Friday, July 31, 2020

Danny Barker New Orleans Jazz Man and Raconteur

Danny Barker
New Orleans Jazz Man and Raconteur
GHB Records

As Trevor Richards observes in his opening comments to this two-disc retrospective of Danny Barker's recordings, "Danny Barker was a Renaissance man, a man of many unexpected facets."He was a rhythm guitarist or banjo player, musical entertainer or vocalist, composer of notable songs, a raconteur, and even a movie actor. Barker was also a jazz researcher and historian, and even a university lecturer.

He left his native New Orleans for New York, where he made an initial switch to guitar from banjo, and his fat chords made him in demand as he worked for Lucky Millinder, Benny Carter, and most famously Cab Calloway. He was on numerous Calloway recordings. He also recorded with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Bostic, and bunk Johnson as well as helped launch the recording career of his wife, Bu Lu Barker. Barker would serve as the guitarist for Rudi Blesh's weekly radio broadcasts, "This Is Jazz." It was around this time resumed playing the banjo, buy playing a 6-string guitar-banjo.

Barker formed a record label King Zulu to make recordings of Mardi Gras music to sell to bars, but his timing was unfortunate as recordings issued on 78s came out with the transition to 45s in full force. In the mid-sixties, he returned to the Crescent City to become assistant curator of the New Orleans Jazz Museum. He would also write extensively, including his own "A Life in Jazz," written with Alan Shipton, and available in a superb new edition from the New Orleans Historic Collection. Barker would also form the Fairview Baptist Church Christian Band that linked the Brass Bands' heritage, such as that of his uncle Paul Barbarin's Onward Brass Band. It served as a launching pad for many celebrated New Orleans musicians of today and such Brass Bands as The Dirty dozen and Rebirth.

While the two CDs contain a generous sampling of 34 songs and two interviews, they do not cover the entire spectrum of recordings Barker was on. In fact, on many of these, he is often a band member contributing his percussive guitar and/or banjo along with an occasional vocal. The music spans a Jonah Jones session with members of Calloway's orchestra to "Palm Court Strut" with an unidentified New Orleans band that he sang on. There are two selections with Nick and His Creole Serenaders, a group led by clarinetist Albert Nicholas, with pianist James P. Johnson, that Barker sang in Creole French. There are 13 selections from the "This Is Jazz" radio program, including a guitar-bass duet with Pops Foster. Other tracks include him as part of a band that included Muggsy Spanier, Wild bill Davidson, Albert Nicholas, George Brunies, James P. Johnson, Art Hodes, Ralph Sutton, Pops Foster, and Baby Dodds. Selections of note include "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans," with Louis Armstrong, "Sweet Lorraine" with Sidney Bechet, and "Some of These Days" with vocalist Chippier Hill.

Barker is more prominent as a vocalist on the second disc, including the exuberant Mardi Gras number, "Tootie Ma Is a Big Fine Thing" that he issued on his King Zulu label. There are boisterous performances by Paul Barbarin's Jazz Band of "The Second Line" and "Royal Garden Blues." Barker's humorous songwriting is evident on "Save the Bones For Henry Jones," while he leads the backing behind Blue Lu Barker's rendition of "Gulf Coast Blues." He provides a delightful performance of 'Eh La Bas" and charming interpretations of "Heart of My Heart" and "Hard Hearted Hannah." Even more outstanding is a rendition of "Saint James Infirmary," full of his vibrant personality that displays his storytelling ability.

The two interview tracks provide insights into the differences between white and black New Orleans jazz as well as his early days and his moving to New York. There are several previously unissued performances included as well. These two discs make available several excellent traditional jazz performances. While this might not be an essential release, for fans of traditional (especially New Orleans) jazz, this is a very welcome collection.

I purchased this. Here is Danny Barker in performance.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Gravel & Grace Bringing the Blues

Gravel & Grace
Bringing the Blues

According to the publicity for singers Ava Grace Merchant and Earl Matthews, they lead an innovative R&B and blues group fronted by two soulful blues singers. I don't want to be too negative about the enjoyable music, but what is innovative of mainly playing music that evokes classic rock and not the blues. To paraphrase an old fast-food burger commercial, "Where's the blues?"

One song, a well-played Crescent City styled shuffle, "Picture Perfect," is perhaps the only blues song. However, listening to Grace belt out "Scares Me," a listener might compare her to R&B inspired pop acts such as Tracey Nelson or Ten Wheel Drive. That said, she is an impressive singer that shows maturity beyond being 17 years old. Matthews himself has an enticing grainy voice displayed first on the southern rock-flavored "Next Move." Will Melendez's saxophone impresses here and throughout this recording. Others backing Grace and Matthews are guitarists Ricky Galvan and Issac Lewis, bassist Josh Broom, drummer Ray Vazira, and keyboardist Bart Szopinski.

Another song exhibiting Grace's alluring singing is the pop-rock "Bottles," where she displays her range and nuanced phrasing. "Love in the Brain' is a lovely soul-tinged ballad by Rhianna that Grace sings with considerable emotional depth. Matthews gravelly singing is heard on "When I'm Hungover," a song that evokes the Eagles or Jimmy Buffett. Matthews also exhibits an inviting casualness in his vocal on "Picture Perfect."

Based on this recording, if one had an opportunity to see Gravel & Grace, one could expect to have a most entertaining evening even if one might not anticipate much blues.

I received a review copy from a publicist. Here is "Scares Me" from the recording.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Omer Kringel Okan Project

Omer Kringel
Okan Project

Israeli pianist-composer-bandleader Omer Kringel's latest album is a multi-cultural project entitled "Okan Project." Okan means "heart" in the Yoruba language, and it is also the acronym for the Omer Kringel Ansamble. In 2013, returning to Israel from a visit to Cuba and Colombia, Omer met with some friends and local musicians. This meeting began the creation of this album. It took five years to complete the Okan Project. Okan Project consists of music coming from all around the globe with a track-list that fuses influences ranging from Afro-Latin, pop, Middle Eastern, African, Funk, Jazz, and more. It is an attempt to represent Omer Kringel's worldwide friendships and musical journey, and his hopes to build bridges between cultures and philosophies.

Musically, this release is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual street party with irresistible, high energy grooves, punchy horn lines, and exuberant vocals. A brief instrumental intro leads into the Afro-Cuban "Pacto del Alma," with a compelling groove, and the weaving of instrumental voices with the varied singers. 'Sembrar Amor" maintains the tropical musical flavor with shifting vocal and instrumental textures (including Heryberto Bonilla Granja's marvelous marimba). "Freedom Key," one of two selections in English. It brings forth an almost frenetic klezmer wedding rhythm as J. Hoard sings, "The key to our freedom is right here/ key to our freedom is right here/ key to our freedom is here within us." This is only a hint of the diverseness of the music here such a Moorish-Sephardic flavor to "Blossom," the flamenco-rooted "Descalços," and the lovely, thoughtful "Shekhinah." The result is a jubilant, superbly recorded and performed digital-only release.

