The opening version of Mayall's "Witch Doctor" is a clever jazzy take that features tasty guitar licks under CJ Smith's gravelly vocal. The following take on Hadda Brook's classic "In the Dark" sticks to the sexy blues root while adding an elastic jazz guitar underneath. That's the tone here. Neither a blues nor a jazz trio, BLUESplus sets a mood that generally works well. Their version of J.J. Cale's "Clyde" and an equally interesting version of Leon Russell's "Hummingbird" each take a giant step away from conformity. The Cale piece is played as a country blues with jazz guitars, while the Russell number highlights the jazz feel inherent in the piece. Both are songs that bring out the craftsmanship of the players, CJ Smith (vocals, piano, harmonica, acoustic guitar and percussion), Ian Wroe (Electric, acoustic and classical guitars and percussion), and Adrian Ingram (Electric slide guitars and percussion). Wroe's instrumental title piece is a wonderful interface between the guitarists and showcases the subtleties at their collective fingertips, calling to mind the intricacy of Lenny Breau. Smith's "Church Street Blues" is an introspective, thoughtful and delicate piece that showcases his vocals and fine songwriting. Not everything is a homerun. "New York State of Mind" should have never made it in the door, for instance, and as much as I want to like any song that claims an affinity with Tom Waits, "From a Parisian Café (Tom Waits for Norman)" is a bit flat.
Add their rollicking take on Big Joe Turner's "The Chicken and the Hawk" to this already diversified mix and what emerges is a trio that refuses to be boxed in.
The variety that spices this disc includes blues, but it's hardly the main dish.
String Jazz is a British label that concentrates on jazz artists like John Pisano, Dennis Budimir, Lenny Breau and Jay Graydon. This is something of a departure for the label. While it leans more to the label's avowed affinity for jazz, there is enough of a blues edge here to appeal to blues fans, or at least ears with an appreciation for fine guitar work. Find them at www.musicweb-uk.com/1020info.html
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