet, Shea Pierre on keyboards, John Maestas on guitar, Scott Johnson on tenor saxophone, Jeronne Ansari on alto sax, Trey Boudreaux on bass, and Chris Guccione on drums. Maestas produced this album.

Stewart enchants as a singer with her soft, clean delivery and articulation of the lyrics, and agile phrasing. She benefits from the varying combinations of musicians heard over the nine songs. A full ensemble is heard on the opening "All of Me." This swinging performance also has a burly tenor sax solo. A delightfully understated vocal approach is striking on the ballad "Syndrome," backed by just a trio. Stewart projects innocence on "Yesterdays," with Maestas' sterling guitar fills, Boudreaux's propulsive bass, Lands' blistering trumpet solo, and Guccione's drum solo. "On the Street Where You Live," is another first-rate swinging vocal where her diction, phrasing and vocal dynamics shine along with Ansari's alto sax solo. With Boudreaux's bowed bass and Pierre's light chording, she captivates with her doleful vocal on "You Go To My Head." This song is one of this CD's highlights, along with a playful interpretation of "Just Squeeze Me," backed solely by Boudreaux's bass, and the delightful vocal rendition of "Poinciana" that is rooted on the famous Ahmad Jamal recording.

Meghan Stewart alluring vocals, with the superb backing she receives, results in this noteworthy debut recording.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is a recent performance by Meghan Stewart at New Orleans radio station, WWOZ.


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Dana Sandler I Never Saw Another Butterfly

Dana Sandler
I Never Saw Another Butterfly

Vocalist and composer Dana Sandler has produced a moving tribute to the youngest victims of the Holocaust. The album title is taken from "I Never Saw Another Butterfly," a book published in 1959. The book consisted of poems and art by the Jewish children in the Terezin Concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic. The camp held 144,000 prisoners, including Jewish scholars, musicians, and artists. The album is dedicated to Friedl-Dicker-Brandeis, an Austrian artist and educator who organized secret art classes for the children of Terezin. She collected 4500 children's drawings and poems in two suitcases before she was sent to Auschwitz in 1944. Fifteen thousand children passed through Terezin, of which fewer than 100 survived.

The book made a deep impression on Sandler when she was exposed to it as a teenager. While a classically trained pianist, Dana Sandler focused her vocal studies on jazz and musical theater. She earned degrees in jazz vocal performance from the University of Miami School of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music.

Sandler first became interested in setting poetry to music while attending the New England Conservatory. In January 2019, she found herself "in a position to compose and the melodies poured out of me. I knew that it was meant to be for this moment, at a time where I would be composing this music through the lens of motherhood at a time when Holocaust survivors able to share their stories are dwindling in number and at a time when, sadly, parallels today are all too present."

"I Never Saw Another Butterfly' is a song-cycle that highlights poets in the Terezín Concentration Camp: Pavel Friedmann, Franta Bass, and Alena Synkova-Munkova, as well as additional unknown young poets. Synkova-Munkova was one of the few children to survive. The music comprises four sections, each dedicated to a poet and beginning with a through-composed instrumental dedication. 
For this undertaking, Sandler enlisted world-renowned musicians that she met while studying at the New England Conservatory. These include Carmen Staaf (Dee Dee Bridgewater) on piano, Jorge Roeder (Gary Burton, John Zorn) on bass, Peter Kenagy on trumpet and flugelhorn, Rick Stone on alto saxophone and clarinet, Michael Winograd on clarinet and her husband, drummer and percussionist Austin McMahon (Jerry Bergonzi). Her daughter, Rory Sandler McMahon, adds voice to two selections.

The first part of the song cycle highlight Pavel Friedman with a sober introduction, "Dear Pavel" with Staaf's solemn piano and Kenagy's elegiac trumpet highlighting the somber mood. Sandler has a lovely, lilting soprano who simply sings these poems against the enchanting light, airy setting she has composed. Friedman's "The Butterfly" served to provide the book and this recording with its title from his words: "For seven weeks I've lived here / Penned up inside this ghetto / But I have found what I love here / The dandelions call to me / And the white chestnut branches in the court / Only I never saw another butterfly."

