Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Scott Ellison
Ice Storm  

The Tulsa Oklahoma native Scott Ellison grew up when that city was a rock and blues hotbed. later touring with Conway Twitty's daughter and then Gatemouth Brown, Ellison eventually relocated to Los Angeles playing and touring with the likes of The Box Tops, The Shirelles, The Drifters, The Coasters and others before forming his own blues band in the 1990s. 
A prolific songwriter as well as a singer-guitarist, he recorded several albums that Dennis Walker produced. His new album, “Ice Storm,"  is a set of original 'rocking blues.' At times, his vocals reminded me of the late Sean Costello, and he sings forcefully with a raspy grit although a limited range. The songs are standard fare about relationships and partying to the blues. His guitar playing rocks out at times and fans of guitar pyrotechnics will find much here to enjoy. 
The opening “Steamin’” is a rocker with Ellison singing about how his woman’s moves and kisses are getting him steaming and ready to explode. The opening of “Big Blue Car” evokes “The Thrill is Gone,” before he talks about riding around the funky town looking for his woman with horns effectively added to the backing, before launching into the hard rock “Pride,” with slide guitar in the backing. 
A heavy backbeat and driving slide guitar launches “4th of July,” with Ellison barking out a gravelly vocal. It is followed by “King of the Blues,” thankfully taken at a lower level as he sings about partying with his guitar but hung up about his lady which is making him the “King of the Blues.” “I’m in Trouble,” is a down in the alley tune about being “lost in these blues again,” where he pulls out all the stops on guitar. The title song is a nifty instrumental with a strong tenor sax solo in addition to Ellison's jazzier playing here. 
While Ellison is clever with a phrase here and elsewhere, the songs generally don’t stand out, although some with a taste for rocking blues guitar and blues-rock may find these performances more satisfying than this reviewer does. 
I received this recording from Earwig or a publicist. This review originally appeared in the November 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 310). Here is a performance by him of "Steamin'" from a few years after this recording.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Big Joe Williams The Original Ramblin' Bluesman, 1945-1961

Big Joe Williams
The Original Ramblin' Bluesman, 1945-1961

Bon Fisher observes, in the liner notes to this two-CD collection of recordings, that Big Joe Williams was the epitome of rambling, wandering, itinerant bluesman that has been overly-romanticized. Jasmine has brought together 53 performances that the Mississippi raised bluesman waxed for a variety of labels between 1945 and 1961. Some of these blues were recorded as 78s and 45s for such labels as Columbia, Trumpet, Specialty, Vee-jay, and Cobra. Other selections came from sessions that recorded for Delmark Records.

Compiled by Neil Slaven, this is a generous selection of the Mississippi Bluesman's music. It opens with "His Spirit Lives On," one of a number of blues recorded in remembrance to President Roosevelt. It is followed by a session for Columbia Records with a small group that included John Lee 'Sonny Boy' Williamson en harmonica that hinted at the post-war blues recordings of Muddy Waters and others. Among the dozen songs from these sessions were versions of his own "Baby Please Don't Go," as well as "King Biscuit Stomp," and "Banty Rooster Blues." "King Biscuit Stomp" was the first recording of the theme from the West Helena radio show that featured Aleck 'Rice' Miller who performed as Sonny Boy Williamson

Other performances include a stunning solo "Jivin' Woman," with stinging guitar and a declamatory vocal. For Trumpet, he recorded "Mama Don't Allow Me," a driving, percussive reworking of John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillum." From the same session, Williams' "Delta Blues" is Williams' treatment of Hooker's "Hobo Blues." These are not copies but reflect that they share common musical influences. A later Trumpet session produced the driving "She Left Me a Mule,' with more exciting guitar. "Rather Be Sloppy Drunk" is a vigorous treatment of a song John Lee Williamson recorded. after these solo performances, he leads a small group on "My Baby Left Town." This song that he previously recorded as "She Left Me a Mule" benefits from Sam Fowler's harmonica.

Sixteen songs come from 1957 and 1958 with pianist Erwin Helfer that make their first appearance on CD in this collection. Among these performances are "Don't Leave Me Here," a version of "Baby Please Don't Go," with his percussive guitar break and string snapping. After singing "Cow Cow Blues" over Helfer's boogie-woogie piano, Williams delivers a forceful interpretation of "Crawlin' King Snake." There are a rollicking "Shake Your Boogie" and robust down-home interpretations of "Mean Mistreater" and "Prison Bound," two blues associated with Leroy Carr. The final recordings on this release are from 1961 and include powerful renditions of John Lee Williamson's "Bluebird Blues" and "Elevate Me Mama."

Big Joe Williams would record many stunning albums for Folkways, Milestone, Delmark, Arhoolie, and other labels. Among Bob Dylan's first recordings was playing harmonica behind Big Joe for Spivey Records. He passed away in 1982, which might account for his music and reputation becoming less well known. His relative obscurity today is unfortunate. The quality of the music reissued here clearly displays he is among the best of the Delta blues artists. For those unfamiliar with his music, this is as good a place to start. Others familiar with his music will find much to enjoy here in a collection that brings together some first-rate blues from a variety of sources.

I purchased this. Here he is seen performin g "Baby Please Don't Go."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Take 5 With Dinah Washington

For this second Dinah Washington playlist we go beyond Dinah as the Queen of the Blues to Dinah that was one of the most remarkable vocalists of the post World War II era.

First up is her remarkable 78RPM recording of "Embraceable You."

Like Tony Bennett, she was not averse to reworking a honky tonk country recording, Hank Williams' "Cold Cold Heart."

Next up is "You Don't Know What Love Is."

Then there is this classic, "What a Difference a Day Makes."

Finally, one of my favorite albums of any genre is "Dinah Jams" with Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Clark Terry, Harold Land, Keter Betts, and others. Here is "Lover Come Back to Me." This performance always kills me.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Shabaka & The Ancestors We Are Sent Here By History

Shabaka & The Ancestors
We Are Sent Here By History

The partnership between British-Bahamian saxophonist, clarinetist and bandleader, Shabaka Hutchings, and a group of South African musicians has produced one of the most intriguing and gripping jazz recordings of recent years. Besides Hutchings' tenor saxophone and clarinet, other members of the band are Mthunzi Mvubu – Alto Sax, Siyabonga Mthembu – Vocals, Ariel Zamonsky – Double bass, Gontse Makhene – Percussion, and Tumi Mogorosi – Drums. Nduduzo Makhathini and Thandi Ntuli guest on piano, while Mandla Mlangeni contributes on trumpet.

This album is conceptualized as an hour-long sonic poem, with lyrics written and performed by Siyabonga Mthembu and spoken, sung, chanted, and rapped by Mthembu. In Hutchings' words, it is "a meditation on the fact of our coming extinction as a species. It is a reflection from the ruins, from the burning. a questioning of the steps to be taken in preparation for our transition individually and societally if the end is to be seen as anything but a tragic defeat." Further, it is a reflection "[f]or those lives lost and cultures dismantled by centuries of western expansionism, capitalist thought and white supremacist structural hegemony … ."

