October 2000


Colin Linden - "Sad and Beautiful World 1975 - 1999"

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An award should go to this album for the nine pages of liner notes by Rob bowman who co-produced this retrospective. You'll learn everything you ever wanted to know about an artist.

Colin Linden has performed on over 50 albums. This compact disc is a summary of twenty-five years of musical contributions by the multi award winning blues songster. Starting with "There Red Hot" - 1975 to "Vale of Tears" recorded in 1999.

The majority of the seventeen selections are originals and Colin has many friends along the way to keep the music flowing. Rick Danko, Chris and Ken Whiteley, James Cotton and Colin James are but a few of the musical guests.

Highlights for me are a pretty instrumental by the guitarist on "Whispering Pines" and two funky originals "Love's Like Rain" and "Remedy". RF

Columbia CK 80522 To Order

John Hait - "Rollin' into Memphis - Songs of John Hait"

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John Hait was born in Indianapolis in 1952. His writing, distinctly American, follow in the paths of such heroes as Bob Dylan, Jimmie Hendrix and Muddy Waters. This album is made up of a dozen compositions from Hait's vast repertoire featuring fourteen vocalists, each with their own brand of interpretation.

Personal favourites "Old Habits are Hard to Break" sung by Irma Thomas. Tab Benoit and Raful Neal's take on "Feels Like Rain" and C.J.Chenier and his Louisiana flavoured "Fall Up".

Hard to categorize, this recording is kind of "Joan Baez meets Dr.John". Country, Rockabilly and good old stories of the human experience. RF

Telarc Blues CD-83505 To Order

Toots Thielmans - "The Live Takes, Volume One"

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These nine tracks were taped originally between March 1994 and December 1998 for monitoring purposes.

It is a treat to hear the master of harmonica playing in assorted live settings in his native country, Belgium, as well as Birdland in New York. The septuagenarian shines from start to finish. Brilliant accompaniment by four different rhythm sections.

"Comecarde Nova" (The Island) is lyrical without a word uttered. Praise for the pianist Kenny Werner. "Stardust" receives the correct touch in a duo with Michael Herr on the ivories. Listen to almost twelve minutes of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess", as Theilmans builds froma gentle ballad to full swing. Future volumes are promised. I Can't wait! RF

Narada Jazz 72438-49455-2-7 To Order

Mighty Mo Rodgers - "Blue is my Wailin' Wall"

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Maurice "Mighty Mo" Rodgers combines soulful, gritty vocals and driving rhythms, music of life's experiences.

I hear shades of Ray Charles in Rodgers' presentation. "No Regrets" could have come straight from the Charles' song book. As could "The Kennedy Song" - a retrospective on JFK's death. "Bring Back Sweet Soul Music" bridges rhythm and blues and gospel with the special Rodgers' treatment. "Willie B and Me" is a sentimental tribute to a childhood friend. Two highlights of the eleven originals on the compact disc are "Gone Fishin' ", and the final selection "Shame", a live presentation. Just try to listen to these tracks without tapping your feet. RF

Blue Thumb 314547-781-2 To Order

Jimmy McGriff - "McGriff's House Party"

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Approaching his sixty-fifth year - thirty-six years after his recording of "I Got A Woman", Jimmy McGriff is definitely still in the groove.

Guitarist Rodney Jones contributes three compositions including the opener, "Neckbones A La Carte", a funky selection. James Brown would fit right in! "Blues for Stitt", a bopping tribute to Sonny, a major influence on McGriff's early career, features saxophonists, Eric Alexander and Bill Easley. "Red Roses For A Blue Lady", a hit for Guy Lomardo in the 1040's, has never swung the way the McGriff team lays it down.

Guitarist George Benson, a non-participating guest at this session, contributed, "Red Cadillac Boogaloo". The standard, "That's All" is the fifth track - but that's not all! Next up is the title tune, early 1960's, when Buddy Rich, Count Basie, Houston Person and other greats were jamming guests. Funk at its best. Dr. Lonnie Smith on second organ, Kenny Rampton on trumpet and the solid drumming of Bernard Purdie make up the rest of the sextet. "Grits, Gravy and Groove" and "Dishin' the Dirt" by Jones and Smith respectively, bring this finger snapping, foot tapping disc to a close. RF

Milestone MCD-9300-2 To Order

George Benson - "Absolute Benson"

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It's hard to believe that George Benson recorded 8 sides for the RCA label in 1954. Forty-five years later, "Mixed Rhythms" is the word on his latest recording. "The Ghetto", "El Barrio", "Jazzenco", "Deeper Than You Think", and "Medicine Man" have a distinctive latin feel. "One on One", is a jazz waltz, "Hipping the Hop", funk, "Lately", by Stevie Wonder, with strings in the background, and "Come Back Baby", by Ray Charles, create the romantic Benson mood. Joe Sample supplies two hands with some fine piano playing as well as contributing four of the aforementioned compositions. Never fear, George does lend his vocal chords to three tunes with his trademark harmonies. Benson fans will approve. RF

Verve 314 543 586-2 To Order

Sonny Criss - "The Complete Imperial Sessions" (2 CD set)

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Unfamiliar with his work, I'm now a fan of the late Sonny Criss. Leave it to Blue Note to pick up another wonderful collection of a long neglected artist. The complete Imperial sessions are a compilation of three albums unavailable for decades - Jazz U.S.A., Go Man! and Plays Cole Porter, present the melodic alto saxophonist in settings recorded between January and October, 1956.

William "Sonny" Criss originally played in Howard McGhee's band along with one of his major influences, Charlie Parker. He had a mature style with warm, rich tones and a prominent vibrato, that Parker lacked. Unfortunately, in his short life, he never gained the recognition he deserved. This two CD set is made up of over two dozen standards as well as several Criss originals. The three backup groups are well chosen, made up of some of the premier players of the era - Barney Kessel, Kenny Drew, Bill Woodson, Chuck Thompson, Sonny Clark, Leroy Vinnegar, Lawrence Marable, Lary Bunker and Buddy Clark. I agree with the liner notes, the set with Barney Kessel is superb, and Criss' "West Coast Blues" is a stand out, but my personal favourite section is the "Plays Cole Porter" recordings. Compare the Criss rendition with one of Charlie Parker's last sessions for Verve. Several of the same standards receive a different approach, but clearly show Bird's influence - Larry Bunker, on vibes is wonderful asset.

Sonny Criss lived 20 years longer than Charlie Parker. We lost another great one when, suffering from cancer, he took his own life in 1975 at age 50. These recordings show him at his very best - listen, you'll beg for more. RF

Blue Note 7243 5 24564 2 0 To Order

Ernestine Anderson - "Ballad Essentials"

Yet another of Concord's midline-priced releases showcases vocalist Ernestine Anderson in a laid-back,lyrical mood, supported by a prestigious array of pianists - George Shearing, Monty Alexander, Gene Harris, Hank Jones - as well as the talents of saxophonists Marshall Royal, Frank Wess, and Red Holloway. The 12 pressings, from 1979 to 1990, downplay her customary "...sassy and soulful renditions of mediul-tempo pieces..." (liner), substituting instead numbers that give full vent to the dramatic shadings and creamy timbre of her rich contralto voice - "Time After Time", "Spring is Here", "Skylark". Ellington's "I'm Just a Lucky so and So" is given a bluesy, soulful treatment by Anderson, Harris and Holloway, while she is joined by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra in an emotionally-charged version of the standard "Wait Till You See Him". Anderson's ability to make a song her own has not diminished over the years. JS

Concord CCD-4886-2 To Order

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