Steve Howell, Dan Sumner and Jason Weinheimer New Collaboration Released 2020
It’s always noteworthy when the talents that are Steve Howell, Dan Sumner and Jason Weinheimer have a new collaboration out…just search Steve’s name via the search box thing and you’ll see much more on his work on the pages of Bluesdoodles. This latest one sees the guys taking some known and some not-so-known songs from the blues-tinged past and reinvigorating them with their imaginative arrangements. Also, it can and should be taken as a musical history lesson as well as entertainment; although not quite as bluesy as the last one, it still has more than enough to keep these blues biased ears of mine very happy indeed.
Opening with a song from 1920, Singin’ The Blues was first released by Aileen Stanley but made more famous by later covers from such as Bix Beiderbeck (who I learned of and researched after seeing the TV show with James Bolam in the three Beiderbeck detective series: I’ve never been a big jazz fan but this guy did it differently). Here it becomes a deliciously lazy guitar piece that has blues and jazz phrasing as we join the trio layering quality picking all the way and the always empathetic vocal approach. How about rejigging an Ella Fitzgerald/Frank Sinatra song? Well, with Angel Eyes, they do just that and the intro may make you think it’s going to be a bit too Sinatra but when the bass and two guitars join in, it becomes something very different as the playing lifts it beyond preconceptions and is a fascinating listen.
Next is a Percy Mayfield composition (he also wrote Hit The Road Jack amongst others) from 1950 although I first heard it courtesy of Paul Butterfield in a slightly more rambunctious style. Here the trio stay true to Percy’s original ballad approach and put those multi-layered guitars to great effect again…listen out for how to play the bass with total understanding and empathy. Duke Ellington is next on the list for their clever treatment: Do Nothing ’Til You Hear From Me manages to, in my mind, improve this song as no brass appears but the two guitars and bass make such a full sound and then spear a simply brilliant, subtle solo into it.
According to Steve (I quickly lost count) the Horace Silver composition, Song For My Father, has been covered over 180 times. The original came out in ’64 and expresses some wonderful sentiments about his Dad and I, like Steve, can share every emotion expressed as our fathers are no longer with us. The vocals are breathy as befits the emotions and the guitar solo is jazzy genius. An instrumental of a bossa nova standard surprises with its complexity and accessibility; called Dindi, it was written by Jobim and de Oliveira and best known from the Astrud Gilberta interpretation and the playing is simply stunning. Duke Ellington makes a second appearance with his Nothin’ But The Blues composition…the guys stay fairly true as they again weave the two guitars and bass around the melody and deliver this slow blues impeccably and the lyrics are great too…”ain’t got no fancy to tickle”!
The curiously titled Z’s is up next: this is from the jazzy, humorous and always interesting jazz pianist, Dave Frishberg. I first heard of him when researching Ian Paice’s favourite drummer – Gene Krupa and was suitably impressed with them both. Anyway, this is a fun song from the ‘Guten Aben, Gut Nacht’ false opening to the daft but clever lyrics about achieving getting some Zee’s (I guess it would work with Zeds!)
A real history lesson now… here’s a song that was written in 1932 for a comedy musical in a foreign language but converted to English by Sammy Can in 1937 for the Andrews Sisters.The threesome kept the original title, so Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen is the title and part of the chorus. Not a brilliant song but the guitar playing makes you listen beyond the lyrics and the solo is (again) just great. I’ll Remember April is next and, I’m reliably informed, started life as a melody in an Abbot and Costello film from 1942! Regardless, the melody is well worth resurrecting as the bass and guitars are just magical on an instrumental that will calm any you anytime you feel the need.
The final track, I Thought About You, is from the pen of Johnny Mercer and Jimmy Van Heusen and is another Sinatra made popular, although I know it from Kenny Burell’s version which is way better than Frank’s! These three give Kenny a run for his money however as they take the flowing melodies and wrap them so neatly with the guitars and bass.
So, this is an album for those quiet, relaxing times when you just want/need to lay back and be surrounded by impeccably played music that will wrap you in a comfort blanket of sound and let you forget all about everything else…or, if you want to study fingerpicking techniques that amaze and then you pick up your guitar and fail miserably to reproduce anything approaching this quality…well, that last part might be just me.
Bluesdoodles rating: A Wonderful addition to any guitar loving music lover and/or someone who wants to learn when so many great songs were written.
1. Singin’ The Blues
2. Angel Eyes
3. Please Send Me Someone To Love
4. Do Nothing ’Til You Hear From Me
5. Song For My Father
7. Nothin’ But The Blues
9. Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen
10. I’ll Remember April
11. I Thought About You
Steve Howell: vocals, guitars
Dan Sumner: guitars
Jason Weinheimer: bass
Producer: Steve Howell, Dan Sumner & Jason Weinheimer
Label: Out of the Past Music
(iTunes followed on with some more brilliant blues guitar from the slide of Steve James and the bouncing Ooze It To Me Mama from his lovely Art and Grit album.)