This recording is a powerful musical statement opening with "They Who Must Die," a mesmerizing African rhythmic vamp over which Hutchings comes off with the energy of an Archie Shepp with Mvubu weaving in and around his muscular lines as Mthembu shouts and chants. Mthembu and Makhene this spellbinding groove, which fades into the relative calm of "You've Been Called,' where Mthembu recites the lyrics about being sent by history and recitation of the crimes committed by colonialism. time seems suspended with Makheme's use of small percussive instruments providing a background before a piano brings the full group in with the two saxophonists playfully dueting as Mthembu sings, "You are here on history's call."

There is much for the listener to take in on what might be described as a spiritual journey. Despite being a meditation on human extinction, listening to "Go My Heart, Go To Heaven," one can't help but fill stirred and have some hopes from ashes of the present the brighter future might come about. There is the jubilant percussion along with Hutchings' woody clarinet and Mvubu's alto sax on "Run the Darkness Will Pass." There are also moments of free jazz, such as the beginning of "Beasts Too Spoke of Suffering," that evokes the ecstasy of Albert and Donald Ayler. Mandla Mlangeni's fiery trumpet makes a deep impression here.

The rest of "We Are Sent Here By History" is equally enthralling. Shabaka and the Ancestors play with passion and personality, resulting in one of the most compelling musical statements of the year.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is a video for "Go My Heart, Go To Heaven."


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Bessie Jones Get In Union

Bessie Jones
Get In Union
The Alan Lomax Archives/Association For Cultural Equity

Alan Lomax first visited the Georgia Sea Island of St. Simons in June of 1935 with folklorists Zora Neale Hurston and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle. There they met an ensemble called the Spiritual Singers Society of Coastal Georgia, organized two years earlier by Lydia Parrish (wife of painter Maxfield Parrish). Parrish had dedicated herself to preserving the spirituals, ring-plays, and shouts of the island's rich, isolated folk culture, with its roots running deep through the Antebellum South to West Africa. That summer, Barnicle, Hurston, and Lomax recorded several dozen sides of the Singers' sacred material for the Library of Congress, plus a handful of their tall tales and songs for work and play.

Returning to St. Simons in 1959, on the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement, Alan found the islands much changed. Still, the principals of the Spiritual Singers—Big John Davis (a former sailor and roustabout), fisherman Henry Morrison, and storekeeper Willis Proctor, the group's de facto leader— were still singing. They were significantly enriched by a profound new element: Bessie Jones.

Mary Elizabeth Smith Jones was raised in Dawson, in South Georgia, in a large and deeply musical family. She learned many of her songs from her mother, Julia—a dancer, singer, and autoharp player—and her step-grandfather, Jet Sampson. Sampson, who was born in Africa in 1836 and sold into slavery as a child, taught young Bessie about the slave experience and "the old ways." With formative musical experiences of church, school, and social functions, she was steeped in song.

She was first married to John Davis' nephew. After her husband died in 1926, spent the rest of the decade following Hatchet's death on an itinerant circuit, harvesting cotton in South and East Georgia and working odd jobs across coastal Florida—from taking in laundry in the Keys to cooking in Miami to cultivating new ground on Marco Island. In the years before she would be born again into the Holiness Church, she gambled, sang the blues, and even made and sold moonshine.

She met second George Jones, who became her second husband in 1928. After spending several seasons following the crops up the Eastern Seaboard from Florida to Bridgeport, Connecticut. After visiting the Davises on St. Simons, Hatchet's family took George in "just like he was Cassius," and he convinced his wife to settle on the island. Bessie was welcomed into the close-knit community of the Spiritual Singers Society. To this community, she added her massive repertoire to the songs and dances of the Singers. Lomax was able to document the Singers music for Atlantic Records' "Southern Folk Heritage Series" and Prestige International's "Southern Journey." Both credited the group rechristened as the Georgia Sea Island Singers. The present digital-only release, with sixty tracks, by the Alan Lomax Archive, is an expanded version of the two-CD set issued by Tompkins Square in 2013. It features nine previously unreleased tracks.

The 60 tracks available on this digital release cover a broad spectrum of traditional African-American from children's songs to work songs and spirituals. Performances rename from unaccompanied vocals, vocals with call and response, performances with fife and drum, and more. There is Jones' stirring rendition "John Henry," as well as Bessie leading the Georgia Sea Singers' fervent version of "Daniel in the Lion's Den." There is plenty of zeal for "O Mary Don't You Weep," with the men taking the lead, while Jones is the only vocalist, "This Train Is A Clean Train" with unidentified percussion. Ed Young's fife and Nat Rahmings' drum enliven the rendition lively spiritual "Beulah Land," with Hobart Smith on vocal and banjo.

"You Got to Reap Just What You Sow / Just A Little Talk With Jesus," feature McKinley Peeble's raspy preaching vocal and guitar along with Jones' supportive singing. Then there are selections from the August 1965 concert presented by the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park and billed as a celebration of Southern African American traditional music and its antebellum echoes. Along with the Georgia Sea Island Singers, it featured Ed Young and the Southern Fife and Drum Corps, Gary Davis, and the Georgia Sea Island Singers. They improvised collaborative performances on stage. These include a raucous revival rent exuberance of "Before This Time Another Year," and the high spirits of children's songs "There Was An Old Lady From Brewster," and "Little Johnny Brown."

This digital release provides only a sample of the variety and richness of the songs presented on this remarkable collection of the music Alan Lomax recorded of Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Singers. "Get In Union" is a treasure chest of traditional African-American music. It is available from Bandcamp at https://alanlomaxarchive.bandcamp.com/album/get-in-union.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here John Davis and Bessie Jones sing "Beulah Land."

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Tony Holiday Soul Service

Tony Holiday
Soul Service

The Memphis-based Tony Holiday came to my attention with his "Porch Sessions," that featured his collaborations with several blues performers. It was a highly entertaining recording, although it showcased his guests as much, if not more, than Holiday himself. This is rectified in this new release. It places his songwriting and singing to the forefront along with his harmonica playing. Ori Naftaly, of the group Southern Avenue, produced this album that was recorded at Zebra Ranch, the Dickinson family studio in Independence, Mississippi. In addition to Holiday's vocals and harmonica, this recording features Landon Stone on guitar, Max Kaplan on bass and background vocals, Danny Banks on drums, and special guests Naftaly on guitar and Victor Wainwright on keyboards. Holiday wrote all eight songs (some with John Nemeth).

