Macy Blackman & The Mighty Fines
I Didn’t Want To Do It
MamaRu Records, 2013
The pianist Macy Blackman, a longtime music educator and piano expert, has been an active performer since the 1960s, specializing in jazz and rhythm and blues, and in particular the R&B music of New Orleans. He has just released his third album with his band The Mighty Fines. The 14 tracks on I Didn’t Want To Do It supply everything necessary for a rollicking good time except the partygoers.
The rock-solid Mighty Fines are Jack Dorsey or Adam Goodhue (drums), Bing Nathan (bass), Ken Jacobs (baritone saxophone–delicious!), and Nancy Wright (tenor saxophone, vocals), supporting Blackman (piano), whose singing is excellent and interesting. In contrast to the Mighty Fines’ lively and infectious music, Blackman’s vocal style is pretty far from excitable–not deliberate, exactly; languid perhaps comes closer. Although I have no sense that Blackman is trying to imitate the great Professor Longhair, and any similarity lies more in feeling and attitude than in sonic resemblance, his resonant timbre and playful, yet somehow grave quality do recall Fess. That is no small asset for anyone singing Crescent City music.
The playlist includes standards and obscurities alike, reflecting Blackman’s long history and close involvement with this repertoire. The latter category includes the woozy rocker “Help Yourself,” credited to Allen Toussaint, and “The Good Book,” a brooding, gospel-inflected number in a minor key. Blackman sings the standard “What Do I Tell My Heart” beautifully, his 12/8 piano figure reflecting Fats Domino’s version; the saxophone charts are sublime. Blackman’s friend Dr. John penned the lovely ballad “Just The Same” and, with Doc Pomus, the sly, bouncing “Never Fool Nobody But Me.” More familiar are “Who Shot The La-La,” a classy take on Irma Thomas’s “Somebody Told You” with a solid Wright vocal, the title track–a romp from The Spiders’ catalog with a chorus and a descending hook that you’ll recognize at once if you have ever heard it–and Chris Kenner’s immortal “I Like It Like That,” one of those songs that seems to encapsulate everything about New Orleans music: rippling piano, soul-clap snare hits, honking saxophones, Afro-Caribbean flavor, stop-time rhythms, an instantly memorable melody and lyric.
Blackman draws from other sources as well. The deep soul ballad “Dreams To Remember” is presented in an arrangement not far from Otis Redding’s original, with Blackman, playing the only guitar part on the album, filling Steve Cropper’s role. Blackman’s piano rhythms are quietly spectacular on a jaunty “Something’s Got A Hold On Me.” Wright sings lead on that Etta James classic and on Ike and Tina Turner’s “A Fool In Love,” which is enhanced by a tough sax solo and such delightful touches as the bold fill by Dorsey at 2:31. The Brook Benton-Dinah Washington duet “Rockin’ Good Way,” shorn of strings and its politely rocking, straight-eighth-note rhythm, is recast as a syncopated, shuffling New Orleans strut, and Jackie Wilson’s immortal “Higher And Higher” closes the program on a high note, sounding very much like a one-pass (and maybe one microphone) take that builds on Blackman’s block-chorded introduction, with rowdy hand claps, uninhibited drumming, and wild saxophones creating an irresistible, pure party atmosphere.
That sense of fun is at the heart of what most of us think of when it comes to the R&B of New Orleans, and Macy Blackman & The Mighty Fines convey it perfectly. I Didn’t Want To Do It goes further, showing rarer aspects of New Orleans’s music: Saturday night and Sunday morning, romance and heartbreak, high seriousness and low clowning, all skillfully played and sung.
I received the review copy of this CD from Blackman’s publicist, PR by DR.