Friday, December 28, 2012


Put this CD in the jazz bin! It includes tunes written by Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Sammy Cahn, and Louis Jordan, as well as songs by Steve Winwood of Blind Faith, Jack White of the White Stripes, and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zepplin. All are given inspired jazz interpretations by pianist Mike Ewbank, bassist/vocalist Tommy Dean and percussionist Colin Agnew. From the traditional to the contemporary, this album creates a musical mosaic that is easy to listen to and full of surprises.

"Blues Say Goodbye" is the creation of pianist Mike Ewbank and bassist/vocalist Tommy Dean with Colin Agnew on drums and is a faithful reflection of their live performances. The piano work is agile and inspired. The vocal performances range from subtle to over the top. The drums and bass consistently propel things as they should. You will be blind-sided by the song selection:

The first track starts with a jazzy unison bass and vocal scat ala "Slam" Stewart, which introduces a low down and dirty version of The White Stripes' rock anthem, "Seven Nation Army." After two verses Ewbank's fiery piano solo abruptly starts with a lick akin to a fire alarm bell ringing out a warning before settling into a swinging stroll. Dean takes the song out with a multi-toned falsetto scat that toys with the gritty vocal overtones of his voice over an extended instrumental vamp.

Before you've even had a chance to contemplate what you just heard, you encounter a light and airy piano introduction to Hoagy Carmicael's classic, "Georgia On My Mind." This trio takes it back to its Great American Songbook origins with a feel that invites a bit of Vaudeville "soft shoe" dancing. Everything about this performance is light and easy, disguising the tremendous technique required to convincingly play stride piano. Whoa! Is that a Ray Charles piano quote introducing the piano solo? You can tell these artists could do this one in their sleep, though there is nothing sleepy about their performance.

The drummer's ending brush flourish on "Georgia" becomes the intro to an energetic Latin feeling "It Was A Very Good Year." Mike Ewbank shines on this piece. His solo is an excellent display of the effective use of space and repetition as he states his musical premise, takes a breath, and says it again with a variation that soon launches into melodious musical excursion that goes into a jagged rhythmic transition as the verse form repeats. He makes it all work with style and grace.

Just as soon as you think you might have this little album pegged, the trio reveals rolling cascades of piano over a tatoo of brushes pushing a descending bass line. If you're a fan of early Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood it sounds familiar, but you won't know why until Dean's soulful voice proclaims, "Come down off your throne and leave your body alone... " and you find yourself in a beautiful swirl of sound and lyric as these musical chameleons make this poignant rock classic their own.

So you reach the title track and it starts with a jaunty unison bass and piano left-hand over a slightly swinging brush figure and an understated back beat. Ewbank sprinkles bouncy chord accents between the bass ostinato then opens some room for a plaintive vocal that tells an old story of estranged lovers. In the lyric the blues are personified as an insistent old drunk badgering the singer with tales of sadness and woe. The only cure is the return of the lost lover because the blues knows that three is a crowd.

Karen Greene provides musical magic on Led Zepplin's "Going To California" with tasty soprano saxophone responses to Mike Ewbank's beautiful piano excursions.

~ CD Universe

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