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Saturday, August 10, 2019

CD Review: Blind Lemon Jazz - After Hours, the songs of James Byfield

Blind Lemon Pledge aka James Byfield (guitar/vocals); Ben Flint (keys); Peter Grenell (bass); Joe Kelner (drums) Marisa Malvino (vocals)
(Review by Lance).

Blind Lemon Pledge, probably isn't blind, but James Byfield - to give him his correct name - is as fine a blues/swing composer/arranger as anyone who never hung out on 12th St. & Vine or slept in a hollow log. 13 original numbers played by an excellent quartet, that bring to mind a Harlem club back in the '30s/'40s. Yes, it's after hours uptown, the sweet smell of weed, cheap liquor, a piano plays, a cigarette dangles from the pianist's mouth. A woman leans against the piano, split skirt, some cleavage and lots of lipstick - maybe even a gardenia in her hair - she  sings the blues and she means it even though it isn't all blues.

That's the image. The reality in 2019 is that the musicians probably don't smoke or drink and Malvino wears designer jeans and keeps herself covered up. That doesn't detract from the music which is quite delightful and stays just this side of earthy. Malvino has the voice to deliver Byfield's lyrics - they aren't all 12 bars but the mood is and the singer conveys that mood. On piano, Flint solos like he was playing on pre-bop 52nd St., bass and drums don't intrude and, as befits the title, relaxation is what it's all about.

As a bonus, on track 13, Byfield picks up his guitar and sings Blue Heartbreak. It's hard to conceive that before he took up music full time he was an award winning media designer and producer and one of the pioneer designers in computer graphics, working successfully in film, television, radio and print.

Who was it who said you have to live the blues to play the blues? Maybe in these times you just get the blues in different places...
Lance.
Released on July 1 and available via the usual suspects.

After Hours; If Beale Street was a Woman; Rich People in Love; How Can I Still Love You? Bobby's Blues; Livin' my Life With the Blues; You Can't Get There From Here; Moon Over Memphis; Ketchup Spaghetti; You Had me at Goodbye; Buddy Bolden's Song; Light's Out; Blue Heartbreak.

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