Rant ‘N’ Roll: Bekka’s Back, Self-Help Jazz, A Night Out, A Canadian Big-Band, A Brooklyn Quartet, And Norwegian Blues

Rant ‘N’ Roll: Bekka’s Back, Self-Help Jazz, A Night Out, A Canadian Big-Band, A Brooklyn Quartet, And Norwegian Blues

—by , March 15, 2017

03-15 Rant Scott Ramminger (Photo courtesy of KL Productions)

Do What Your Heart Says is not only good advice but it’s also the name of the new Scott Ramminger CD (Ann Arbor Lane Music) where the talented singer/songwriter/saxophonist/co-producer presents 14 of his kickin’ tunes. Tommy Malone of The Subdudes shakes it up bigtime on vocals for the opening rocker, “Living Too Fast.” Bekka Bramlett does likewise on the following “Someone New To Disappoint.” Bekka drips sex all over her vocals. This siren of song is the daughter of the legendary Delaney & Bonnie and has spiced up the lives of Vince Gill, Billy Joel and anyone she’s ever honored with her siren vocals. When she teamed up with rockabilly singer Billy Burnette in the ‘90s as Bekka & Billy, I remember following her around Nashville like dog on a scent. The McCrary Sisters also make themselves known vocally while Ramminger rams it home through his horn. The band is all-star what with Alan Toussaint’s bassist Roland Guerin, Hall & Oates guitarist Shane Theriot and cast of thousands including a smoking horn section. False hyperbole aside (we are living in a post-truth age), with its forays into mambo, funk, rock ‘n’ roll and blues, this one comes highly recommended.

*

Singer/Songwriter/Producer/Arranger/Psychologist Sidney Jacobs is the First Man (Babychubs Records) on his second CD. He wrote “The Love Within You” after counseling fatherless kids but even if the message doesn’t move you, the trombone, guitar, trumpet and vibes will. Ditto for his “Say What You Will” swing. Not interested in the self-help of going for your dreams? Then just groove to one whale of an alto sax solo by Josh Johnson. He covers James Taylor (“The Secret Of Life”), Bill Withers (“Lonely Town Lonely Street”) and Kendrick Lamar (“You Ain’t Gotta Lie”). I could’ve done without yet another “My Favorite Things” (which is on my list of songs to retire) but the gospel, folk and soul strains that emanate from this man’s oh-so-warm and expressive voice and arrangements and the trombone of Wendell Kelly are just too damn good to ignore. Recommended with reservation.

*

Dwight Yoakam blew me away at the Mohegan Sun Arena high in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. His band features two stunning young guitar slingers on either side of him dressed to the nines in flamboyant 1960s Nudie Suit knock-offs like they used to wear at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. Yet it’s the sound of Bakersfield, California, that moves Yoakam’s soul the most. Buck Owens & The Buckaroos are his muse and he rocks that stripped-down sound for all its worth, still adding his Elvis swivels and punk attitude. Plus, when he did his Merle Haggard tribute, he sounded so good vocally, and he was obviously so into it, that he added a few more songs, saying, “I could sing me some Merle all night long.” Go see this man. The venue itself is gorgeous with a full slate of upcoming action.

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The Kirk MacDonald Jazz Orchestra finds Common Ground (Addo Records) on its third release. Old MacDonald—saxophonist/composer/producer—has 13 albums under his leadership in the last three decades. His work can be heard on 50+ albums by a variety of artists with 100+ of his compositions appearing on another 25 albums. His 2015 Vista Obscura won the Juno (Canadian Grammy) for “Best Jazz Album.” This two-disc set is a hard-charging gorgeous presentation of eight tunes ranging in length from 8:33 to 13:38 so everyone can totally stretch out with scintillating soloing and masterful ensemble playing. He has plenty to work with: tenor sax (2), alto sax (2), flute (2), soprano sax, alto flute, baritone sax, bass clarinet, clarinet, trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, bass trombone, tuba, guitar, piano, bass and drums on material arranged by Joe Sullivan with Ellingtonian flair.

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The Juxtaposition of Vinnie Sperrazza on Posi-Tone Records has the Brooklyn-based drummer/composer leading his quartet—tenor saxophonist Chris Speed, pianist Bruce Barth and bassist Peter Brendler—through its paces on a wildly disparate and entertaining 12-track debut for Posi-Tone Records, which even includes a vibrant version of Leonard Bernstein’s tear-stained “Somewhere” from the 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story. Opening with a blues (“Chimes”) and an exploration of in-your-face dissonance (“St. Jerome”), Sperrazza is man enough to tackle and tame a tune from the book of his main inspiration Tony Williams (“This Night This Song”). He wrote “One Hour” in 2009 inadvertently aping avant-gardist Cecil Taylor, naming the tune for how long it took to write. “Solitary Consumer” is Ellingtonian in scope while “Say The Secret Word” ends it all with 2:11 of Groucho Marx-styled goofiness. Recommended with reservation.

*

Here’s a rockin’ little record you’ll want your DJ to play. Reckoning (Big H Records) by the Billy T Band is an R&B, blues, Americana, swamp rock party filled with rampaging guitars, wah-wah effects, fuzztone moments, slide, sax, trumpet, violins, viola, cello, all kinds of sound to complement this man’s soulful vocals and bass. Billy T—New Yorker William R. Troiani—was a large part of bluesman Eddie Kirkland’s band for 12 years and folkie Tom Russell’s band for another decade. He also spent some time alongside the legendary Texas bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins [1912-1982] before relocating to Norway where he’s lived for the last 20 years as an ex-patriot. He’s been running the shows at an Oslo blues club the last seven years. All 10 tracks are highlights, thus this one comes hotly and highly recommended.

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Finally, Adam Melchor has a beautiful voice and fingerpicks his acoustic so nice that “Brook Revisited,” in its languid folk style, is a refreshing change-of-pace, unadorned as it is with extraneous instrumentation. This lets his composition come to the fore. A Jersey City native, the song/video is on his EP The Archer on Blanket Fort Records. It’s worth checking out.

 


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