Holiday is a very good, straight-forward singer with a fat tone on the harmonica. He also is a songwriter with a way to craft memorable tunes starting with "Payin' Rent on a Broken Home," a song with a catchy bass figure that may evoke an Albert King number. There is plenty to enjoy in the songs on this album from the Chicago blues of the opening number to the rocking flavor of "She Knocks Me Out," with Stone's keen slide guitar and Wainwright's boogie piano. "It's Gonna Take Some Time" is a marvelous swamp pop flavored number with Stone adding twang while Holiday sounds like he is channeling Lazy Lester here. Perhaps the top track is "Good Advice," where he strings together of various homilies his grandma gave as good advice. It is played at such a nice tempo. Holiday lays down exceptional chromatic harmonica on "Checkers on the Chessboard," and The Hustle." on "Checkers," Wainwright adds a marvelous keyboard accompaniment. The closing "Ol' Number Nine" is a solid piece of Rolling Stones' flavored rock and roll.

One might complain about the short playing time (only 30 minutes), but there is little fat or gristle in these performances that provide a welcome showcase of Tony Holiday's music.

I received my review copy from VizzTone Records. Here are Tony Holiday and Max Kaplan performing ""It's Gonna Take Some Time."

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Frank Fotusky Meet Me In The Bottom

Frank Fotusky
Meet Me In The Bottom
Snappy Turtle Records

It was a pleasant surprise to receive this recording by fingerstyle blues guitarist and singer, Frank Fotusky. Fotusky showcases his wonderful, fluid fingerstyle playing and his amiable vocals on covers of blues from Bo Carter, Robert Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, Jelly Roll Morton, Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Willie McTell, and others along with four instrumental originals.

Things get off with Bo Carter's "Who's Been Here," with Fotusky's deft playing accompanying his light-hearted singing of Carter's hokum-laced lyric. Following this is a charming lulling instrumental "339 Ninth St." The other instrumentals are similarly enticing. For Jelly Roll Morton's "Winin' Boy Blues" (listed as "Windin' Boy" on the album cover), Fotusky displays his nimble touch on a twelve-string guitar. More superb Piedmont style guitar is heard on Blind Boy Fuller's "Pigmeat."

There are well-played covers of Robert Johnson's "When You Got a Good Friend" and Leroy Carr's "How Long, How Long." The use of the twelve-string guitar and the wistful vocal make the latter song a highpoint. Other notable selections include a nicely paced "Trouble in Mind," and Blind Willie McTell's "Mama T'aint Long For Day," where he employs a slide. Almost all fingerstyle guitarists today bear the influence of Reverend Gary Davis. Fotusky pays homage with a buoyant "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning," again displaying his skill on the 12-string guitar. It is among the many pleasures to entice listeners on this CD. Released in 2015, I do wish I had come across this before.

I received this cd from Frank Fotusky. Here is Frank performing in 2015 several songs that are on this recording.


Monday, June 22, 2020

The Jim Self & John Chiodini Duo The Light Fantastic

The Jim Self & John Chiodini Duo
The Light Fantastic
Bassett Hound Music

"The Light Fantastic" is an unusual duo of tuba specialist Jim Self and guitarist John Chiodini. Both have been involved in a number of projects, including work playing on soundtracks and the like. The dup setting provides for intimate music conversations. There are several originals by Self, mixed with interesting renditions of jazz standards and the American songbook.

The musical conversations between Self and Chiodini are fascinating at the minimum. Self negotiates the melodies and constructs some intriguing solos while Chiodini comps to support him. Self also provides bass lines for Chiodini's solos. Chiodini provides a lively opening for the opening title track with Self's buzzing solo. There are several other well-performed, straight-ahead selections here. One is a remarkable interpretation of Gerry Mulligan's "Reunion," itself a contrafact of "There Will Never Be Another You," and the lovely ballad, "Here's That Rainy Day," with Self's appealing wooly solo. Also of note is the mid-tempo rendition of Joe Henderson's "Recorda Me," and the charm of Self's ballad "Pavane." On the latter number, Chiodini's backing, and his solo, is exquisite. In contrast, there is a chamber group flavor to the performance of Cesar Cameras Mariano's "Curumim."

As agile a player as Jim Self, the tuba's limited tonal range might make listening to this album in one sitting difficulty. That said, if one focuses on several selections at a time, a listener will find one's attention rewarded by these engaging performances.

I received a download to review from a publicist.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Take 5 with I Want a Little Girl

This edition of Take 5 is devoted to several versions of the song "I Want a Little Girl." This song is probably most familiar from the Count Basie recording with Jimmy Rushing handling the vocal. We start this playlist with this classic recording.

There have been so many versions over the years. Here is the great Ray Charles.

Then there is a memorable version by T-Bone Walker. As I write this, Hal 'Cornbread' Singer, who plays tenor sax on this track, is still alive.

I must confess a video of Doc Cheatham performing this inspired this blog post. He did record this for the French Black & Blue label.

Next up, and last, is an instrumental rendition by the Kansas City Six featuring Lester Young on clarinet and other Basie-ites without the Count. Eddie Durham is on trombone and electric guitar, Freddie Greene on guitar, Walter Page on bass, Jo Jones on drums, and Buck Clayton on trumpet.

There are versions by Lou Donaldson, Stanley Turrentine with the Three Sounds, Big Joe Turner and more that folks can explore.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Steve Howell, Dan Summer & Jason Weinheimer Long Ago

Steve Howell, Dan Summer & Jason Weinheimer
Long Ago
Out of the Past Music

Texas fingerstyle guitarist Steve Howell has a new album exploring some vintage tunes of past years. His longtime partner, bassist Jason Weinheimer is back with him as is guitarist Dan Sumner, who was on Howell's last recording, "History Rhymes." In contrast to that recording, there is little that might be called down-home blues performed here. Tunes played range from a couple of Duke Ellington tunes, a Percy Mayfield classic, one of Horace Silver's most famous compositions, a Jobim classic, a Dave Frishberg gem, and a Johnny Mercer-Jimmy Van Heusen standard.

There is a charm in these tasteful, understated renditions of the songs here. Howell's genial vocals, clear enunciation of the lyrics, and the uncluttered jazzy guitar leads of Sumner lead to honest, heartfelt performances. Howell is not going to make people forget an Al Hibbler or Herb Jeffries singing Duke Ellington's "Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me" and "Nothin' But the Blues," or Leon Thomas' vocal on Horace Silver's "Song For My Father." At the same time, he works well within his approach in crafting appealing performances of these songs. Other notable interpretations include Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love," Jobim's "Dindi," or the opening "Singing' the Blues," which is best known from the Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke recording. There is also a delightful instrumental rendition of "I'll Remember April."

In addition to the actual performances, Howell has provided succinct descriptions of the songs. One might be hard-pressed to call the music here compelling, but overall Howell and friends renditions of these songs possess a definite alluring quality.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here Steve Howell is heard performing Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo."