It is available at bandcamp and other sites, I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is the official video for "Sembrar Amor."

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Professor's Blues Revue featuring Karen Carroll

The recent loss of the late Eddie Lusk hit the blues world hard. He earned the title of Professor because of his multiple keyboard prowess. While he played with numerous blues and soul greats, and is heard on many recordings, Professor Strut (on Delmark) was the only American release under his  name (actually Professor's Blues Revue featuring Karen Carroll). It is a fitting testament to a musician whose musical roots were rooted in the gospel he played at his father's South Side Chicago church, and this can be heard in the arrangements and the voicings heard here.

Using gospel and jazz voicings, his blues has a sophisticated flavor. Even a Jimmy Reed styled blues, I Wanna Be With You, is given an uptown flavor with the arrangement Professor provides vocalist Karen Carroll's relaxed, soulful singing. In addition to Lusk's considerable talents on various keyboards, mention should be made of Joey Woolfalk's versatile guitar work. Woolfalk is comfortable with straight soul-blues lines, reflecting his tenure with Otis Clay (check out his playing
on You're Leaving Me with a fine vocal from Carroll), or in a jazzy vein on the title track. In addition to the jazz seasonings of the Professor Strut, Carroll's vocal on Everything is You is more akin to Al Jarreau, than Koko Taylor, and has nice chording by Woolfalk and splendid sax from Paul Mundy. Woolfalk can sing also, although he could have chosen a more obscure vehicle than Stormy Monday, although it is very well-played.

Blues Revue is an apt description for the contents of this release. While not a must recording, the arrangements, the solid ensemble work, and the jazzy flavoring help this release stand out.

This review originally appeared in Issue 177 of Jazz and Blues Report from 1992.  Here Professor Lusk and guitraist Michel Coleman perform at the 1991 Chicago Blues Festival.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Blue Moon Marquee Bare Knuckles and Brawn

Blue Moon Marquee
Bare Knuckles and Brawn
Blue Moon Marquee Music

This disc from the Vancouver, British Columbia duo fell through the cracks last summer. Blue Moon Marquee is comprised of A.W. Cardinal (vocals and guitar) and Jasmine Colette (bass/vocals). They are joined on this recording by Darcy Phillips (piano/organ), Gerry Cook (sax/clarinet), Jimmy "Hollywood" Badger (drums), Jack Garton (trumpet), and Paul Pigat (guitar). Cardinal describes the music on this recording, "It is a fine example of what we sound like with a larger ensemble. The sound is a mixture of swing styles of music like blues and jazz, western swing and New Orleans. Think Django Reinhardt/Charlie Christian meets Tom Waits."

Cardinal's 'whiskey-drenched' vocals with his raspy, steel-wool voice might suggest Tom Waits, while the music evokes smoke-filled lounges of decades past. Some (not this listener) may find his singing an acquired taste. Cardinal wrote the eleven songs starting with "Big Black Mamba" about a shadowy, fantasy girl, with Cook's barrelhouse baritone sax solo to punctuate Cardinal's complaint about her being the meanest girl he ever saw. The tango feel adds to the song's evocative mood. Then there is the jaunty "Smoke Rings For My Baby," with a rousing tenor sax solo and driving swing guitar under the heated vocal. "Fever Flickering Flame" has the feel of a French back street cabaret. Phillips takes a brief solo, followed by a couple of animated joint tenor sax-guitar choruses.

Collette sings in an appealing, understated manner on the haunting "Hard Times Hit Parade," with Garton's muted trumpet adding musical shading. "As I Lay Dying" presents an intriguing take on feminism and the fall of the patriarchy. "High Noon" is a perky performance with a Django Reinhardt meets Rex Stewart vibe. There is plenty of delightful interplay between Cardinal and Pigat on the effervescent "The Red Devil Himself," with a delightful swinging single-note solo. "Big Smoke" is a topical blues addressing climate change about "Big smoke baby, whole town burning down." Collette's restrained, yet vibrant singing, Garton's growling trumpet, and Cook's tenor sax enliven a song inspired by Billie Holiday, "52nd Street Strut."

Better a year late than never, this listener is glad that he came upon to "Bare Knuckles and Brawn." One appreciates the cross-genre character of the music and the restraint of the performances, resulting in a most engaging album.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a performance of "As I Lay Dying."


Saturday, July 25, 2020

Take 5 With Catfish Blues

Today's short playlist is devoted to several renditions of "Catfish Blues," a song first recorded by Robert Petway in 1941 although Jim Jackson's "Going To Kansas City (Part 3)" contains a couplet that would be the core of subsequent versions of the song including songs by Muddy Waters and Eddie Taylor. It was a theme that would also be covered by Jimi Hendrix and Government Mule. We start with Petway's classic recording.

Muddy Waters' song, "Rolling Stone" is derived from Petway's recording.

Another derivation of "Catfish Blues" is Eddie Taylor's "Stroll Out West." While he recorded it (I believe) Vee-Jay, here is an acoustic rendition for The album "I Feel So Bad."

K.C. Douglas was a Mississippi blues artist who moved to the San Francisco Bay area. Here is his rendition.

To close this playlist, we have an electric band version from Elmore James disciple, Johnny Littlejohn.

I can easily do a set with five more renditions, but that will wait for another day.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Ton Van Bergeyk Black And Tan Fantasy, Fingerpicking Guitar Solos

Ton Van Bergeyk
Black And Tan Fantasy, Fingerpicking Guitar Solos
Guitar Artistry

Stefan Grossman calls Ton Van Bergeyk the finest fingerstyle guitarist in the last 25 years, and the Guitar Artistry album, Black and Tan Fantasy, Fingerpicking Guitar Solos, certainly will make both casual listeners and guitarists take notice. Van Bergeyk extends the fingerpicking guitar style, familiar to fans of the Piedmont blues, to the jazz and popular songs of Duke Ellington (the title track and a medley of Jubilee Stomp and Take It East), George Gershwin (I Got Rhythm), Thelonious Monk (Blue Monk), Hoagy
Carmichael (Georgia on My Mind and Rocking Chair), Jelly Roll Morton (Kansas City Stomp), and some novelty numbers.

Duck Baker's liner notes make the case as to Van Bergeyk's skill as a player and the arranger, noting that while fingerpickers can dazzle an audience with simple tricks, even skilled players may not appreciate the difficulty of a piece without trying to play it. From the listener's standpoint, this reviewer found these performances throughly ingratiating, and well worth seeking out by those who love well-played acoustic guitar.

This review originally appeared in issue 180 of Jazz & Blues Report in 1993. I likely received a review copy from Shanachie or a publicist. Here Ton performs I Got Rhythm.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Kenny' Blues Boss' Wayne Go, Just Do It!

