Any band that takes for its name a 1961 Howlin’ Wolf song written by the legendary Willie Dixon is alright with me. With 15 tracks all written, produced, arranged, performed and released by the Philadelphia area’s The Little Red Rooster Blues Band, Lock Up The Liquor might be a good idea when these boyz come to town. Their seven albums in 30 years and constant live shows up and down the eastern seaboard have resulted in a 2015 induction into The International Blues Hall Of Fame. Combining the Chicago and West Coast schools of blues, songs like “Drinkin’ Wine On My Dime”, the title track and “Thrift Shop Rubbers” are not only great blues but funny. Anthony Geraci is one of the best damn piano players around. Steve Guyger and Dave Holtzman play their harmonicas like the late James Cotton (“Cotton Mouth” is an exquisite tribute). Kevin McCann sings and stings his strings in mesmerizing style.
Chromatic Versus Diatonic
Practically all of the great blues-harp artists from Paul Butterfield and Sonny Boy Williamson 2 to both Walters (Big and Little) and James Cotton used what’s called a diatonic harmonica. The only major star who used the much larger and quite cumbersome chromatic harmonica is jazzer Toots Thielemans. Say hello to San Francisco singer/songwriter Big Harp George who ain’t kidding because he uses that chromatic like no other. He’s totally Uptown Cool (Blues Mountain Records) on these 12 originals, upping the ante on his 2014 Chromaticism debut while singing topical lyrics on “Internet Honey”, “Down To The Rite Aid” and the politically astute “Alternative Facts”. He’s got a barn-burning band behind him filled to the brim with horns, guitars and keyboards. His Memphis/New Orleans styles are offset with a little Brazilian tang.
One Of The Best
New York City’s Verve Jazz Ensemble takes its name from the historic Verve record label, and for its fifth CD, expands to a septet with the addition of alto sax/flute and trombone. Connect The Dots (Lightgroove Media) is a swinging post-bop affair delving deeeeeep into the songbooks of well-known composers and their lesser-known gems (“under-served tunes,” according to drummer/leader Josh Feldstein). These include Gerry Mulligan’s 1946 “Disc Jockey Jump”, Stan Kenton’s 1947 “Intermission Riff”, Lalo Schifrin’s 1962 “Bistro” samba and Lee Morgan’s 1967 “Ceora”. The whole band only appears on four of 13 while three different quintet configurations and one trio track completes the presentation.
The pairing of two separate Brazilian entities — Antonio Adolfo, 71, and big-band Orquestra Atlantica — has resulted in Encontros (AAM), a dream project for the pianist-composer-arranger-bandleader who was born in Rio and studied in Paris. After 25 albums in 40 years, he can cross off his bucket list such a pairing. Brazilian jazz doesn’t translate that well in a big-band setting but Adolfo always thought he could do it. And now he has on nine originals plus a Miles Davis cover (”Milestones”). He uses five different styles of Brazilian music (Samba, Bossa-Nova, Baiao, Frevo and Afoxe) to combine with delectable bite-size chunks of funk, dance, flamenco, post-bop, African and waltz, a stunning achievement. (Check out Marcus Nimrichter’s accordion solo on the Miles!)
From Louisiana To Jersey
Peter Lin is an educator at Jazz House Kids in Montclair. He’s also jazz great Slide Hampton’s manager. This Taiwanese-American, born in Baton Rouge, can blow a big-time trombone too, as evidenced on his self-released, self-produced debut CD With Respect with what he calls his Lintet, a 10-man collective that fleshes out his lone original, a Hampton cover and five curious renditions of, no, not another “American Songbook” snoozefest, but samples of the Chinese and Taiwanese Songbooks. It all sounds exotic and punchy what with tenor sax (2), soprano sax, flute, alto sax, trumpet, piano, guitar, bass and drums (2). Highly Recommended!
Whiskey on the Bayou
It’s in his voice. It’s also in his exquisite stringed mastery, so much so that Allman Brother Butch Trucks singled him out for his Freight Train Band. When Trucks died last year at 69, Damon Fowler was, in a word, crestfallen. But then he got another phone call which lifted him out of his grief, an opportunity to play in the band of former Alllman Brother Dickey Betts, still ongoing. The Whiskey Bayou Session (on blues great Tab Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou Records), recorded in the swamps of Louisiana (on the banks of the Cane Bayou, to be exact) has the Florida native sounding better than ever.
As produced by Benoit, it features Fowler’s gorgeous lap steel and Ragin’ Cajun Telecaster (like Johnny Winter crossed with Duane Allman), eight of his roots-rock Americana compositional gems and THAT VOICE. Like a lazy slurred soulful sly combo of Delbert McClinton, early John Prine, late Delaney Bramlett and current Mike Zito, Fowler has that larger-than-life appeal, and when he wraps his cords around covers of Little Walter’s 1963 “Up The Line”, Johnny Nash’s 1968 “Hold Me Tight” and especially, the Selah Jubilee Singers’ 1941 “Just A Closer Walk With Thee”, it’s hillbilly heaven. Fowler sings it so sweet, it tops my favorite version, that of 1991 Van Morrison (it’s been recorded by hundreds of artists).
Rick Derringer produced Fowler’s ’99 Riverside Drive solo debut. Six albums later, Fowler has made his masterpiece.
Unreleased 1999 Live Stones
This one’s a good one. In fact, there’s a moment on Disc #2 of the three-disc Rolling Stones “From The Vault” series of Eagle Rock Entertainment — No Security: San Jose ’99 — wherein
Jagger/Richards/Watts/Wood, with amazing help from bassist Darryl Jones, ex-Allman brother keyboardist Chuck Leavell, legendary saxophonist Bobby Keys and Beach Boy percussionist/vocalist Blondie Chaplin stretch out “Midnight Rambler” to spectacularly slow and bluesy drama, stop-starting the song and giving Mick room to provocatively stutter the politically incorrect “I’ll stick my knife right your throat, baby, and it hurts” (he’s playing a character). It’s the best live version of the song ever, I do believe.
Sold as DVD+2CD, Blu-Ray+2 CD, 3LP and digital, this show, on the closing leg of an American tour and the return to a city they last played 34 years ago in ‘65, eschewed fancy sets, stripping down the presentation to pure raunch (the versions of “Bitch” and “You Got Me Rocking” are particularly nasty…just the way it should be). The 20-song set list has a host of highlights. “Respectable”, “I Got The Blues” and “Start Me Up” are mine. Maybe they were energized by the smaller venues but whatever it was, this is a document of historic proportions from, yeah, the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world.