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Steve Fidyk Battle Lines

Steve Fidyk
Battle Lines
Blue Canteen Music

"Battle Lines" is the third album from drummer-composer-leader Steve Fidyk. Fidyk was for 21 years drummer and featured soloist with the Army Blues Big Band, a premier 17- piece jazz ensemble stationed in Washington DC. He also performs throughout the US with small groups led by tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf and guitarist Jack Wilkins, and he is a member of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, a big band led by trumpeter Terell Stafford. He is an educator who is a member of the jazz studies faculty at Temple University and serves as an educational consultant for Jazz At Lincoln Center‘s Essentially Ellington program. For "Battle Lines" Fidyk leads an all-star band with an impressive front-line of trumpet legend Joe Magnarelli and tenor titan Xavier Perez, alongside the rhythm team of pianist Peter Zak, and bassist Michael Karn.

A simple, superficial description of the music here might be hard bop in the manner of Blakey, Louis Hayes-Woody Shaw, Cannonball Adderley, and others. The opening tune, Eddie Harris' "Ignominy," certainly is a stunning performance in this vein opening with Perez's robust tenor, followed by Magnarelli, and then Zak. Karn anchors the groove as the leader propels this excellent performance. It is the first of this album's splendid performances. This quintet shines on with the heat of Fidyk's title track, or the funky groove of his "Loopholes," where Fidyk dazzles while not overshadowing the front-line. Then there is Dave Brubeck's Chopin-inspired "Thank You (Dziekuje)," with a gorgeous melody and some sublime saxophone. Fidyk's drum teacher was Joe Morello, a member of Brubeck's legendary quintet, which adds a personal connection to this performance.

Fidyk's drums kick-off "Bebop Operations," which is a performance that conjures up classic Dizzy Gillespie. Magnarelli is in top form on this. It is followed by the oddly titled "Bootlicker's Blues," with its intriguing time shifts. Perez and Zak are featured before Fidyk solos with Zak comping. A ballad written for his parents, "Lullaby for Lori and John," places the spotlight on Magnarelli's hauntingly beautiful flugelhorn. A rendition of Charlie Parker's "Steeplechase," features a spirited Perez solo. Also of note is "Social Loafing," a relaxed swinging performance evocative of Gigi Gryce's "Social Call."

Steve Fidyk is quite impressive as a leader and composer, which is displayed superbly on this program of engaging originals and jazz chestnuts. Fidyk and company have produced a superlative recording in “Battle Lines.”

I received my review copy from Steve Fidyk. Here is a video of Steve with the Army Blues performing "Love For Sale."

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Kathleen Grace (with Larry Goldings) Tie Me To You

Kathleen Grace (with Larry Goldings)
Tie Me To You
Monsoon Records

Singer and songwriter Kathleen Grace embraces roots within the blues, folk, and pop realms with a jazz tinge. With keyboardist Larry Goldings, who has worked with James Taylor, Norah Jones, John Mayer, and others, she has engaged in this project with bassist David Piltch and violinist Gabe Witcher contributing to this effort. Goldings himself plays piano, organ, pocket piano, and glockenspiel.

This recording arose in part because of Grace's awakening self-awareness. This self-awareness led to changes in her social relationships. As a result, she wrote songs that dealt with these changes. "Tie Me To You" features original music by both Grace and Goldings as well as covers of pieces by French icon Francois Hardy, blues legend Son House, and The Beatles, and standards by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Rodgers & Hart.

What impresses one listening to this recording is not merely how lovely a voice Kathleen Grace has, but the clarity and purity of her singing with a heartfelt expression of hurt and love in the performances. The title track, with Goldings' harpsichord sounding keyboards and Witcher's subtle one-person string session, has her sweet plea to be tied to her love. Her soft voice provides a melancholy interpretation of the Rodgers-Hart penned "Where or When" with Goldings' overdubbed keyboards providing an understated backing for the yearning she expresses here.

Grace's "Everywhere" would be at home on an Americana show or folk festival with her folk-guitar and Witcher's folk-country fiddle accompanying her sweet singing. An unexpected cover is her adaptation of Son House's recording of "John the Revelator." Of course, her soft, clean diction and gentle phrasing contrasts to Son House, who sang as if he was pouring out his entire soul. Goldings adds a simple, uncluttered solo here. Grace sings with charm in French on "Berceuse," a song that evokes a French musical hall or cabaret. This song is followed by a plaintive interpretation of the torch song, "The Thrill is Gone." It has another splendid accompaniment and solo by Goldings. Like most of this recording, the listener is moved by the simple directness of the performance. Witcher's one-person string section and Goldings' skeletal accompaniment, Grace treats the listener to a subtly seductive performance of 'Love For Sale."

On "What'll I Do," Grace wonders how she will recover from the end of a romance. Golding's elegant piano accompanies her honeyed vocal. On her last song, she provides an answer singing she will follow the sun, even if she must leave one behind on a tuneful cover of The Beatles' "I'll Follow the Sun." It caps an exquisite, sophisticated, and very appealing recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of  Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings performing Irving Berlin's "What'll I Do."


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Casey Hensley Good As Gone

Casey Hensley
Good As Gone

When Big Brother & the Holding Company opened for Love at the Fillmore in San Francisco, Love's Arthur Lee said, in effect, after watching Janis Joplin, that "screaming ain't soulful." To these ears, I would apply this to Casey Hensley's singing. There can be no question that she brings plenty of power and passion to her performances, just like Joplin. Hensley has a tendency to comes across as overwrought for my taste, although there are songs on which she displays restraint. Tastes will differ, and undoubtedly many of you will respond much more favorably to her singing than I do.

My reservations are a shame since she certainly has a certain charisma about her, and she has a terrific supporting band led by guitarist Laura Chavez, who also produced this recording. Chavez is a guitarist who commands attention as much as Hensley may as a singer. Chavez lays down some slashing guitar on the opening "Good As Gone," with some unexpected twists and turns in the solo. Then on "You Should Be So Lucky," Chavez evokes Magic Sam but expands on the West Side Chicago blues legend's approach with her own extension of it.

There are songs such as the easy swinging, "What Do You Say," with Hensley taking a tempered approach to her vocals. Another song that stands out is "Love Will Break Your Heart," where Chavez evokes Ike Turner with some shattering fretwork. Then there is the soulful ballad, "Don't Want It to Stop," that illustrates just how good a songwriter she is. Given the first-rate songs, the excellent backing she receives, and Laura Chavez's striking guitar, it is frustrating to not be able to praise without reservations about her singing. I realize that my reservations may be in the minority.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. Here is a live performance by Casey Hensley.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Tom Gilberts Old School

Tom Gilberts
Old School
Polymerase Records

Apparently, this is the second album on Polymerase Records by singer-songwriter-guitarist Tom Gilberts. Gilberts, joined by Dave Captein on bass and Brian Foxworth on drums, wrote the twelve tunes on this recording. Produced by Terry Robb, the music is rooted in the blues, with some roots and rock elements to it.

