Thursday, October 12, 2000

Cincinnati jazz players present polished blues

By Larry Nager

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The third and final volume of J Curve Records' documentation of the Tristate's '90s jazz scene moves to a blues beat. Cincinnati has a long blues tradition dating back to its wilder days as a river town, but this CD isn't a blues collection. It's a set of jazz musicians playing blues and blues-tinged jazz.

        So don't expect anything “down in the alley” — this is blues polished up for the supper club.

        P. Ann Everson, backed by piano prodigy William Menefield, open the 14-song set with a medley of sassy blues classics, including B.B. King's “Rock Me” and Denise LaSalle's “Your Husband's Cheating on Us.”

   J Curve Jazz Collection Vol. III — The Blues
   J Curve; 3 stars
    $15 CD only

        Lightning-fingered guitarist Scotty Anderson is next with “Big Dipper,” a jaw-dropping display of fast, clean fretwork. (Look for his album on J Curve's new Roots 'n' Blues label early next year.)

        Singer/guitarist Wilbert Longmire contributes a slyly swinging “Kansas City” in which he scats a duet with his guitar. Latin X-Posure provides some Caribbean blues in “Salsanati Blue.”

        Marc Fields and Randy Villars blow some fine jazz on “West Coast Blues,” while trad-jazz clarinet icon Frank Powers teams with 'bone man Bill Gemmer on Jelly Roll Morton's lilting “Whinin' Boy Blues.”

        Dixie Karas croons “Since I Fell For You,” while Cat City goes full-tilt fusion with the strutting “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club.”

        Singer Kathy Wade and her unrelated trumpet accompanist Mike Wade sound like family as they swing though “Muddy Water.” Venerable jazz man Bill Caffee goes deep for a profundo “Stormy Monday Blues,” backed by Steve Schmidt on organ. Mr. Schmidt returns with his piano trio for the bopping “Inception.”

        A Cincinnati blues/jazz summit is a great idea for a record, but this isn't that record. Overall, the music is a bit too polite, a little too reluctant to break a sweat.

        Maybe what's missing are Cincinnati's more jazz-friendly local blues players. Big Joe Duskin could have performed with the Frank Powers group; Ricky Nye and Latin X-Posure could have pitched a Professor Longhair-style, Carib/Creole Rhumba-boogie. Willie Ray & the Midnighters could have teamed with the Blue Wisp Big Band for some T-Bone Walker-styled, swing-blues. Sweet Alice would have been perfect belting downhome blues with Steve Schmidt's organ trio.

        Yes, Cincinnati is the city where people say “please” all the time, but it's also Southern enough to be a real blues town. This CD could have used less “please” and more blues.

        Several of the performers on J Curve Jazz Collection Vol. III will gather for a show at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Hyatt-Regency's Sungarden Lounge (151 W. Fifth St., downtown); $15, or $20 per couple, includes a copy of the CD.


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