Alive & Blue
Vizztone Label Group/Direct Hit Records
Nancy Wright is a west coast saxophonist, a highly respected and in-demand session musician, and former member of The Frank Bey Anthony Paule Band. In 2016 she released her third solo album, the critically acclaimed “Playdate!”, also on Vizztone. Since 2017 Wright has received three consecutive Blues Music Award nominations in the category of Best Instrumentalist – Horn.
Wright now calls her band of seasoned professionals, The Rhythm and Roots Band. She always loved their spontaneity and wanted to record the band live. They were booked at the legendary San Francisco club, The Saloon, and she called Greaseland Studios hoping to get someone to record the gig. The album was recorded by Robby Yamilov, and later mixed by Christoffer “Kid” Andersen.
The Rhythm and Roots Band includes Wright, sax and vocals; Paul Revelli on drums, and Tony Lufrano on keyboards, both from The Bey/Paule Band; Karl Sevareid, bass from The Robert Cray Band; and Jeff Tamelier, the former lead guitarist for Tower of Power.
These twelve tracks are fully mature soul-blues. Downbeat magazine’s Frank-John Hadley once described Wright’s tenor as “Noble ‘Thin Man’ Watts Southern-fried grease…with King Curtis soulfulness and buffed…with pungent Junior Walker funk.” Wright has written five new originals, including four instrumentals, each ranging between five and eight minutes in length allowing her sax time to explore the nuances inherent in each of the compositions. My favorite of the instrumentals is the soul-jazz “Jo-Jo” with solos from Lufrano, Wright and Tamelier; and the slow “belly rubbin’” Bernie’s Blues. Sevareid’s bass opens the moody “Warranty” and we get to hear Wright sing “my love gotta’ warranty, it’s got a full price money back guarantee, and if you don’t use it you gonna lose it”.
The selected covers include Lonnie Mack’s “Been Waiting That Long”. Mack was an early mentor and influence on Wright. The song was first recorded in 1987 and appears on the self-titled album by “Rattlesnake Annie” whose real name is Rosan Gallimore.
“I Don’t Want No Man” written by Don Robey was the first release recorded by Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1957 and titled “I Don’t Want No Woman”. The song was changed by Debbie Davies and appears on her 1994 album “Loose Again”.
“In Between Tears” is from Jerry Williams and Troy Davis. First recorded by Irma Thomas in 1973 the song is a wonderful vehicle for Wright who proves herself a passionate vocalist too. Her passion is transformed into a wonderful solo followed by pianist Lufrano.
“Sugar Coated Love” is credited to record producer J. Miller and first recorded by Lazy Lester in 1958; this is another outstanding vocal from Wright. “Keep Your Hands Off Of Him” is from Priscilla Bowman and Jay McShann and recorded by Damita Jo in 1961. “Soul Serenade” is the King Curtis classic first recorded in 1964. Allen Toussaint’s “What Do You Want, The Girl To Do” first appeared on Lowell George’s 1979 solo album “Thanks I’ll Eat It Here”.
Each and every track is delightfully performed by The Rhythm and Roots Band lead by bandleader Wright. In fact, from top to bottom, these performances make this the finest soul blues-jazz album of the year. Wright, Lufrano, Tamelier, Sevareid, and Revelli are one fantastic band.