The opening notes of "'Lady' Luck" suggest a blues-rock power trio. However, Gilberts quickly establishes himself as a player who can lay down acidic phrases and runs but displays a thoughtful and deliberate attack with solos that are well constructed. He may not be a great singer, but his vocals have appeal with a low-key delivery where he sings about lady luck being no lady and no friend of his when he is playing blackjack and other games. Whatever his vocal limitations, his sincerity is conveyed throughout.

There is a mix of vocal tracks and instrumentals, including "Zoot Suit Shuffle." that sounds like a perky break song. "Sun Vibe," another instrumental, displays his use of tone and his phrasing set against an understated backing. The instrumental, "Brown's Camp," also demonstrates his taste and lack of deceptive flash. His slide guitar is featured on several tracks, including the title track, where he sings about being kinda old school as he grills with charcoal, not propane. Set at a medium walking tempo, "You Missed Me" has a thoughtful vocal and nice shuffle groove laid down by Captein and Foxworth. "Nightime" is an evocative number about being a time to hold hands under the stars while gently talking to one other.

"The Fuzz," displays his restraint in phrasing. Gilberts employs fuzz-tone and other electric effects on an atypical instrumental in closing this album. While this CD may not be compelling, it most definitely charms with the skill and tastefulness of Tom Gilberts' performances.

I received my review copy from a publicist.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Take 5 With Leroy Carr

Leroy Carr was one of the most influential blues artists who ever lived.  A singer-pianist and songwriter, he had some of the biggest-selling blues records of his time and many of his songs became blues standards. his duets with guitarist Scrapper Blackwell also were highly influential as well.

Our initial recording on our playlist is probably his most famous song, "How Long, How Long Blues." It is true other songs anticipate his recording. Still, the impact of this recording was felt decades later in recordings and performances by so many including Tampa Red, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, Lou Rawls, and B.B. King.

It should be known that Carr's melodies would be adapted by Robert Johnson. One such song was "Midnight Hour Blues" that Johnson used for "Four Until Late."

Elmore James was a fan of Carr, having recorded renditions of several Carr songs. One song that Elmore performed was "Blues Before Sunrise."

Unusual is this bouncy song relating to the circus, "Carried Water For the Elephants."

Little Johnnie Jones was one of a number of blues artists who have recorded "Prison Bound Blues" with its haunting lyrics.

That is the fifth and final song for this Take 5. I previously did a blog post on Carr's classic, "In The Evening," which is linked here and includes a number of interpretations of that song.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Bitten By the Blues: The Alligator Records Story Bruce Iglauer and Patrick A. Roberts

Bitten By the Blues: The Alligator Records Story
Bruce Iglauer and Patrick A. Roberts
Chicago: University of Chicago Press
2019: 338pp

I met Bruce Iglauer in the Spring of 1971 when I traveled to Kent, Ohio, to see Mighty Joe Young perform at The Kove. Bruce was accompanying Young who was playing in support of his Delmark album, "Blues With a Touch of Soul." The next day, Bruce and Mighty Joe Young came to the WRUW-FM studios at Case Western Reserve University, where I hosted a weekly blues program. It was the beginning of a relationship that still exists. I would next see Bruce after he founded Alligator Records and accompanying Hound Dog Taylor on his performances. I got to know not only how hands-on Bruce was in producing records, but also the extent of what he did in promoting the records and his artists. "Bitten By the Blues," tells the story of how he became more than merely a blues fan and created one of the signature blues record labels of the past five decades.

We are taken from Iglauer's childhood, going to college, seeing John Coltrane in concert, and then seeing Fred McDowell at a Chicago folk festival which is what instigated his passion for the blues. Bruce would help book Howlin' Wolf at his college, and moving to Chicago after graduation where he worked at the Jazz Record Mart and Delmark Records. He would also be going to Chicago blues clubs, helping found Living Blues magazine, and much more.

Of course, the story includes Bruce's discovery of Hound Dog Taylor, and efforts to get him on record. These efforts led to the formation of Alligator Records and the rest is the history of the label's history and artists. We meet Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Fenton Robinson, Albert Collins, Lonnie Mack, Lonnie Brooks, Katie Webster, Professor Longhair, and so many more artists. We learn how they artists to Bruce's attention, what was involved in recording these blues masters. Iglauer also details  efforts by Alligator to promote these artists to different markets and radio. There is plenty about what was going on behind the scenes as radio programming changed, and how, with few exceptions, radio became less open for independent and blues artists. He also details his brief efforts to issue reggae music that he licensed from Jamaican labels and also record and promote artists whose music impressed him in ways similar to the blues. These include Eric Lindell, and JJ Grey and Mofro.

He does not go into every artist or recording that Alligator released records of. For example, the late Johnny Heartsman's "The Touch" I believe is an undeservedly less well-known gem of the label. I would have loved to know how Heartsman and Bruce connected. I understand that he could not chronicle every single recording or artist, or this book would be double in size. The book does list every record Alligator released through 2018. I do not know if the paperback release of this book has updated this list. I want to add that it has been some months since I read this, so I have been very general in summarizing its contents.

Alligator continues to release new music whether from established blues and roots performers like Tinsley Ellis, Marcia Ball, Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, Shemekia Copeland and Roomful of Blues as well as new voices like Nick Moss with Dennis Gruenling, The Cash Box Kings, Selwyn Birchwood, Lindsay Beaver, and Toronzo Cannon. "Bitten By The Blues" is a welcome addition to books about the blues. Thankfully the story it tells continues today and hopefully for many more years.

I purchased this book. Here is a short Alligator Records playlist starting with Johnny Heartsman's "Paint My Mailbox Blue."

Next up is Hound Dog Taylor with "She's Gone."

Koko Taylor is next with "I Got What It Takes" from her first Alligator Album."

Son Seals follows with a cover of "Mother-In-Law Blues," from his debut album.


For this short playlist, we conclude with a selection from another less-well-known gem on Alligator, the piano-guitar duets of Henry Butler and Corey Harris, here heard on "Let Em Roll" from the album "Vu Du Menz."

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Lizzie Thomas New Sounds From the Jazz Age

Lizzie Thomas
New Sounds From the Jazz Age
Lizzie Thomas Music

Originally classically trained, Lizzie Thomas discovered, after degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Education, that she found personal expression in jazz and the American Songbook. On this, her fourth album, she provides some novel interpretations of nine classic standards from the American Songbook. Helping her with these imaginative arrangements and vigorous vocals is a sterling backing band. The studio players include John Colianni on piano, Jay Leonhart or Boots Maleson on bass, Russell Malone or Matt Chertkoff on guitar, Omar Daniels on tenor sax, flute, Felix Peikli on clarinet, Bernard Linette on drums, and Doug Hendrichs on percussion.