Franta Bass, the youngest of the poets, was just 14 years old when he was sent to Auschwitz. "Dear Franta" is a short introduction with Roeder's bass and Winograd's clarinet. They are featured prominently on the compositions "Home/ The Old House," where Sandler longingly sings about Franta looking toward home and the city where he was born. This is followed by Sandler's daughter singing about the deserted old home.  The final part of this cycle is "The Garden," where Staaf's spare piano accompanies Sandler singing the haunting words, "A Little boy, a sweet boy / Like that growing blossom / when the blossom comes to bloom / The little boy will be no more."

Alena Synkova-Monkova is the only of the poets who survived and passed away in 2008. 'Dear Alena" maintains the somber mod with haunting flugelhorn from Kenagy. There is a measure of rebelliousness and hope in her poems, "Untitled" and "I'd Like To Go Alone." The latter number is matched with Ani Ma'amin" that was composed by Azriel David Fastag in a cattle car on its way to Treblinka. Winograd's clarinet provides a moving interpretation of the melody with its lyrics of believing in complete faith in the coming of the messiah. This performance closes on a lively manner in accordance with a sense of hope. The final poem of this section is "Tears," with a haunting reminder that without tears there is no life. Staaf's simple piano provides the framing for Roeder's bass solo.

The final section is centered on anonymous poets whose moving words transcend the fact we do not know who the authors were or what happened to them. The introduction to this portion, "Dear Anonymous," is lively and reflective of a hopeful future. During "On a Sunny Evening." Rick Stone takes flight on alto sax after a line, "I want to fly but where, how high?" Further, the anonymous poet wrote defiantly, "If in barbed wire, things can bloom/ What couldn't I. I will not die!" The closing "Birdsong," matched with a reprise of "Butterfly," offers another message of hope with its words, "Then if the tears obscure your way/You'll know how wonderful it is/ To be alive." She repeats this several times set against a vibrant backing before her daughter joins her in singing this a couple more times in closing the song cycle.

Dana Sandler has composed memorable music for these poems. She has crafted delicate settings for her lovely, sensitive vocals. The result is this profoundly moving recording of hope to transcend dark times.

This important, profoundly moving, recording is being released on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), April 21, 2020, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Concentration Camps.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a trailer for this recording.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Matty T Wall Transpacific Blues Vol. 1

Matty T Wall
Transpacific Blues Vol. 1
Hipsterdumpster Records

Australian blues-rocker Matty T. Wall is a new name to this listener. He is heard here on eight familiar numbers. His guitar and vocals are supported by Stephen Walker on bass guitar and Ric Whittle on bass. There are guest appearances on five of the songs by Dave Hole, Eric Gales, Kid Ramos, Walter Trout, and Kirk Fletcher. Except for Hole, the guest performers are from the USA. This is likely the reason for 'Transpacific' in the album title.

Wall impresses as a guitarist and a singer. He sings with clarity and nuance, and his sizzling guitar is pretty strong by itself as heard on his rendition of "Stormy Monday," with Walker and Whittle providing a firm rhythmic base. The covers here generally don't stray too far from the source material as on the boogie blues of the opening cover of "Boom Boom." Dave Hole is present here, although his frenetic guitar is a bit too dense for taste. Eric Gale provides fireworks on the cover of Tommy Tucker's "High Heel Sneaker." Kid Ramos guests on "Quicksand," an old Guitar Slim recording that Albert Collins covered. Ramos' guitar is terrific behind Wall's personal, pleading singing. This song is followed by "She's Into Something," with Walter Trout adding some guitar sizzle. I like the feel Wall provides on his cover of Albert King's hit "Born Under a Bad Sign," on a track also featuring Kirk Fletcher as a guitarist. Wall slows down the tempo of Freddie King's "I'm Tore Down" with some high energy playing to complement a strong vocal.

The closing rendition of "Crossroads" is too rocked out for these ears. Otherwise, Matty T Wall engaged this listener with his singing and his bluesy guitar. The guests on this CD are a bonus, which adds to this recording's appeal.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of Matty T Wall talking about this recording.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Take 5 - Part 3 of Body and Soul.

Today is the third, and for now final, Take 5 devoted to performances of Body and Soul. Our first installment had renditions that preceded Coleman Hawkins' classic recording. last week we started with on Hawkins and then included four other tenor saxophone recordings. This week, I present five other recordings of this standard.

First up we have Billie Holiday from 1940.