Kenny' Blues Boss' Wayne
Go, Just Do It!
Stony Plain Records

"Go, Just Do It!" is the latest album by the veteran blues and boogie-woogie pianist, Kenny' Blues Boss' Wayne. Backing the keyboardist, who was inducted into the Boogie Woogie Hall of Fame in 2017, are former B.B. King bassist Russell Jackson, guitarist Yuji Ihara, drummer Joey Dimarco, and horn players Jerry Cook and Vince Maie. There are also appearances by Sherman Doucette on harmonica, and vocalists Dawn 'Tyler' Watson, Julie Masi, and Diane Schuur. Wayne's son SeQuel — Cory Spruell — infuses rap cadence and a fresh verse on one tune. There are ten originals from the Blues Boss and three covers.

Musically, this is a mixed bag. Wayne is an affable singer who is heard best in a relaxed boogie and blues approach like Fats Domino and Amos Milburn. There are tunes such as the relaxed boogie shuffle "You Did a Number On Me," where his voice seems to show a bit of wear. His piano shows little diminishment of his skills. His duets with Dawn 'Tyler' Watson, including the title track, are stronger performances that do benefit from her presence.

Arguably the finest selection is Percy Mayfield's "You're In For a Big Surprise," a duet with Diane Schuur, who has a vocal authority that matches Ray Charles and Johnny Adams, among the best interpreters of this song. Other stand-out performances include the brassy blues shuffle, "Motor Mouth Woman." Then there is the rocking Chicago-styled blues, "They Call Me the Breeze," with Doucette's saucy harmonica, in addition to the Blues Boss' piano. "Bumpin' Down the Highway," is a relaxed instrumental that allows Cook and Maie to stretch out before Wayne plays a sterling piano solo. Then there is a boogie train blues, "T & P Train 400," and the rollicking closing number, 'Let the Rock, Roll," with some Amos Milburn style boogie-woogie piano.

Given that this an election year, one can't be surprised that someone would cover the Percy Mayfield-Johnny 'Guitar' Watson song, "I Don't Want to Be President." But that song came out of the post-Watergate era, and Wayne's amiable vocal doesn't convey the wry, sport-spoken quality of Mayfield's recording nor the street-savvy wisdom of Watson's. SeQuel's rap on this track adds a fresh gloss on the performance. It is not a poor performance, just not outstanding.

I have been a fan of Kenny' Blues Boss' Wayne since his first album came out in 1998. This album may not be one of his best recordings, such as 2018's "Inspired By The Blues." That said, I doubt anyone buying this recording would be disappointed by the good times Kenny' Blues Boss' Wayne provides.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is "That's The Way She Is" from this CD.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Pinetop Perkins Pinetop's Boogie Woogie

Best known as Muddy Waters' pianist after Otis Spann left, Joe Willie 'Pinetop' Perkins also spent time with the King Biscuit Time radio program, played (and recorded) with the likes of Earl Hooker, and Robert Nighthawk, and was a founding member of the Legendary Blues Band after Muddy's seventies' band split from their leader. He has a new album on Antone's Pinetop's Boogie Woogie which is a well played and recorded collection of Chicago style blues. He is backed by members of the Fabulous Thunderbirds (harpist Kim Wilson sounds particularly good here), James Cotton, Hubert Sumlin, Luther Tucker, Willie Smith and Calvin Jones. There is plenty of strong band work and soloing, and Pinetop's solid two handed piano provides more than a solid foundation.

Unfortunately, Pinetop's low-key vocals are not nearly as strong or colorful as his keyboard work and his treatment of jump blues like Eddie Vinson's Kidney Stew, and Louis Jordan's Caldonia, are not memorable. His laconic, low-key singing is more successful on Sunny Road, and is most effective on Jimmy Reed's You Don't Have to Go, and his own Ida B. (which reminds me of Robert Nighthawk's Anna Lee). The impact of these recordings is also diminished by the fact Pinetop has recorded many of the songs before.

This review originally appeared in Issue 178 of Jazz & Blues Report from 1992. I made some minor changes to this review. I likely received a review copy from the label or a publicist. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Lucky Peterson Tribute To Jimmy Smith

Lucky Peterson
Tribute To Jimmy Smith
Jazzbook Records

Lucky Peterson's passing left a significant hole for music lovers. I first met Lucky with his father, James Peterson, while I was in graduate school in Buffalo and did a blues program on WBFO. He was a prodigious talent then, and of course, he had a significant career working of Little Milton and Bobby Bland before setting forth on his own. Of course, he is best known as a bluesman, but he had considerable jazz chops, as displayed on this tribute to one of his main influences on the organ, the legendary Jimmy Smith.

On this date centered on Smith's music, Peterson is accompanied by guitarist Kelyn Crapp and drummer Herlin Riley. There are also guest appearances by Nicholas Fowler on trumpet, Archie Shepp on tenor sax and vocals, and Phillipe Petrucciani on guitar. Things start with strong renditions of a trio of tunes associated with Smith, Jimmy Forrest's "Night Train," Smith's "The Sermon," and Dizzy Gillespie's "The Champ." There is a collaboration with Archie Sheep, "Jimmy Wants to Groove," which is a musical mashup of various blues numbers. Shepp's booting tenor sax and singing meshes with Peterson's chicken fried playing. Riley maintains a relaxed shuffle groove here. Lucky's passionate singing on "Singing This Song 4 U," a reworking of Leon Russell's "A Song For You," follows. Crapp's nimble guitar backing is noteworthy on this track. With Riley laying down a light Caribbean groove, Crapp and Lucky sparkle on "Jimmy's Groove." The trio follows with an excellent rendition of "Misty," and Shepp's gutbucket tenor sax returns for a relaxed interpretation of "Back At the Chicken Shack."

Guitarist Petrucciani wrote and plays on "Blues For Wes," a tribute to the late guitar genius and the classic recordings Smith and Montgomery made. Montgomery's influence is evident in Petrucciani's fleet solo, followed by Peterson's mesmerizing B-3 solo. It is a superb close to an outstanding recording showcasing Peterson's command of the B-3 and his considerable jazz chops.

I purchased this. Here is Lucky Peterson performing a tribute to Jimmy Smith at a jazz festival.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Mayita Dinos The Garden Is My Stage

Mayita Dinos
The Garden Is My Stage
Dash Hoffman Records

A landscape designer and artist, as well as one who has performed in jazz venues over the years, Mayita Dinos is able to combine her passions in this debut recording. She has brought together a fine group of musicians for her studio ensemble. The musicians include Bill Cantos or Rick Eames on piano; Gabe Davis on acoustic bass; Hussain Jeffry on electric bass; Dori Amarilio on guitar; Michael Hunter on trumpet & flugelhorn; Alex Budman on flute, clarinet & soprano sax; Steve Hass on drums; and Tiki Pasillas on drums & percussion.