One is struck on the opening "Fascinating Rhythm" by Thomas' vocal command, and her ability to negotiate tempo and key changes. Peikli's clarinet adds to the mood here. One suspects she would be as enthralling on a musical stage as a night club or concert stage. Russell Malone's solo guitar provides for her intimate opening to "Our Love Is Here To Stay," before the full band enters for this alluring performance. Daniels' flute is outstanding here. Daniels' sensual tenor sax solo and Colianni's sparkling piano contribute to a hauntingly gorgeous performance on Duke Ellington's "I Didn't Know About You." Malone adds some trebly, blues-drenched guitar to the lightly rocking, "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To." Daniels adds a robust tenor solo while Thomas adds a brief scatting section.

Opening with a light Latin groove, Thomas sings enticingly on "In the Still of the Night," with nuanced delivery of the lyrics. Colianni stuns with his striking, and strong, accompaniment. There is a breathtaking rendition of Jobim's "One Note Samba," where she dazzles with her phrasing. Also, her handling of the lightning tempo during this performance leaves one astonished by her vocal technique. There is a bouncy "Cheek To Cheek" and a bubbly, yet sensual "Close Your Eyes." On the latter number, her vocal (including her horn-like scatting) weaves around Peikli's woody clarinet and Chertkoff's guitar obligatos.

"The Very Thought of You
" benefits from the Afro-Caribbean groove underlying Thomas' seductive vocal, with marvelous piano, guitar comping, and Daniels' airy flute. It concludes a wonderfully rendered fresh and imaginative takes on these American songbook classics.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Lizzie Thomas performing "Fascinating Rhythm."

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Linsey Alexander Live at Rosa's

Linsey Alexander
Live at Rosa's
Delmark Records

Reviewing Linsey Alexander's debut album "Been There Done That" in 2012, I wrote that it was "a most impressive blues recording which is one of the finer blues albums I have heard this year. His is a voice I want to hear more from." I further noted his fervent singing and stinging guitar in his 2015 follow-up recording, "Come Back Baby." It has been way too long since his last album, so this new live recording is welcome. His vocals and guitar were supported at Rosa's by Sergei Androshin, guitar; Roosevelt Purifoy, keyboards; Ron Simmons, bass; and "Big Ray" Stewart, drums.

"Live at Rosa's" is a pretty straight-forward recording as Alexander performs five of his originals and four covers. It opens with a fresh rendition of B.B. King's "Please Love Me," that avoids the "Dust My Broom" feel of most versions. Alexander's searing guitar is supported by Purifoy's organ. Purifoy takes a greasy solo here. Alexander also musically provides a fresh feel to Freddie King's "If You've Ever Loved A Woman." The insistent groove of Alexander's "I Got a Woman," may evoke "Mustang Sally." Alexander adds a fiery guitar solo. There is appealing guitar picking on the relaxed shuffle "Goin' Out Walkin'" followed by a soulful rendition of Latimore's "Somethin' 'Bout' Cha," with more strong support from Purifoy. "Snowing in Chicago" provides a driving funk-blues. The final cover is of a Muddy Waters recording, "Just to Be With You," although it is titled on the album "Ships on the Ocean" and credited to Junior Wells. Wells' recording is the inspiration for Alexander's interpretation, and Linsey sings robustly and plays perhaps his finest solo here.

Alexander sings convincingly with fervor, although there are a couple spots where his diction suffers. With solid backing and strong performances, Alexander's "Live at Rosa's" is a most engaging album of live modern Chicago blues."

I received a download to review from Delmark Records. Here is an older performance of Linsey Alexnader performing "Snowing In Chicago."

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Ernesto Cervini Tetrahedron

Ernesto Cervini
Anzic Records

Toronto-based Ernesto Cervini has established himself as a drummer-composer- bandleader, of considerable merit. His Quartet, his sextet Turboprop, and various trios have shown him to be a fresh, imaginative voice. Besides Cervini, the members of his quartet are electric bassist (Rich Brown), an electric guitarist (Nir Felder), and the Cuban-born, Toronto-based alto saxophonist Luis Deniz. The quartet initially started as a chordless trio with Brown and Deniz, to which Felder was later added. "Because we're so used to playing this music as a trio without any comping," Cervini notes, "we were able to incorporate Nir without having to worry about our traditional 'jobs' in the band."

The origin of the band as a chordless trio provides an understanding of the imaginative approach Cervini brings, beginning with an ingenious rendition of "Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise." It starts off with a lengthy unaccompanied bass solo, with the band playing off the underlying bass pattern until playing the melody late in this enthralling performance. Bassist Brown contributed "Forward Motion," with stunning guitar and sax before Cervini takes a drum solo. Listening to this performance I had a sense of "this reminds me of something else." After the drum solo, "Harlem Nocturne" was evoked. This superlative performance is I believe a contrafact to "Harlem Nocturne," although played at quite a quicker tempo than the strip club tempo of that tune.

Felder provides a stunning introduction to a lovely interpretation of Vince Mendoza's "Angelicus," as Deniz's alto sax gently develops the theme. Cervini adds to the atmosphere with his adept use of brushes. "Stro" is Cervini's funky minor-blues nod to Toronto Blue Jays (and New York Mets) pitcher Marcus Stroman. It has a descending electric bass loop that anchors the interchanges within the band, particularly Felder's percolating guitar and Deniz's bluesy alto sax. Deniz further impresses on the Bunky Green bebop waltz "Summit Song" with Felder adding his scintillating guitar. Deniz and Felder's opening to Cervini's "Wandering" provide a chamber jazz quality with the tension the dynamism of their solos against a rubato rhythmic feel.

Ernesto Cervini again leads a sterling band and brought together stimulating originals and imaginative arrangements of covers for some absorbing music. "Tetrahedron" is another first-rate recording from him.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here this band performs "Stro."


Monday, June 08, 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 the 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, Slim's 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 "Dignity" from the album.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Take 5 With Dinah Washington

This week's Take 5 playlist is devoted to the great Dinah Washington who was known as the Queen of the Juke Boxes and Queen of the Blues. Influenced by Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and others, the former gospel singer first became a household name as a singer with Lionel Hampton. It was the beginning of a fabled career that we will sample in several playlists. Today's focus will be on some of her early recordings.

We open with "Evil Gal Blues" that was recorded while with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra.

Despite being called a blues singer, Dinah was so much more as can be heard in this early recording (1947) for the Mercury family of labels, "Embraceable You."

Nest up is "You Satisfy" which spent a week on the rhythm and Blues charts. It was written by Danny Baxter and originally recorded by Ruby Smith with Gene (Honeybear) Sedric and His Orchestra. Dinah would record it a couple years later, adding a verse from Billie Holiday's "Billie's Blues" as "Gambler's Blues." B.B. King recorded it as "Gambler's Blues," on his "Blues Is King" live album. Subsequently such blues artists as Otis Rush and Luther Allison recorded it as well.