Next up is Bud Powell

Hank Jones is another piano master who has recorded it.

Ella  Fitzgerald performed it on a legendary Frank Sinatra TV show.

Finally, we close with Chet Baker.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Chickenbone Slim Sleeper

Chickenbone Slim
Lo-Fi Mob Records

A few years back, I reviewed Chickenbone Slim's Album, "The Big Beat." I characterized it as "a most entertaining album of gritty performances that evoke the golden period of fifties and sixties blues."  Slim, real name, Larry Teves, returns with this collection of blues and blues-roots songs. His vocals and guitar are backed by Scott Smart on guitar, Troy Sandow on harmonica, Andrew Crane on bass, and Marty Dodson on drums. This was recorded by Kid Andersen at his Greaseland Studios. Andersen also is a guest here, along with Laura Chavez and Joey Harris.

There are a number of musical sources to be heard here from West Coast jump blues to raunchy rockabilly. The ambiance of these performances goes back decades. There is the Johnny 'Guitar' Watson slashing guitar that opens "Vampire Baby." On this song, Slim sings about being a vampire who roams at night to find someone to satisfy his appetite. "Tougher Than That" is a rockabilly-flavored flavored number in the manner of some of Jay Miller's swamp-pop recordings. "The Ballad of Dick" has a Johnny Cash styled groove. Another rockabilly flavored number "Ride" comes off like an unrecorded Carl Perkins song. On these tracks, Sandow displays his harmonica talent.

The title, "Strolling With Chickenbone," suggests it as a homage to T-Bone Walker. However, his buoyant fretwork owes much to Pete 'Guitar' Lewis as well. A different mood is present for "Helpless," an acoustic folk plea, with a twangy electric guitar break. "Dignity' is a nicely rendered straight blues before the album closes from the ominous swamp grooves of "These Things Happen." While this recording is more rockabilly-country and less blues than "The Big Beat," the music on "Sleeper' has many of the same qualities that made that recording such a rewarding listen. Chickenbone Slim has produced another album that blues and roots enthusiasts will find much to dig into.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a recent video of Chickenbone Slim in performance. His website is

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis The Music of Wayne Shorter

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
The Music of Wayne Shorter
Blue Engine Records

In the booklet accompanying this new recording devoted to the music of Wayne Shorter from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO), Christian McBride writes, "How would I describe Wayne Shorter? It would be way too easy to call him something like a "legend" or a "genius." Those are words that get thrown around much too easily in today's 140-character culture. Wayne's career is well-known and widely celebrated by not only the jazz community, but by music lovers all over the world. Simply put, he helped to expand the language of modern American music as both a composer and a saxophonist."

This recording memorializes performances by Shorter with JLCO from Mat 2015. It is one of several recordings celebrating Shorter's music joining those by the San Francisco Jazz Ensemble, David Weiss, Antonio Adolfo, and others. Shorter appears on tenor and soprano saxophones with JCLO. The members of JLCO at these performances included: Reeds - Sherman Irby: Alto & Soprano Saxophones, Flute, Piccolo, Bb Clarinet, Ted Nash: Alto & Tenor Saxophones, C And Alto Flutes, Piccolo, Bb Clarinet, Victor Goines: Tenor Saxophone, Bb & Eb Clarinets; Walter Blanding: Tenor & Soprano Saxophones, Bb Clarinet, and Paul Nedzela: Baritone & Alto Saxophones, Bass Clarinet; Trumpets -Ryan Kisor, Kenny Rampton, Marcus Printup, and Wynton Marsalis, Trombones - Vincent Gardner, Chris Crenshaw, and Elliot Mason, and a rhythm section of Dan Nimmer, Piano, Carlos Henriquez, Bass and Ali Jackson, Drums.

The Shorter compositions performed are: "Yes or No," "Diana," "Hammer Head," "Contemplation," "Endangered Species," "Lost," "Armageddon," "The Three Marias," "Teru," and "Mama 'G'." Most of the compositions date from 1959-1966, but a couple are from his Columbia album "Atlantis." Members of the JCLO wrote the arrangements to these compositions that were generally performed by smaller ensembles.