Dinos has worked as a designer specializing in sustainable landscape design. Landscape design requires more than just a knowledge of horticulture because a beautiful garden is like a lush symphony composed of colors, shapes, and textures. Dinos was singing in various venues around Los Angeles, including at jam sessions hosted by Cathy Segal-Garcia, the prolific singer, recording artist, and impresario, when Dan Davilla, a local patron of the arts, approached Dinos with an offer to executive produce a CD for her. Segal-Garcia became her producer and brought on board guitarist Dori Amarilio as a co-producer and primary arranger. Dinos relates, "We spent hours before the actual recording process talking about my musical influences. I had painted illustrations, which I included in the CD package, that really helped Dori understand what each song meant to me. As a result, I feel that each song, as well as the CD as a whole, carries my DNA! I hear tinges of flamenco, birdsong, rain, and the longing for reconciliation with nature in Dori's instrumentation, pulse, and harmonic choices." The publicity for this recording observes that "Each of the songs that Dinos chose relates to the natural world and the music she hears in it."

The title of this album echoes lyrics in Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" about returning to the garden. This is one of several songs Dinos sings with a clear, soft sweet-sounding voice. Her phrasing flows like a cool stream while she cleanly delivers the lyrics. In addition to playing guitar, Amarilio provided the arrangements for these dreamy, breezy performances. His arrangements complement the warmth of her singing, with Hunter's brass and Budman's reeds accenting these lovely performances such as for Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower is a Lonesome Thing," and Thelonious Monk's "Pannonica." On the Monk tune, Jon Hendricks' lyrics are lovingly rendered. Amarilio transforms Charlie Parker's "Ornithology" into a Brazilian bossa nova with Dinos adding lyrics about birds soaring and nesting. She provides a fresh romantic take on Ben E. King's classic "Spanish Harlem," with Amarilio adding some flamenco touches with his guitar.

Other songs derive from such sources as Freddie Hubbard, Stevie Wonder, and Antonio Carlos Jobim with her delightful rendition of "Aqua de Beber," providing a coda to a thoroughly captivating recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. From this CD,  Mayita Dinos sings "A Flower is a Lonesome Thing."

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Take 5 With Earl 'Fatha' Hines

Earl 'Fatha' Hines was one of the great jazz pianists. His trumpet style of playing was highly influential. Addirionally, he led one of the great big bands which in its later incarnation hosted some of the bebop pioneers such as Dizzy Gilespie and Charlie Parker. We start off this short playlist with a duet with Louis Armstrong, "Weather Bird."

While not known as a boogie-woogie pianist he did record a classic "Boogie Woogie on St. Louis Blues." This is a solo performance in France.

One of the Hines Big band's most famous number was "Second Balcony Jump." The great Budd Johnson takes the tenor sax solo.

Next up is Hines playing "Rosetta" in 1939.

Last in our short playlist is a marvelous rendition of Eubie Blake's "Memories of You" from 1965.

As a bonus we have a video of Earl Hines describing his influences and technique.

Friday, July 17, 2020

The New Orleans Catahoulas Homegrown

The New Orleans Catahoulas

According to their website, "The New Orleans Catahoulas (cat-a-hoo-las) feature All-Star New Orleanians performing the music of legendary Rhythm and Blues artists of the 1950-60s such as Smiley Lewis, Fats Domino, Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, Chris Kenner, and many others. The Catahoulas aim to bring back the nearly forgotten music of that era and expose these sounds and rhythms to both new and seasoned ears, which will encourage further exploration of New Orleans' deep musical history." The group' consists of Joshua Gouzy - bandleader, bass, vocals; Gerald French - drums, lead vocals; Steven Troy- piano and vocals; Kevin Louis - trumpet, vocals; Earl Bonie - tenor sax; Oliver Bonie - baritone & alto sax; Oliver Bonie -baritone & alto sax; and Bert Cotton - guitar.

"Homegrown" may not be a profound musical statement. Still, it certainly is a fun recording that covers a variety of songs from the 1950s and 1960s opening with Earl King's "Come On," which is better known as "Let the Good Times Roll." This recording includes some classics and lesser-known tunes associated with Snooks Eaglin, Papa Alfred French (Gerald's grandfather), Little Walter, Dave Bartholomew, Alvin' Shine' Robinson, Paul Barbarin, and Danny Barker.

Gerald French capably handles most of the vocals with his strongest performances perhaps being on "Shrimp and Gumbo" (Dave Bartholomew's reworking of "Mambo 5") and Alvin Robinson's "Down Home Girl." "Shrimp and Gumbo" features some spectacular playing by Kevin Lewis and a choice Latin-tinged piano solo. Louis takes a very capable vocal on the opening "Let the Good Times Roll," which also has Cotton evoking Earl King's guitar. There is also some superb playing from the horns on Papa Albert French's "Bald Headed Beulah."

The weakest performance is on "Bourbon Street Parade," with a fair vocal that does not sound like French and otherwise uncredited. Pianist Troy ably handles the vocal on "Walking to New Orleans," with an outstanding tenor sax solo from Earl Bonnie. Danny Barker's Mardi Gras Indian song "Tootie Ma" closes this album with an exuberant second-line groove. French also introduces the band members on this selection. This tune caps a welcome, wonderfully played and sung recording of classic New Orleans R&B songs. "Homegrown" is available as a download from Bandcamp at One can also check out the band's website

I purchased this as a download from Bandcamp. Here is a short set of The New Orleans Catahoulas performing at WWOZ.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Fred Randolph Mood Walk

Fred Randolph
Mood Walk
Creative Spirit Records

"Mood Walk" is the fourth album as a leader by bassist, composer, and leader Fred Randolph. He leads a quintet of some of the finest musicians in Northern California. In addition to Randolph's basses, his band includes Erik Jekabson on trumpet & flugelhorn, Sheldon Brown on tenor sax & flute, Greg Wyser-Pratte on drums, and Dan Zemelman on piano. Also heard on this album are Greg Sankovich on keyboards & organ, Silvestre Martinez on percussion, Brian Rice on percussion, and Dillon Vado on vibes.

There is plenty of variety in Randolph's compositions and the performances heard here. "On the Upside" was inspired by Clifford Brown, and the performance does conjure up the great Clifford Brown-Max Roach group with Jekabson and Brown evoking Brown and Harold Land. Randolph takes a solo here and displays his ability to drive the quintet as well as make a melodic statement. It sets the tone for this striking album. With Brown on flute and Vado on vibes, there is an airy quality to "Unaware." Randolph plays electric bass, and Sankovich organ and electric piano on "T-Bone Slide." Wyser-Pratte lays down a funky groove on a driving R&B flavored instrumental with riveting saxophone from Brown and some rubber band string-bending bass.

"Mood Walk" is an excellent bluesy swinger with a memorable theme and robust tenor sax, fiery trumpet, and an adept piano solo. It is followed by the relaxed rendition of Randolph's Latin-tinged "Knowing," with Jakabson's warm, melodious brass. "Mr. Now" is a brisk Coltrane inspired blues with standout solos from Zemelman and Brown. "Nouveau Monde" was inspired when Randolph heard a group from the Congo playing the Ndombolo rhythm. The leader and Wyser-Pratte lay down an irresistible, torrid rhythm with Brown's robust, heated sax.

