Rhythm Blues & Boogie
The artist with the perfect name for his craft, Dave Keyes, returns with his sixth album and debut for Blue Heart Records, Rhythm Blues & Boogie. Keyes, here playing piano, Wurlitzer, B3, and accordion has earned three BMA nominations, has played in the Broadway pits, done television work, and was Odetta’s sole accompanist in the latter part of the folk singer’s career. That’s not to mention other countless sideman duties in sessions and on tour. Keyes also has a gregarious personality that together with his astute musicianship, enables him to attract elite players to his projects. Here we have the legendary soul and R&B drummer Bernard Purdie, guitarist extraordinaire Doug McLeod, rising guitar star Early Times, and one of Keyes’ regular bandleaders, Popa Chubby. These guests mingle with players from Keyes’ working unit – guitarist John Putnam, drummer Frank Pagano and bassist Jeff Anderson with two horn players from Keyes’ stint on Broadway’s Smokey Joe’s Café, saxophonist Chris Eminizer and trumpeter Tim Quimette.
The album title is a good descriptor. These are the real piano blues, the kind that you shake your booty to, those that bring you to the dancefloor, or just plain get your feet tapping. Nine are originals with the one cover, Willie Nelson’s classic ballad, “Funny How Times Slips Away.” The band bursts out with the anthemic, horn infused “Shake, Shake, Shake,” as Keyes sings over Purdie’s classic shuffle beats and Eminizer steps out with a scorching tenor solo. Our spirits are lifted immediately. That band stays intact for the syncopated, driving “That’s What the Blues Are For,” Keyes mixing in the B3 with his rollicking piano. Guitarist Putnam gets his say here as well while guest Early Times wields his axe on the title track to the drumming of Pagano and the blaring horns.
Nelson’s tune has Keyes alone at the piano crooning in yearning style. Purdie and the horns return for the NOLA-styled “Ain’t Doing That No More,” as Putnam adds greasy slide guitar and Pagano joins Keyes on the rousing, singalong chorus. Purdie’s signature beats fuel “Ain’t Going Down,” one that Keyes renders with Putnam and Anderson sans horns, as Keyes struts out on the Wurlitzer. Keyes takes a solo turn and is at his boogie-woogie best on “WBGO Boogie,” named for the terrific jazz and blues radio station out of Newark, NJ. The horns return along with Popa Chubby and guest bassist David J. Keyes (no relation) for the stirring, salsa flavored “Not Fighting Anymore.” Keyes joins with acoustic guitarist Doug McLeod in a duet on the witty ode to old age on “Invisible Man” before Keyes closes with his upbeat tribute to front line workers, “7 O’clock Somewhere,” that he first released during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The title is a reference to the shift time as nurses typically work in 12-hour increments.
This strong, joyous feel-good outing from the talented, vastly underrecognized Dave Keyes will lift you up, bring smiles, and put some pep in your step.