There is some marvelous music here starting with Victor Goines sterling arrangement of "Yes or No" that opens with Shorter on tenor sax. Goines' rich orchestration of the horns frames some terrific solos from Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, and pianist Dan Nimmer. One thing that also is readily noticeable is the superb rhythm section of Nimmer, Henriquez, and Jackson. Ted Nash's arrangement on "Diana" provides a lush, serene setting for Shorter's soprano sax and the trumpets of Marsalis and Printup." Sherman Irby put together as bouncy big band setting for "Hammer Head," a classic from Shorter's time with Art Blakey. Irby on alto sax and trombonist Vincent Gardner solo in addition to Shorter while rhythm trio keeps a tight groove.

Other notable selections include "Endangered Species" with one of Shorter's best soprano sax solos on this date and one of Ali Jackson's drum solos set against Gardner's imaginative arrangement. There is a bit of organized chaos at the opening of Marcus Printup's arrangement of "Armageddon," with Nimmer's block chords lending a roomy ambiance here. Shorter's swirling soprano sax is spotlighted in Carlos Henriquez's arrangement of "The Three Marias." At the center of this performance though is Shorter's soprano sax set against just the rhythm section. Jackson's accompaniment is especially noteworthy. All three members of the rhythm section get to solo on the vibrant "Mama 'G'," with fiery playing from Shorter. Jackson's volcanic drum solo that brings this performance (and this recording) to a highly charged close.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra under Wynton Marsalis' direction has a well-deserved reputation for the quality of its music. The concerts with Wayne Shorter resulted in this vibrant superlative collaboration with Wayne Shorter.

I received my review download from a publicist. Here the JLCO perform "Hammerhead."

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Anthony Jefferson All I Am

Anthony Jefferson
All I Am

A New Orleans native who has lived in the Dominican Republic for the past ten years, Anthony Jefferson brings his baritone to an eclectic project of songs from the Great American Songbook, pop music, R&B, and the movies. He is backed by some of the Dominican Republic's finest players, including the multi-instrumentalist Corey Allen who also did the arrangements and orchestrations. New Orleans trumpeter Mark Rapp is among those heard backing Jefferson.

Jefferson sings tunes from a diverse group of composers and styles, from George Benson and Carole King to Cole Porter and George Gershwin. Songs include standards like "Willow Weep for Me" and "Night and Day" to pop tunes like "You've Got a Friend" and soul numbers like "Me and Mrs. Jones," and "Rainy Night in Georgia," to original songs like "In The Presence Of" composed by Mark Rapp with lyrics by Jefferson.

There is plenty to be heard listening to Jefferson as he sings tunefully with warmth and fervor while displaying the influence of George Benson, Donny Hathaway, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, and Brook Benton as he interprets various songs. Jefferson sounds at times like a musical chameleon, channeling the sound of those who made prior recordings of some of these songs. Jefferson's rendition of the title track evokes George Benson (who co-authored it with Al Jarreau) along with Hathaway with his soulful delivery of the lyrics. Similarly, there is echoes of Nat King Cole on the lovely ballad "Marnie," with Allen's arrangement of the strings enhancing his vocal. Echoes of Brook Benton are present on "A Rainy Night in Georgia," although he sings with a bit more heat and personality as the song develops. More of his personality is displayed on his vibrant rendition of "Summertime." A highlight of this recording is a duet with a wonderful Dominican singer, Patricia Pereyra, on a sensual "Besame Mucho.

Throughout this recording, Jefferson is handsomely backed, and there are several marvelous solos by the accompanists. He is a crooner in the manner of a George Benson, Johnny Mathis, or Brook Benton. "All I Am" is an easy to listen to recording for fans of soul balladry.

I received a review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the March-April 2020 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 389). Here he is in 2015 performing with the Caribe Quartet.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Mavis Staples Live in London

Mavis Staples
Live in London

This gem of a live performance was recorded by the great Mavis Staples at London's Union Chapel over two July 2018 nights. She was backed by Rick Holmstrom – guitar and background vocals, Jeff Turmes – bass and background vocals, and Stephen Hodges – drums. Donny Gerard and Vicki Randle also provided backing vocals. She powerfully sings songs written by Ben Harper, Jeff Tweedy, her father Roebuck Staples, David Byrne, George Clinton, Curtis Mayfield, and others, along with one she co-wrote with Tweedy.