Of course, Dinah was not averse to a double-entendre lyric. Here is her classic "Long John Blues."

We close this short playlist with a song about the second Petrillo Recording ban, "Record Ban Blues."

I look forward to presenting another playlist of this legend of Jazz and Blues in a week or two.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Gerald McClendon Can't Nobody Stop Me Now

Gerald McClendon
Can't Nobody Stop Me Now
Delta Roots Records

This writer first became aware of Chicago-born singer/songwriter/performer Gerald McClendon from a memorable performance on the anthology "Battle Of The Blues: Chicago vs. Oakland." Drummer-songwriter-producer Twist Turner produced that recording. Turner has returned with this full album of deep soul by McClendon, a performer who has become known as "The Soul Keeper." McClendon's vocals are backed by Turner on drums and some stellar studio players. These include Art Love on bass, three great guitar players, Herb Walker, Joe Burba, and Mike Wydra, and three keyboardists, Roosevelt Purifoy, Sumito Ariyoshi, and Brian James, along with Skinny Williams on saxophone and John "Boom" Brumbach on trumpet. Turner wrote all twelve songs here.

A strong, expressive singer, McClendon will evoke some of the classic soul singers of the past such as Sam Cooke, Tyrone Davis, Otis Redding, and others as he sings about being caught in the act by his woman who tells him she does not want to stay on the break-up song, "Where Do We Go From Here." His phrasing and clean delivery of the lyrics underlying a compelling vocal. The breaking up of relationships is also a theme of several other selections, including "She Don't Love Me No More," which features Skinny Williams' burly tenor sax. Then there is the blue ballad, 'i," with some bluesy guitar fills. Of course, other themes include the title song opens this set with a surging groove as he sings about nothing can stop him as he takes control. Another standout song is the slow groover "Groove on Tonight' where he sings about going out and party all night as he needs to find someone to love him right.

Whatever the song or mood, McClendon's command and conviction stands out, along with the first-rate backing provided. Still, the highlight of this recording might be the soul-ballad, "You Can't Take My Love." On this track, Williams again plays a choice sax break in the middle of McClendon's soulful vocal where he tells his woman she can scandalize his name, but she can't take away his love for her. This performance notably displays why Gerald McClendon is "The Soul Keeper." "Can't Nobody Stop Me Now" is an extraordinary deep soul recording that hopefully will bring him the recognition his talent deserves. Also, kudos to Twist Turner for the terrific songs and production.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This will be released on June 12. Here is a promotional video for this recording.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

The Ballad of Tommy LiPuma Ben Sidran

Th e Ballad of Tommy LiPuma
Ben Sidran
Madison, WI: Nardis Books
2020: 274 + x pages

Ben Sidran, based on conversations he had with the legendary record producer, has provided a biography of Tommy LiPuma, tp who making music was more about the music than a product. To quote the book jacket; "It is also an amazing picaresque journey that opens with the murder of a man on a dirt path in Sicily and concludes with five trips up the Grammy red carpet, a real-life Horatio Alger adventure that touches on bootleggers, gangsters, artists, hipsters, and the industry that changed popular culture around the world. Finally, it’s a deeply personal account of how music saved one man’s life, and how he went on to affect the lives of millions of others."

That book jacket blurb provides a very concise summary of Sidran's biography of one of the most significant record men of the past fifty years. it takes us from brothers emigrating from a small Sicilian village to the United States to seek revenge on a murderer with one brother ending up in Cleveland when Tommy is born and grows up. He gets hurt playing baseball which unexpectedly leads to hospitalizations and a handicap.

Music becomes part of his life as he experiences health issues arising from a baseball injury. He becomes a jazz saxophonist as well as starts working at a record store. Eventually connections lead him to enter the world of record promotion at the same time he also works as a barber. Eventually, he enters the world of record promotion and starts working at first with independent labels and then major labels. He goes from Liberty Records to Blue Thumb and then Warner Brothers, as he recounts his efforts and some of behind the scenes activities.

LiPuma also learns about songwriting and record production. He serves as an Artist and Repertoire person as well as becomes well known for his productions by such artists as George Benson, Al Jarreau, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Bill Evans, Dr. John, Yellowjackets, Michael Brecker, Bob James & Dave Sanborn, Miles Davis, Little Jimmy Scott, Natalie Cole, Diane Krall, Horace Silver, Russell Malone, Shirley Horn, Barbara Streisand, Paul McCartney, and Willie Nelson.

To give a touch of the flavor of this biography, here is an excerpt of the text that discusses recording  Little Jimmy Scott;

        "Over the years, Tommy produced many albums because he felt they needed to be made, regardless of whether he thought they had a big sales potential. Of course he never wanted to lose money, but money was not the driving factor in a lot of the projects he took on. He always believed that if the music was right, the money would follow.
        After the huge success of Natalie Cole’s album, he had the leisure to make one of these projects. He decided to record Little Jimmy Scott, a jazz singer who had never sold more than a few thousand records but was a soulful guy who influenced a lot of other singers and moved a lot of hearts. “I loved his music back in the day,” says Tommy. “His style reminded me of Dinah Washington—and later on I discovered that he also came from Cleveland. In fact, we had grown up a few blocks of each other, but because he was ten years older, I never knew him there, though I certainly knew of him.”
        Jimmy had had a particularly hard life. He was born with a rare hormonal disorder that affected not only his voice—he sounded like a woman when he sang, which is why he influenced so many female singers, especially Nancy Wilson—but his physical appearance as well; he had no facial hair and seemed a little soft, but there was no doubt he loved women. “He was a man through and through,” says Tommy.
        “I had a meeting with Jimmy and he turned out to be such a sweet guy. From the moment I met him, we were in total harmony. We talked about music and he was so relaxed and open to my ideas. is is so rare, to find a stylist who is so down with themselves that they’re totally comfortable letting you do what you do.”
        With Jimmy, the production was simple: Bring in a first-rate jazz trio and then dress the lady up in strings. “We approached the recording like an old-school jazz date,” says Tommy. “ e pianist, Kenny Barron, wrote out the chord charts and we just came up with the arrangements in the studio. I had Ron Carter on bass and Grady Tate on drums. I knew that I was going to surround Jimmy with an orchestra, so I really wanted the basic tracks to be pretty simple.”"
The Ballad of Tommy LiPuma on pages 198-199.

There are plenty of other stories describing how many of these recordings happened and LiPuma's unusual practice of sitting among the musicians as opposed to staying in the control room. He also becomes an art collector of a definite reputation as well. Ben Sidran has put together a fascinating and illuminating story of the life of a real record man as opposed to the bean counters that view music solely as a product that run the music industry today.