There is an exquisite Latin flavored waltz, "Meadows" with Brown's melodious flute, before the exuberant "Funky N.O. Thing," built around a second-line groove. Jekabson is sterling with his trumpet figuratively dancing, while Brown adds his passionate tenor sax. Wyser-Pratte is particularly superb in propelling this performance while adding rhythmic accents. It closes an excellent recording. Fred Randolph is a terrific musician and composer, and with the first-rate musicians here, he has produced a fabulous album.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here Fred Randolph is performing "Funky N.O. Thing," from 2016

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Louisiana's LeRoux One of Those Days

Louisiana's LeRoux
One of Those Days

Decades ago, the Louisiana band LeRoux were signed to a major label, played on album rock stations. At the time, they toured with such groups as the Doobie Brothers, the Allman Brothers, Heart, Marshall Tucker, and others. This, their seventh album, is the first in a decade. The present configuration of this group is comprised of Jeff McCarty on lead vocals; Jim Odom on lead and rhythm guitar, and backing vocals; Tony Haselden on lead and rhythm guitar, slide guitar, and backing vocals; Rod Poddy on piano, Rhodes piano, and backing vocals; Nelson Blanchard on Hammond organ and backing vocals; Joey Decker on bass guitar and backing vocals; Randy Carpenter on drums; and Mark Duthu on percussion. Other musicians heard here include Tab Benoit, who plays guitar on one number, Leon Medica, who replaces decker on bass on three songs, and Tim Courville, who plays drums on one selection.

The publicity for this release and LeRoux's website describe this as contemporary blues. Calling this contemporary rock album as blues makes the description of music as "blues" meaningless. Blues may influence LeRoux, but that does not make this recording a 'blues' album. Listening to the title track or "The Song Goes On," the Doobie Brothers, not Otis Rush, is evoked. If not blues, the title track still is a humdinger of a raucous rock performance. It has a terrific lyric about getting Memphis barbecue, going to a Mississippi crossroads, and visiting the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans to see if the animals talk to you. McCarty shows himself to be an expressive singer here and throughout.

Among other songs of note include the "Lucy Anna" with its rollicking New Orleans groove (pianist Poddy is outstanding on this song), and "Don't Rescue Me," which evokes Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to these weathered ears. "After All' is a swamp-pop flavored ballad with a heartfelt McCarty vocal. Then there is a very appealing understated instrumental, "Sauce Picante," before the album closes with the band remaking one of their signature songs, "New Orleans Ladies," which features Tab Benoit's guitar solo. It is an excellent rendition of this classic rock song with a superb vocal and Benoit's superb solo, which makes a fitting close to this recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video associated with this recording.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Vanderlei Pereira and Blindfold Test Vision for Rhythm

Vanderlei Pereira and Blindfold Test
Vision for Rhythm

While he has been an in-demand Brazilian drummer who has been in the U.S. for over 30 years, "Vision for Rhythm" is Vanderlei Pereira's recording debut. Born and raised in Macaé, Brazil, Vanderlei Pereira began playing drums professionally when he was 15. Conservatory trained and playing with a symphony orchestra, he became blind in his early thirties as a result of inherited retinitis pigmentosa. Not able to work as a classical musician (which requires reading), he concentrated on his work as a top jazz and samba drummer. Moving to New York in 1988, Pereira became a greatly in-demand drummer on the Brazilian jazz scene and earned a degree in Jazz Studies from the Mannes College of Music. His resume includes working and recording with legends such as Toots Thielemans, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, Sivuca, Leila Pinheiro, Dom Salvador, Bebel Gilberto, Leny Andrade, Tito Puente, Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Paul Winter, Claudio Roditi, and Romero Lubambo.

His blindness led to the pun of both his band's name (Blindfold Test) and the album title (Vision). On this recording, the great drummer is joined by Jorge Continentino – tenor sax, flute, alto flute, pifano; Susan Pereira – voice, percussion; Deanna Witkowski – piano; Paul Meyers – acoustic guitar; and Gustavo Amarante – electric bass. Rodrigo Ursaia – tenor sax, and Itaiguara Brandão – electric bass play on 3 tracks. This is a formidable group of musicians as is evident immediately when listening to Aorta's "Misturada." Not only does Vanderlei Pereira provide an irresistible samba groove, but the harmonious horn lines of Continentino's flute and Susan Pereira's wordless horn-like vocalizing captures the listener's ears and body. In the publicity for this recording Aorta is quoted, “The best version of Misturada so far! The melody with Susan and the flute is perfect and the band is killing.”

Meyers' acoustic guitar adds so much flavor to the effervescent "Misturada." Meyer's guitar and Continentino's clean-toned, fluid tenor sax shine on the leader's breezy original, "Ponto de Partida." After this relaxed number, there is the heat of a Carnival parade on Toninho Ferragutti's "Chapéu Palheta." The spirited groove helps spur the sensational wordless soloing from Susan Pereira and others. One cannot praise her contributions along with those of the other musicians. The entire recording is of this quality. Needless to say, Vanderlei Pereira plays impeccably throughout and displays why he has been so in demand over these past thirty plus years. This is simply an outstanding Brazilian jazz album.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Vanderlei Pereira and Blindfold Test performing "De Volta à Festa."


Monday, July 13, 2020

Wolfgang Muthspiel Angular Blues

Wolfgang Muthspiel
Angular Blues

Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel leads an exceptional trio of Scott Colley on bass and Brian Blade on this new ECM recording. Recorded in Japan during a tour by the trio, "Angular Blues"
showcases Muthspiel's craft as a composer as well as a guitarist of considerable interest. With scintillating runs mixed with carefully placed chords, he is complemented by Colley's bass anchoring this trio as well as taking his melodic solos while Blade, perhaps this writer's favorite drummer, accenting the drums with a deft touch.

Performances include the opening "Wondering" with its free-flowing dreamy structure, the title track with its quirky theme and use of stop-time, and the pensive "Hüttengriffe," where he plays acoustic guitar. Muthspiel's austere playing here is complemented by Colley's spare bass lines and Blade's light touch with the brushes. "Camino" is another performance in a reflective vein with Muthspiel's light, deliberate improvisation, which subtly builds in intensity with Blade deftly adding his rhythmic coloring. "Ride" is a spirited, effervescent bop-inflected performance with energetic solos from Colley and Blade. There are marvelous renditions of the standards "Everything I Love" and "I Remember April" (the latter number has an exceptional bass solo with his display of a marvelous technique, imaginative construction of his solos, and a splendid sense of dynamics and of tone. 

Then there are the two renditions of 'Kanon." A trio version is done in 6/8 time, while a solo version is in 5/4 time. The solo performance comes off as a captivating free-flowing improvisation where Muthspiel's use of electronic delay creates a sense of this performance being a guitar duet. Like the rest of this recording, it showcases Wolfgang Muthspiel's imaginative and adept playing that is enhanced by the splendid contributions of Colley and Blade. The result is a superb modern jazz guitar album.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is Wolfgang Muthspiel with a slightly different trio.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Take 5 With Blind Lemon Jefferson

One of the pioneering blues guitarists to record, Blind Lemon Jefferson had an influence that went well beyond his years and relatively brief recording career. We start this brief playlist with"One Dime Blues."