With a career extending seventy years, she continues to amaze with the vitality and nuanced phrasing of her vocals. Holmstrom's trebly, at times acidic guitar and the simple, functional backing from Turmes and Hodges, provide austere support for Mavis' robust, expressive vocals. The result is an album of compelling performances by a living legend.

This recording is available as a download on Bandcamp,

I purchased this. This review appeared in the March-April 2020 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 389). Here Mavis Staples is heard and seen performing "No Time For Cryin'" from this album.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band Live at Cory Weeds' Jazz Club

Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band
Live at Cory Weeds' Jazz Club
Cellar Live Records

As many know, drummer Louis Hayes was a cornerstone of the Cannonball Adderley Band for several years. In honor of the great saxophonist, he has led a Cannonball Adderly Legacy Band. This live recording from Cory Weeds' Vancouver, BC club has him joined by Dezron Douglas on bass, Rick Germanson on piano, Vincent Herring on alto sax, and Jeremy Pelt on trumpet. Cory Weeds adds tenor sax on one selection.

Not much to say, but this quintet captures the blues-drenched hard bop soul that characterized Adderley's great band. Indeed, things get off to a terrific start with "Exodus." The performances throughout are outstanding with the rendition of "Dat Here," with a superb Germanson solo being a specific highlight. Hayes and Douglas drive the hot grooves here while Herring and Pelt are characteristically exceptional. The closing notes of "Sack Of Woe" conclude a superb performance.

This recording is available as a download from Bandcamp,

I purchased this download. This review appeared in the March-April 2020 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 389). Here is the Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band performing at Cory Weeds' Jazz Club in 2013.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Take 5 With Body & Soul

Last week we had a number of renditions of "Body and Soul" that predate the legendary Coleman Hawkins recording. Today our focus changes to the Hawkins recording and select interpretations by other tenor saxophonists.

First up is Hawkins' 1939 recording which became the model for most renditions that came later.

From 1956, we hear from Sonny Stitt with Jimmy Jones on piano.

From 1958, Sonny Rollins performing it as a saxophone solo for the MGM label.

John Coltrane recorded this for Atlantic Records with McCoy Tyner on piano, Steve Davis on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums.

Finally, one of several versions by long tall Dexter Gordon.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Smilin' Bobby & the Hidden Charms Big Legged Woman

Smilin' Bobby & the Hidden Charms
Big Legged Woman
Wolf Records

Blues fans have to be grateful that labels like Delmark and Wolf exist to record and issue recordings of lesser-known blues artists which other labels, for whatever reason, lack the means or interest to record. A new release on Wolf, part of its Chicago Blues Session series, is by Smilin' Bobby & the Hidden Charms, "Big Legged Woman." Smilin' Bobby, whose real name is Bobby G. Smith, has been playing blues throughout Chicago for decades. Arkansas born, he moved to Chicago when he was 15.

Smilin' Bobby's music has a number of influences including Magic Sam and Albert King. In his liner notes, Scott Dirks describes Bobby's playing as a cross between Magic Slim's stinging leads with Magic Sam's cool little rhythm fills when he is singing.  His voice does not sound like anyone else. Magic Sam's influence is most evident on the fine rendition of Willie Cobb's "You Don't Love Me," which is based on Sam's rendition. But the solid guitar work and the vocals bring Magic Sam clearly to mind. The vocals are very soulful in a fashion similar to those of Sam as well.

In addition to the Cobbs’ number, there are four other covers that are done in a manner that don't slavishly copy other versions and five originals that certainly have much to recommend them. The opening “I Play For Keeps,” is an original instrumental with an insistent beat and driving guitar and followed by a reworking of Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Didn’t Know” and then a stinging, brooding rendition of a T-Bone Walker classic “Cold, Cold Feeling.” His “I’ve Got To Leave This Woman” is a funky original about a woman that treats him in a low down fashion while the closing original “You Are The One,” has him telling how he keeps his woman satisfied.

The Hidden Charms second guitarist Brian Reed, bass guitarist Warren Lethan and drummer Myron Katz provide steady backing through the ten performances presented on this very enjoyable release. The music on “Big Legged Woman” certainly supports the notion that Smilin’ Bobby is a modern Chicago blues performer of note for who it has taken too many years to get a CD issued. He most definitely merits our attention. 

