Rant ‘N’ Roll: Blues Rock & Synesthesia

The various pre-’63 artists of More Boss Black Rockers Volume #4:  Koko Joe (Koko Mojo Record Stack, Ireland) keep this thing poppin’ with wild abandon. From an early and quite rare Supremes track (“Fidgety”) to The King of the Stroll, Chuck Willis, bragging about his “Kansas City Woman,” these 28 cleaned up and dusted off tracks are a party. The Five Du-Tones introduce “The Flea” (a dance that never became a craze). NFL Pro Bowl linebacker Roosevelt Grier (who was also an actor and Protestant minister) gets down with his passionate plea of “Lover, Set Me Free.” Sure, the stars are out: Scatman Crothers, Little Willie John, Bo Diddley, and James Brown and the Famous Flames, but it’s the one-hit wonders like King Sid and The Four Princes, The Hollywood Flames (who actually enjoyed three hits), and Guitar Junior who steal the show.

Singer/songwriter/pianist Ben Levin is only 22, but four albums into a blues career that had him touring Europe and performing on Joe Bonamassa’s “Keeping The Blues Alive” sea cruise, he’s a tested veteran. Yeah, he’s the real deal alright, especially after falling under the tutelage of Phillip Paul, the 92-year old session drummer for legendary Cincinnati label King Records. Ever since then he’s sought out the guidance of older generations of blues stars. Take Your Time (VizzTone Label Group) has him jamming with 93-year-old bassist/vocalist Bob Stroger, 68-year-old Chicago slide guitarist Little Ed Williams, and Little Jimmy Reed, pushing 80, known as “The Last of the Louisiana Bluesmen” (not to be confused with the legendary Jimmy Reed [1925-1976]). It’s a rollicking affair, filled to the brim with boogie-woogie, jump blues, deep dark blues mournful in scope yet uplifting in effect. Highlights include “Jazz Man Blues,” “I’ve Been Drinking Muddy Water,” “Longer Hours Shorter Pay,” and the “Mr. Stroger’s Strut” finale. 

Eric Demmer plays So Fine on his Gulf Coast Records debut. After years of blowing sax for the likes of The Allman Brothers, BB King, Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John, and Buddy Guy, this funky Texan joined the band of the legendary Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown until Brown’s 2005 death when he hooked up with St. Louis’ guitar hero, Mike Zito. Zito wound up producing So Fine, singing and adding his signature hot licks. (Anything that has Zito’s name attached to it is going to be worth hearing.) Demmer winds up being a soulful singer and one has to wonder why it took him decades to step out in front. Punctuated by The Grooveline Horns, So Fine rocks. 

The genius in our midst is Brazilian Ivo Perelman who hears colors and sees sound – literally. The condition is known as synesthesia and only 4% of the people on Earth have it. Based in New York City, the 62-year-old tenor-sax-man puts out albums faster than I can listen to them. Specializing in free jazz, with no nods to time signatures, melodic constructions, harmony or anything easy, Ivo’s music is challenging, circuitous, mystifying, and adventurous to the max. Supreme avant-garde, yet it is – amazingly enough – accessible enough for the normal ear to digest. On Molten Gold, he spins his spiraling ascending sax lines up and through the stratosphere, aided and abetted by like-minded cats who do their damndest to keep up with him. This time, though, the other three musicians are pioneers in their own right. Trombonist Ray Anderson, double-bassist Joe Morris, and drummer Reggie Nicholson have all played with the biggest and the best. Recorded in Brooklyn last November, the shortest track of six on two CDs is opener “Warming Up,” which rumbles and rambles for 20 minutes. Then it gets really strange. At times, it sounds like there’s a wild animal breathing heavily in the room with you. In a career spanning 34 years, he’s recorded over 100 albums. The next one after Molten Gold comes out mere days from now. There’s just no stopping him!