Next up is "Jack O' Diamond Blues," where he plays slide guitar.

Among his most famous blues is "Matchbox Blues."

Here is another classic from the Texas blues tradition, "Got the Blues" with its immortal line "The blues come to Texas, loping like a mule."

We close this brief playlist (and we could easily do a couple more of his music) with "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean."

As a bonus we have a scene from the Leadbelly movie.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Samoa Wilson with the Jim Kweskin Band I Just Want to be Horizontal

Samoa Wilson with the Jim Kweskin Band
I Just Want to be Horizontal
Kingswood Records, LLC

Vocalist Samoa Wilson has had a decade long collaboration with Jim Kweskin, exploring a wide range of music from tender ballads and raunchy blues to swinging jazz standards. In 2018, Kweskin and bassist Matthew Berlin decided to launch a project with Samoa centered on Teddy Wilson's 1930s recordings that featured Billie Holiday, a relatively unknown singer at the time. An attractive aspect of those recordings was the pure ensemble-elegant, clean, and swinging sound. Most of the songs on this album derive from those classic recordings. Other songs are associated with Rosetta Howard, Bessie Smith.

For this recording, a little big band was assembled. In addition to Wilson's vocals, Kweskin's vocals and guitar, and Berlin's bass, the band members include guitarist Titus Vollmer, alto saxist Paloma Ohm, pianist and accordionist Sonny Barbato, drummer Jeff Brown, multi-instrumentalist Dennis Lichtman on clarinet, fiddle, mandolin & alto sax, and Mike Davis on trumpet and cornet.

This album is a delightful recording with Wilson's alluring singing matched by the sophisticated and elegant accompaniments that bring forth elements of swing jazz, French cabarets, gypsy swing, hokum, skittle band, and Western Swing. While Kweskin's crooning is quite appealing, Wilson herself has such a warm, melodious voice with her tunefulness, clear phrasing, and subtle vocal inflections. The backing provided and imaginative arrangements provide such attractive settings for the vocals. The opening "After You've Gone," is perhaps the most ingenious and original reworking of a performance opening as a leisure lament sung by Wilson before the tempo quickens with the accompaniment evoking Spade Cooley with some excellent fingerstyle picking from Kweskin, accordion from Barbato and Davis' trumpet.

The title selection features Wilson's clean, relaxed singing, Davis' crying muted trumpet, and Vollmer's handsome arrangement. Besides Davis' brass, Lichtman's woody clarinet is another pleasure for listener's including "Trust in Me" and "I Cried For You." This latter number has more of a Western swing flavor than Billie Holiday's recording with Wilson, with Davis' superb trumpet. One noteworthy aspect of some of these performances is the inclusion of the original intro verses that had been dropped over time.

Davis and Lichtman, along with Barbato's accordion, reinvigorate the revival of the Harlem Hamfats hokum blues 'The Candy Man," with delightful interplay between the accordion and alto sax. Barbato's accordion on "Inch Worm" brings a touch of the French Cabaret with the interplay between the vocals of Wilson and Kweskin. There is also a splendid sax solo on this song. While Billie Holiday recorded "Until the Real Thing Comes Along," it is most identified with Andy Kirk and the Clouds of Joy with Pha Terrell's vocal. Wilson's vocal delivery is more in line with the sincere romanticism of Terrell that Holiday's distinctive approach. Lichtman shines on both alto sax and clarinet here. There is also a sublime rendition of "Our Love is Here to Stay," and an understated bawdy take of Bessie Smith's "Kitchen Man." Vollmer contributes Hawaiian slide guitar on a 1930s Hawaiian pop song "At Ebb Tide." Davis channels the bravado of a Roy Eldridge or Red Allen while Lichtman evokes Lester Young on "Lover Come Back To Me."

It was such a pleasure to listen to this recording. Samoa Wilson is a fine singer and she is wonderfully backed throughout. While a good portion of the performances here are from Billie Holiday's remarkable 19330s recordings, Wilson never tries to emulate Holiday, but invests her mellifluous voice to these wonderful songs. The result is this sublime recording.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is Samoa Wilson and Jim Kweskin in performance.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Otis Spann Someday

Otis Spann
Silk City

An album of previously unissued Otis Spann performances, “Someday” (Silk City), is welcome, but alas the cheap packaging does not match the quality of the music. This is a collection of band and solo performances by the piano blues legend. Unfortunately the sparse packaging lacks any discographical information and the biography of Spann appears like it was copied from a second rate on-line website and incompletely discusses his recording career (the notes totally omit his Bluesway and BluesTime albums as well the terrific “Super Black Blues” recording with T-Bone Walker and Big Joe Turner). The cover graphics are simple and hardly stand out.

Compensating for the mediocrity of the packaging is the music which is very good. It opens with Spann leading an unidentified band through “Chicken Shack,” followed by terrific solo renditions of “Country Boy,” and “Worried Life Blues,” mis-titled as “Someday.” I find it hard to believe the producer of this disc did not know the correct song title. Also appealing is the solo rendition of Walter Davis’ classic “Come Back, Baby,” and a nice slow blues “Blind Man.”

In addition to “Chicken Shack,” band selections include the congenially rocking “Meet Me In The Bottom,” a solid rendition of “Worried Life Blues,” and a cover of T-Bone walker’s “Cold, Cold Feeling.” These also have nice harmonica and guitar in addition to Spann’s piano. There is also a rollicking instrumental, “Back Bay Shuffle.” “Spann Blues,” with sparse rhythmic backing is a lively boogie based track, while the closing vocal sounds a bit muffled.

There is some very fine music on “Someday,” and many fans of Otis Spann will likely want the music here, which is represented as previously unissued. There is only about 37 minutes of music on this and as stated, the presentation of the material is pretty shoddy. This is not an essential release, but the music here deserved better packaging than it received.

This was a purchase.This review originally appeared in the September-October 2012 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 344). Here is Otis Spann from 1964.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Anna Mette Iversen Quartet + 1 Racing a Butterfly

Anna Mette Iversen Quartet + 1
Racing a Butterfly
Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records
The Danish bassist-composer-bandleader Anne Mette Iversen has established herself as one of international jazz's prominent bassists and composers. She moved to New York in 1998, where she flourished until moving to Berlin in 2012 to pursue other opportunities. She remains a member of the Brooklyn Jazz Underground (BJU), she continues to record for the BJU Records label. On her latest album, the bassist is joined by her longest-running group, with John Ellis (tenor saxophone), Peter Dahlgren (trombone), Danny Grissett (piano), and Otis Brown III (drums & cymbals).