I received a pdf download from a publicist.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys La Danse à St. Ann's

Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys
La Danse à St. Ann's
Nouveau Electric Records

This new album is a real surprise and delight for fans of Louisiana music. Goldman Thibodeaux, aged 87, is a living legend and one of the last musicians performing in the traditional French Creole style. I had the pleasure of seeing him at the 2007 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at the Fais Do-Do Stage (pictured below), where he and the Lawtell Playboys entranced listeners and moved the many dancers with their music. Goldman and the Playboys have been a regular act for twenty years at JazzFest. They were scheduled to perform at this year's Festival, which was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thibodeaux may be one of the last living musicians to have seen the legendary Amédé Ardoin perform when he was a child. The Lawtell Playboys were founded in 1946 by brothers Bébé and Eraste Carriere. Bébé, known as the "King of the Zydeco Fiddle," and played alongside his brother Eraste, on accordion, for many years. Over time, Eraste passed the accordion position to Delton Broussard while Bébé passed the position of fiddle player to Eraste's son, Calvin Carriere. Goldman learned to play accordion in his 50s after a heart attack. When Delton became ill, he passed the accordion position to Goldman. Calvin and Goldman played for several years before recording their first cd in 2001 titled "Les Miseres Dans le Coeur." Before he passed Calvin, he asked Goldman to take over the band and continue using the name "Lawtell Playboys".

 La Danse à St. Ann's was recorded by Mark Bingham at the Thibodeaux Family Reunion, November 2019 in Mallett, Louisiana. Bingham and the band's fiddle player Louis Michot (co-founder of Lost Bayou Ramblers) produced this remarkable document. This recording was made at a church hall with hundreds of family members gathered. The Lawtell Playboys' line-up at this performance was:
Photo © Ron Weinstock

Goldman Thibodeaux - accordion and vocals; Brock Thibodeaux – frottoir; Louis Michot - fiddle and vocals; Courtney Jeffries - acoustic guitar; Justin Leger - electric bass; and Barry Cormier - drums and vocals.

 It is marvelous to hear the traditional Louisiana creole music as heard here, starting with a marvelous two-step, "Two-step de St-Ann's." This driving number showcases not only Thibodeaux's one-button accordion-playing but Michot's down-home fiddle set against a simple rhythm groove. Much of the music here goes back to the La La music style that preceded zydeco, including irresistible fast dance numbers like "Allons Sur la Plancher," "Allons Dancer," and relaxed waltzes such as "Valse des Miseres." There are more modern numbers like the blues "Lucille," a staple of Clifton Chenier's repertoire, "Watch That Dog," evoking the late Boozoo Chavis, and "Pauvre Hobo," a reworking of the cajun fiddler Harry Choates' cajun swing recording.

Goldman Thibodeaux sings and plays with the robustness of a younger man. Added to the charm of these performances are some of the comments included. For example, Goldman announces that food is ready, and folks can get their plates and meals. The final track is an intermission announcement for all the family members to go outside the Church Hall, where a drone will take a family picture. This atmosphere adds to the charm of the marvelous music presented here.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is a video of Goldman Thibodeaux in performance.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

3D Jazz Trio I Love To See You Smile

3D Jazz Trio
I Love To See You Smile

The 3D Jazz Trio is an offshoot of the Diva Jazz Orchestra, which is led by drummer Sherrie Maricle. Also, it includes Orchestra members, Jackie Warren on piano, and Amy Shook on bass. Back in late 2017, I reviewed an album by the three as by 3 Divas. All three have impressive resumes as players, composers, and educators, and I found this earlier recording to be "a marvelous recording by a superb trio.'

The same strengths they exhibited on the prior recording are here. The three are marvelous instrumentalists who have developed telepathic chemistry. They have selected some excellent songs to interpret, starting with the title track (from the film "Parenthood"), with its easy groove. Shook's bass is an anchor on this while Maricle swings, and Warren's displays her adept fluid, lyrical piano. Warren's playing on the oft-recorded "Besame Mucho" displays her sense of dynamics and ability to caress a melody as she does in her solo intro. After the intro, the trio's performance segues into a tropical groove. The trio's affinity for Latin Jazz is also showcased on a buoyant "Recado Bossa Nova."

Evoking Junior Mance, the three play a rollicking rendition of Jimmy Smith's "Back to the Chicken Shack," with Maricle adding some rhythmic explosions. "Angel Eyes" places the spotlight on Shook with her bass intro and also her Arco playing over Warren's softly played riff and Maricle's brushes. They close with "L.O.V.E," which is a tribute to Maurice Hines, Jr., who brought the trio together. It was featured in Hines' musical "Tappin' Through Life," and the trio's rendition ends another superlative album on an exhilarating note.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is a video of the 3D Jazz Trio performing "Back at the Chicken Shack."

Monday, June 01, 2020

Vienna Carroll and the Folk Harlem Field Recordings

Vienna Carroll and the Folk
Harlem Field Recordings

Listening to this stunning recording by New York City-based singer Vienna Carroll, I found her singing reminded of the wonderful Gaye Adegbalola,. However, Ms. Carroll's focus is more on traditional material than original blues songs. A multi-talented person, she wrote an acclaimed play "Singin Wid A Sword in Ma Han" (which is the closing song on this album), and this is her third album. Supporting her vocals are Stanley Banks on bass, Newman Taylor Baker on washboard and percussion, Keith Johnston on guitar, and a host of guests including Nioka Workman on cello, Melanie Dyer on viola, and Henrique Prince on violin. 

The variety of her repertoire encompasses a wide range of folkloric connections from classic acoustic blues, spirituals, sea shanties, hollers and shouts, and work songs. The authority she brings is evident from "Strawberries and Cream," where she shouts like a street vendor selling berries and praising glory. Another selection is the lively spiritual with call and response of "You Better Mind," with Henrique Prince adding saw-toned violin. Another jubilant spiritual performance is "Let's Go Down to the River."

There is an excellent cover of Robert Johnson's "Come On in My Kitchen" with Johnston's supportive guitar backing and solo. Another strong blues performance is "I Just Want To Make Love To You." Guitarist Johnston's jazzy intro quotes "My Favorite Things," before segueing into accompanying Vienna's vocal for the Willie Dixon song. "No More Freedom" is a powerful a cappella performance about going to prison followed by "Prison Blues." This latter sing has firm backing for her menacing vocal. With Banks' bass and Baker's percussion, Vienna delivers an excellent rendition of Son House's "Grinnin' in My Face," although she can't match House's intensity (after all who can).

One of the most moving tracks is a lullaby and work song, "All the Pretty Little Horses." Vienna introduces it, noting that it came from a time when a slave mother would have to breast-feed a plantation owner's baby at the expense of her child. The string accompaniment adds to the somber mood of a stunning performance that stands out in a totally superb album.

I received a download of this album from a publicist. Here is a performance by Vienna Carroll and The Folk of "This Train."