How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
As a small-time blues harmonica player happy achieving mere competence among pros, Will Vogtman probably needs few kind words to be happy about this album.
The Maryland resident says his first exposure to music was jazz and his student playing days were dominated by the genre, making it a natural decision to take a break from the blues and record an album titled, appropriately enough, A Step Out Of The Blue.
There's more blues than traditional jazz here, but ultimately Vogtman's work might be best categorized as folky fusion. Overall the sense imparted is something akin to bar fooda cozy and immediately satisfying offering well beyond mass-produced fast food, but without any pretense of gourmet trappings. That isn't necessarily badthere are times when Vogtman's acoustic buffalo wings are much suited for the ears than Coltrane's intensely complex foie gras (or whatever it is trendy people overpay for these days).
Bits of blues, bluegrass, traditional jazz and contemporary playingall thankfully without a glimpse of mindless smooth jazz anywhere in sight. The result is a solid collection with fun compositions that make for a pleasing listen, even if it lacks the novelty and/or exemplary artistry a must-have "sleeper" disc needs.
Just the name of the song "Hurry Up 'n' Wait" is a good example of what Vogtman's up to, delivering exactly what the title suggestsan alternating of a frenetic ethnic beat with a laid back bluesy rhythm. His harp playing has the flair and energy one hopes to hear in a skilled local player, which certainly beats listening to a star playing it safe. It's always fun to hear an unusual instrument like a chromatic harmonica soloing in a jazz-oriented setting, even if there aren't really any journeys into uncharted territory. It's also worth noting Vogtman plays all the instruments ranging from tenor sax to a carton of salta colorful touch if nothing else.
The album doesn't stray far in its overall feel, yet Vogtman squeezes a lot of variety into his blend of stylesand his song titles continue to function as a menu. "Bit's N' Pieces" is pretty much a pure blues jam delivered in tiny and tasty acoustic chunks, and he wraps things up with sort of a layered collection of all his styles in "That's All I Can Do." There are some misfiresamong them an annoying rhythm sounding something like a muffled train cloys the background as he meanders through the ballad "Fast Asleep."
All in all, it's the type of album a person buys on impulse after hearing a local player who impresses at a gig or who is featured in local music stores. The ones that are well-recorded and high in spirit seldom disappoint, and A Step Out Of The Blue certainly fits into that categoryand, given Vogtman's modest claims about his current ability, even better things may find their way onto future recordings.
A Step Out of the Blue is available at cdbaby.com .
Track Listing: Off My Back, Skippin' Ahead, Secrets, Fast Asleep, Been Along Time, Hurry Up 'n' Wait, Doin' The
Dishes, Same Thing Everyday, October Sunset, Bits 'n' Pieces, That's All I Can Do
Personnel: Will Vogtman, all instruments (diatonic harmonicas, tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet, resonator guitar,
bass, Yamaha WX-11 wind synthesizer, vocals, gallon wine jug, Mason jar, sppons, carton of salt)