Jimmy Alter & Jason Bone • The Bottom Line

Jason Bone & Jimmy Alter

The Bottom Line EP

2014

http://www.jimmyaltermusic.com

 

Jimmy Alter’s soon-to-be-released five song record follows an earlier EP, Rock With Me. The young guitarist from St. Clair Shores, Michigan, and his band mate, guitarist Jason Bone, sing blues-based music with heart and skill. The pair has selected this short set wisely, for although all of the songs are covers, none is unknown (or, with one exception, even obscure), yet none has been frequently re-recorded, thereby introducing an element of surprise while maintaining some familiarity. That’s the way to do it!

The program opens with a bass line and hammering piano, both straight out of Little Richard, kicking off a raucous number that proves to be “Player,” an exciting throwback classic by Nick Curran. The band dispatches that tune in 2:20, just enough time to squeeze in a couple choruses of rock ‘n’ roll guitar inspired by Berry and Richards. Next up is the obscurity–I had to Google the lyrics to positively identify “The Bottom Line,” a noir-ish, mid-tempo song from the late harmonica man Paul de Lay. Bone really gets across the character of the narrator, a lonely outsider. A tersely phrased guitar break yields to Jim David’s subtly dazzling organ solo. Both players understand that what isn’t played is as important as what is.

Alex Lyon (bass) and David Watson (drums) cut a strong groove behind the tough take on “Funky Mama” that centers the set. Those unfamiliar with the original version would be forgiven for scanning their Jimmie Vaughan records trying to identify this instrumental shuffle. Bone holds down the rhythm, playing greasy lines through a Leslie cabinet in tribute to Big John Patton’s organ. First David solos on piano; next Alter, Bone, and Motor City Josh take turns on guitar. None really references Grant Green’s playing on Lou Donaldson’s classic version; instead we hear three snappy solos, each with a lot of personality, ranging from loopy, carnival-esque ideas through snarling, Albert Collins-inflected lines, and ending with a few unison run-throughs of the head arrangement, all in just over three minutes.

Hats off to Alter for reaching into the “5” Royales’ catalog for “Thirty Second Lover.” He hews close to the original for the guitar introduction and fills, but this version is far from a clone: the tempo seems slower and the track here has a distinctly boozy, New Orleans party feeling. Jimmy and the backing vocalists acquit themselves enthusiastically and well, and the guitar break is crisp and impressive. For the final cut, Bone turns to the great American band Los Lobos for their beautiful, haunting “The Neighborhood.” Everything comes together here, from the rhythm section through the electric piano touches and organ solo (take note of David’s crafty Tito Puente/Santana quotation) to Jason Bone’s vocal, in which he sounds amazingly like David Hidalgo, to a guitar solo that is at once flashy and deeply soulful.

A song like this has far more in common with the blues than do any 500 blues rock clichés. Bone and Jimmy Alter ought to be commended for recognizing that kinship, and for being willing to stretch the boundaries in appropriate and fresh directions, while remaining emphatically loyal to blues tradition. They deserve credit too for their nerve. It would be nigh impossible to top Lowman Pauling’s wit and soul, or Curran’s shattering energy, but on this enjoyable EP Alter and Bone hold their own, with mature singing and playing that promise a huge upside.

 

TOM HYSLOP

 

The artist provided an advance copy of the EP. This review was commissioned by the Detroit Blues Society and published in the July 2014 edition of its BluesNotes newsletter. Download a PDF at the DBS Web site, detroitbluessociety.org

 

 

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Nuestro Camino

dupree lp 05 outside

Dupree

Nuestro Camino

Public Hi-Fi Records, 2013

http://mikeflanigin.com/mikeflanigin/Dupree.html

http://www.public-hifi.com/

Nuestro Camino was made the old fashioned way. A few players, well acquainted with and sympathetic to each other, got together in a good-sounding room to run through a set of songs, and a talented producer/engineer got the results down, in real time, on tape. Certain details were, of course, changed. The session did not take place in Rudy Van Gelder’s New Jersey living room; instead, Jim Eno captured the sounds at his Public Hi-Fi Studio in Austin, Texas. The modern day Ben Dixon is drummer Kyle Thompson. In lieu of Baby Face Willette or John Patton, we hear Mike Flanigin, a Hammond organ maestro who regularly plays blues with Jimmie Vaughan at the Continental Club, and lays down serious funk behind Mike Barfield.  Rather than Grant Green, Jake Langley–whose versatility has been shown through his work  with artists as diverse as Pinetop Perkins and Cindy Cashdollar, and in his five years touring with Joey DeFrancesco–is on guitar.

Their band is called Dupree, and the music they make, refreshingly free of environmental contaminants and artificial additives formulated by modern science, is organ trio jazz in the best tradition: heavy on soul and standards; lowdown, yet often elegant; and clearly intended to move the body and spirit at least as much as the mind. Nuestro Camino is, quite simply, superb. Six songs make up the core of the album (more about that later). Greasy and propulsive, Flanigin’s “The Turtle” recreates the blue beat sound of vintage soul jazz. Thompson’s impossibly syncopated groove underpins the proceedings; Langley blends funky chording and Green-inspired single notes; and Flanigin builds tension mercilessly in his solo. The smoky blues “Malibu Classic” runs cooler, the B3 adding stabs and swells in the background as the guitar outlines the head and takes the first few lead choruses, mixing octaves, burbling note combinations, and fluid lines. Flanigin’s organ solo is full of hip rhythmic displacements and winding phrases.

Cooler yet is the moody, minor lope “All Or Nothing At All.” Thompson drops bombs throughout, giving the standard a rolling feel that sets the table for Langley’s fleet lines and some beautiful work from Flanigin, who dials in a series of fantastic tones as he plays around the melody. In the invigorating “KC,” Flanigin holds a pedal note beneath increasingly insistent lead lines to great effect; his overdriven tone is sure to induce ecstacy in B3 fanciers. Thompson’s part is hard R&B, just a funky, displaced beat away from Motown’s signature four-to-the-bar snare hits. The swinging “Leon’s Thing” motors along nicely, Flanigin’s trebly, hollow tone balancing Langley’s rounder sound. A vaguely flamenco-flavored guitar introduction eases the trio into the exotic “Moto Guzzi,” a sultry piece that evokes palm trees and tropical breezes, splitting the difference between Latin and tiki sounds.

Four bonus tracks round out the set. Langley submits “Nightcap,” a mellow, swaying meditation. Tina Brooks’s “David The King” and Horace Silver’s “Cookin’ At The Continental” shift the focus slightly, letting Dupree work out in hard bop settings. They excel here, too, playing with imagination and intensity while maintaining a solidly bluesy feel. The album’s surprise pick hit, taking a page from later developments in soul jazz, when pop tunes provided new launch pads, is the Bacharach-David composition “Close To You,” originally made famous by The Carpenters, here taken to church with beautiful tones and a subtle approach.

I began this piece by pointing out the project’s throwback vibe. Probably nothing illustrates that more clearly than the fact that the CD edition was actually an afterthought. The bonus tracks, included on the CD, are available as downloads to those who purchase the LP or 8-track versions of Dupree’s album. Yes, you read that correctly: the recording is available on 8-track tape. In any format the listener chooses, Nuestro Camino is wildly successful at extending the organ trio tradition. The album feels great and sounds incredible; its music is perfect for driving, for dim-light chilling, or for intensive listening. Dupree has it going on in every department: creativity, chops, groove, dynamics, tone, and songs. Highest recommendation.

TOM HYSLOP

I purchased this CD from Public Hi-Fi’s Web site.