In the brief liner notes, she explains that "the title track on this album was inspired by a literal race with a butterfly I had during a run one summer morning in Provence, France. Running along the lavender fields on a dirt road, while the temperature was quickly rising, a colorful butterfly came out of the wild flowers that grow on the roadside; having apparently decided to keep me company. We stayed side by side for a moment and then it started to play. It flew ahead, dropped back, caught up with me again, spun circles, twisted and turned in a kind of a dance. This went on for a surprising long while until the butterfly finally took off. It was the fun, the enjoyment, the playfulness and lightness that was so beautiful and which nature displayed so naturally, that made me feel that I really ought to celebrate those sides of life more than I have previously done in my music." In the manner of that experience, there is a playfulness permeating not only this track but the entire album.

This playfulness is evident on the opening "Triangular Waves," where Grissett, Ellis, and Brown are featured on a performance that grows out of the leader's catchy bass figure. Also noteworthy is the interplay between Ellis and Dahlgren here and throughout. There is an effervescent quality to the title track with the intriguing interaction between Ellis and Dahlgren, who introduce an especially charming and lyrical composition. There is also an exceptional Grissett solo here. Iversen solos to open up the first of the two parts of "Parallel Flying," the first part of which is performed andante while showcasing Dahlgren's wooly trombone. The tempo is kicked up quite a notch with Ellis and Grissett dazzling with their energetic soloing. This is simply a sampling of the superb performances on this recording by Iversen's Quartet + 1.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here the Anna Mette Iversen Quartet + 1 are heard performing.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Hurricane Ruth Good Life

Hurricane Ruth
Good Life
American Showplace Music

Reviewing Hurricane Ruth LaMaster’s “Ain’t Ready For The Grave,” I wrote, “Ruth LeMaster earned her name because of her huge voice in a small package  … .” I found that album to be a “solidly performed collection of blues and rock that displays Hurricane Ruth as a powerful and expressive vocalist.” Much the same can be said about this new recording whose ten tracks include eight written or co-written by her. Backing her on this recording are Scott Holt on guitar, Bruce Katz on keyboards, Calvin Johnson on bass, and Tony Braunagel on drums.

The songs are a mix of bluesy rock and roll to soulful ballads that demonstrate her vocal and emotional range. She certainly comes off with cyclonic force on the rollicking rock of “Like Wildfire.” She might be shouting the blues here, but never gets histrionic or shrill. Katz is terrific here while Holt has a hot short guitar break.  “Dirty Blues” has another powerful vocal, although Holt’s nasty tone lends this a blues-rock flavor.  It is followed by one of the strongest songs here, “What You Never Had.” Written with Tom Hambridge, this is a relaxed shuffle with Katz smoking on the organ. The lyrics derive from a comment her late mother made about not worrying about one never had as life is about living. The vocal is as stunning as the song.  Even better is the title track, which was based on a conversation with her mother a year before she passed. Again, the lyrics stand out as does the atmospheric vocal and backing. Holt’s solo is striking set against Katz’s organ. One might easily recommend this album based on just these two tracks.

 Other tracks of note include the rendition of Gary Nicholson’s “Torn in Two,” with searing blues-rock guitar behind her vigorous singing. “Black Sheep” is a fun bluesy rock performance where Ruth celebrates being a bit of a badass. “Who I Am” is about leaving behind her previous life of partying and addiction and no longer who she was. There is a conviction in her singing that comes from her living what she is singing about.  It is another terrific track on an outstanding blues and rock recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Hurricane Ruth in performance.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Muddy Waters Blues Band Mud In Your Ear

Muddy Waters Blues Band
Mud In Your Ear

Douglas Records has made available on compact disc, “Mud In Your Ear”, 15 selections by the Muddy Waters Blues Band originally issued on two vinyl albums issued back over forty years ago on what was then Alan Douglas’ new label. Muddy Waters is on the session, but limited to backing guitar although taking a few recognizable slide solos. His band at that time included Luther ‘Snake Boy’ Johnson on vocals and guitar; George ‘Mojo’ Buford on harmonica and vocals; Otis Spann on piano; Sammy lawhorn on guitar; Lawrence ‘Sonny’ Wimberly on bass and Francis Clay on drums. 

Johnson and Mojo, along with Spann, would have been featured on the Band’s opening selections before Muddy would be brought up. This recording allows Johnson and Buford to have more of the spotlight then they would live as well as allows us to hear this edition of Waters Band upfront. Johnson takes the bulk of the vocals including a nice rendition of Washboard Sam’s “Diggin’ My Potatoes,” and Muddy’s “Long Distance Call,” with his take on the “another mule kicking in my stall” climax. The title track, heard in a lengthy version and a brief reprise, is an rocking instrumental rendition of “Got My Mojo Working.” There are also solid renditions of “Coming Home Baby” and Jimmy Smith’s “Chicken Shack,” songs that were typical opening numbers. 

Johnson’s “I’m So Glad” is a pretty strong original with Muddy adding some stinging slide. Also nice are his interpretations of a couple lesser known Waters numbers, the brooding “Remember Me,” and Waters’ “Evil,” where he sings that when you see him coming better run and hide. Spann is particularly superb on these and Buford adds some nice harp. Buford comes across well on the first-rate “I’m So Glad,” and “Watch Dog.” The latter number is a slow blues with a clever lyric about needing a watch dog to look after things when he goes away on business. 

This was a tight band and these are solid performances. Johnson did record overseas after leaving Muddy Waters but died much too young while Buford made several albums until his passing a few years back. This is a good document of the Muddy Waters band of the time before Spann left, and while this is not an essential reissue, it is a welcome one.

This was a purchase. This review originally appeared in the September-October 2012 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 344). Here is a performance from Luther ‘Snake Boy’ Johnson.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Take 5 With Barney Bigard

New Orleans clarinetist Barney Bigard is best known for his tenure with Duke Elllington, and later with Louis Armstrong. Today’s Take 5 will showcase several gems of his silky bluesy clarinet style.

First we have him in a small Ellington group with the original recording of “Caravan.”

Next is another recording from his Ellington days, “Clarinet Lament.”

Here is Bigard leading a group on the swing era classic, “Rose Room.”

With pianist Art Hodes he recorded “Hesitating Blues.”

Finally he lead a group, with singer Etta Jones, performing Dinah Washington’s hit “Blow Top Blues.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Louise Cappi Mélange

Louise Cappi

New Orleans is home to many singers and performers who cross genres such as John Boutté, Davell Crawford, and the late James Booker. Daughter of a New York Jazz guitarist, singer-songwriter Louise Cappi is another Crescent City artist who mixes Afro-Cuban, soul, rock, funk, bossa nova, and blues in her performances as evidenced by this album. She is supported by a variety of musicians including pianist Jenna McSwain (who also arranged the four Cappi originals here), Paul Longstreth, who adds keyboards, and trombonist Russell Ramirez.

Cappi is not a dreamy chanteuse. She establishes her vocal personality with clean enunciation, horn-like phrasing, and tunefulness. This is evident on her original, “Talk To Me," that opens this recording with pianist McSwain soloing. There is a country-soul flavor to Randy Newman's "Guilty" with Alex Krahe adding some twangy guitar. One of the high points of this album is her paean to New Orleans, "Bella Nola” with Ramirez's growling trombone embellishing her lyrics. Another stunning original "It Is What It Is" that starts as a lament with a jubilant Afro-Cuban section before returning to a  close. Also of note is her rendition of “Summertime," during which she scats and interpolates Van Morrison's "Moondance."