This review was written in 2011, and I likely purchased it. I do not know if it was published at the time. Here is a video of Smilin' Bobby with Lurrie Bell from 2013.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Gloria Reuben & Marty Ashby For All We Know

Gloria Reuben & Marty Ashby
For All We Know
MCG Jazz

Vocalist Reuben and guitarist Ashby have provided us with a delectable album of songs dealing with the beauty, pain, and unexpected twists of love and relationships. Reuben's first album on MCG Jazz, "Perchance to Dream," ended with a duo the hat sparked the present recording. Inspiration was found not merely from the connection they experienced, but also the duet albums by Sammy Davis, Jr. with Mundell Lowe and Laurindo Almeida, and by Ella Fitzgerald with Joe Pass. Reuben has a career as an actress and singer with credits spanning television, film, theater, and concert halls. Among these credits, she sang backup for Tina Turner on tour and received Emmy nominations for her acting on ER. Guitarist Ashby is also the executive producer of MCG Jazz, which he started in 1987.

Listeners will be charmed by Reuben and Ashby's intimate and romantic renditions of the ten songs about love and people. Reuben has a soft, melodious voice, and delivers the lyrics with clarity and a soothing feel. Ashby's accompaniment provides a foundation for her vocals with his mix of chords and single-note runs that also embellish these performances. The songs include such songs as 'Time After Time," "I'll Close My Eyes," "A Time for Love," "I'll Get Along Without You Very Well," and "How High the Moon," and Reuben enchants the listeners with her singing.

While the renditions are straight-forward, the warmth and clarity of her singing backed by Ashby's lean, sympathy backing make for delightful listening. This is a perfect album to listen to while having a candlelight dinner.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the March-April 2020 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 389). Here is Gloria Ruben performing "I'll Close My Eyes."

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Calle Loíza Jazz Project There Will Never Be Another You

Calle Loíza Jazz Project
There Will Never Be Another You

Calle Loíza is a famous street in Santurce, Puerto Rico, that has a long history as a center of cultural activity. Starting in the late 1970s, with a renowned jazz club, Mini's, it became a center of jazz activity. Years later, in 1990, a club opened, the Apple Jazz Club, where pianist Mark Monts de Oca, drummer Johnny Rivera, bassist Freddy Gumbs, and leader Héctor Veneros formed a quartet that became well known throughout Puerto Rico. They appeared at the Heineken Jazz Festival, and it was there that bassist Tone Batista and guitarist André Avelino would start playing with members of the quartet. The passing of a beloved friend led the core quartet to make a recording to honor legendary Puerto Rican musicians such as musicians Juancito Torres, Dave Valentin, Mongo Santamaria, Carlos "Patato" Torres, and Jerry Gonzalez.

The core quartet of musicians on this recording is de Oca, Batista, Rivera, and Avelino. They are joined by Javier Oquendo on congas, Melvin Jones on trumpet, Gordon Vernick on trumpet, Xavier Barreto on flute, Cándido Reyes on güiro, Daniel López on Brazilian percussion, and Iván pelvis on percussion. This group of musicians tackles eight classics of the jazz canon: "Seven Steps To Heaven," "Someday My Prince Will Come," "Stolen Moments," 'Dolphin Dance," "Old Folks," "In Your Own Sweet Way," "Well, You Needn't," and the title track.

There is some wonderful Latin jazz played on this recording, which starts with two songs associated with Miles Davis. Jones shows himself to be quite a fiery trumpeter on the opening "Seven Steps To Heaven," although the heavy percussion was distracting. Pianist de Oca is outstanding here as well, and the interplay by Jones and Barreto is sterling. There are nice touches in the arrangements such "Someday My Prince Will Come," which opens with Jones delivering muted trumpet in the manner of Miles, before the band engages in a light Latin groove with a terrific solo from guitarist Avelino. Both Jones and Vernick solo on trumpet both employing mutes.

The other Latin jazz performances are equally engaging with plenty of noteworthy highlights such as solos from flutist Barreto and guitarist Avelino on "Stolen Moments." as well as Jones' muted trumpet and de Oca on "Dolphin Dance." Drummer Rivera and bassist Batista provide a reliable rhythmic foundation throughout this marvelous recording that offers fresh, captivating performances on some classic jazz numbers.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in the March-April 2020 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 389). Here is "Stolen Moments" from this recording.