Accompanied solely by pianist McSwain, she closes this album with a marvelous rendition of Leon Russell's "A Song For You." There are a couple of spots when I might have preferred if she had tempered her vocal, but that is a matter of personal taste. "Mélange" is a terrific recording showcasing Louise Cappi's dynamic vocals and musical personality.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of her in performance.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Swingadelic Bluesville

Zoho Music ZM 202008

It has been about three years when I reviewed "Mercerville," by the swing little big band, Swingadelic. Swingadelic was formed in 1998 when the neo-swing movement was cresting. Bassist Dave Post gathered his jazz & blues playing friends together to play engagements at various New York City venues. About that recording, I concluded, "Dancers and listeners will find much to enjoy in this lively, appealing recording."

In his notes for "Bluesville," Dave Post observes, "'The blues' has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different folks. Are they the acoustic blues of Bukka White, the electric blues of Muddy Waters, or the sophisticated sounds of Count Basie, Duke Ellington or Ray Charles? It could be more like a state of mind, like the mood and atmosphere created by Red Garland's beautifully mellow LP 'Red In Bluesville.'"

He further states, "Here's a collection of tunes we do at concerts and dances, in bands both large and small, all of which evoke a blues attitude. Jazz people often call us a blues band, and Blues people will call us a jazz band. It's a mixed up, nebulous world we inhabit, and I wouldn't have it any other way." Post is the only person on every selection here. The collective personnel on this recording includes Dave Post, bass; Colby Inzer, drums; Jimmy Coleman, drums; John Bauers, piano & vocals; Mitch Woods, piano & vocals; Kyle Koehler, Hammond B3 organ; John Martin, trumpet; Bryan Davis, trumpet; Carlos Francis, trumpet; Robert Edwards, trombone; Alex Jeun, trombone; Neal Pawley, trombone & vocals; Audrey Welber, alto sax; Ken Robinson, alto sax & flute; Michael Weisberger, tenor sax; Bill Easley, tenor sax; John DiSanto, baritone sax & piccolo; Vanessa Perea, vocals; Andy Riedel, guitar & vocals; Boo Reiners, guitar; and Joe Taino, guitar. Most of the tracks have a little big band, one a piano quartet, and a few with a full big band.

Performances of "The Late, Late Show" from Basie's Atomic Basie band bookend twelve other performances. The opening performance has pianist Bauers very capable vocal along with Bryan Davis' blistering trumpet. At the same time, the closing instrumental version spotlights Bauers on the piano and Mike "The Iceberg" Weisberger on tenor sax. One of the best selections is trombonist Neal Pawley channeling Mose Allison on his vocal before a booting sax solo from former Ruth Brown saxophonist Bill Easley. Organist Kyle Koehler is outstanding here as an accompanist and soloist with the horns riffing in support. Johnny Otis' hit recording of "Harlem Nocturne" will be evoked by the performance here with Audrey Welber's vibrato lending her also sax a bluesy quality which is matched by Boo Reiners keen lap steel guitar.

Pianist Jon Bauers handles the vocals on a couple of Ray Charles classics, "Mary Ann,' and "Lonely Avenue." Alex Jeun is sensational on the trombone on the former song. There is a charming vocal by Vanessa Perea on the Mary Lou Williams' ballad, "What's Your Story, Morning Glory," that was initially recorded by Andy Kirk with Pha Terrell on vocal. Inspiration for this performance is an Ella Fitzgerald recording, with a terrific tenor sax solo from Michael Weisberger. Mitch Woods guests with his boogie inflected piano on a cover of Mose Allison's "Parchman Farm," with Andy Riedel adding his guitar.

Dave Post contributed an original, "El Blues Esa Muje," which he cites Cal Tjader and Quincy Jones as inspirations. There is some sparkling guitar from Joe Taino and robust trombone from Alex Jeun along with a bass break by the composer who contributed the arrangement with its infectious use of flute. Perea returns for a rendition of "I Don't Know," a Brook Benton composed blues that Ruth Brown first recorded. Against an arrangement with effective use of muted brass and braying saxophones, she delivers a superlative vocal. Carlos Francis takes an outstanding trumpet solo employing a plunger mute.

Among other pleasures is a cover of Charles Brown's "Fool Paradise," with vocalist Bauers with Ken Robinson's bluesy alto sax solo and Robert Edwards gutbucket trombone solo. The rendition of Duke Ellington's "The Mooche," includes more muted brass (including Carlos Francis channeling rubber Miley with the plunger mute) along with Boo Reiners intriguing steel guitar. With excellent playing, first-rate arrangements, and very capable singing, "Bluesville" is a terrific recording centered on the intersection of blues and jazz.

I received a review copy from a publicist. Here is an older video of Swingadelic performing "I Want a Little Girl."

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Scott Ellison Skyline Drive

Scott Ellison
Skyline Drive
Red Parlor Records

Hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, singer-songwriter-guitarist has this new release of blues and blues-rock that exhibit his gravelly vocals and energetic guitar. Others playing on this recording include Chris Campbell on lead and backing vocals, Ron Getman on guitar, Casey Van Beek or Jon Parris on bass, and Robbie Armstrong on drums. Ellison wrote or co-wrote all twelve songs, many in collaboration with Chris Campbell.

This recording opens with a shuffle "I'm Missing You," with some searing blues-rock guitar and subtle piano. The rhythm section helps provide a relaxed groove on a nicely paced performance. Like most of this recording, this has a standard lyric about relationships, and Ellison's crusty vocal is welcome. I live about an hour from Skyline Drive in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. I have no idea if Ellison is referring to this or another place in the title track. "Skyline Drive" is a marvelous track with a romantic lyric, a jazzy, loping feel, and an ingenious guitar solo before it fades out. Not as appealing is the graveling vocal, distorted blues-rock guitar, and somewhat ponderous rhythm on "Something About You." Given some fascinating wordplay, a lighter hand in performing this would have made this song stand out. The surging groove helps frame the urgency he sings with on "Obsession." David Bernston's harmonica and Ron Getman's slide guitar add to the attraction of this track.

"I'm All Wound Up" is driving bluesy rock'n'roll some rollicking piano and Getman's slightly frenzied slide guitar while "Women Got a Hold on Me" is a low-key, stripped-down solo acoustic performance. "Breath Underwater" is a nice bluesy rock tune with interesting guitar interplay between Ellison and Getman. Ellison intensely sings about a breakup on "The Blues Got a Hold On Me," followed by hints of 'Dust My Broom" on the frantic slide guitar and groove on "Overwhelmed."

Ellison crafts engaging songs, and he performs with energy and passion. There is a nice variety of material and musical settings, and this entertaining recording will have considerable appeal for those whose tastes lean towards blues-rock.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here Scott Ellison sings "The Blues Got a Hold On Me."