How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Dave Specter is a blues guitarist whose music crosses over seamlessly into the jazz realm. Speculatin' is an all-instrumental album featuring a hot guitar-organ combo playing tunes derivative of Grant Green, the Meters, and various heavyweight blues guitarists.
Like his one-time collaborator Ronnie Earl, Dave Specter's playing embraces jazz, gospel, New Orleans funk, Texas blues and Chicago blues. Specter isn't as tone-conscious as Earl, but his style is very similar. Speculatin' is the work of an experienced musician who plays guitar with a whole lot of soul.
Specter's eight originals are smooth instrumentals that convey a groovin' after-hours vibe. A highlight is "The Haleiwa Shuffle," a swinging tune marked by Ronnie Earl-like fretwork and a cool solo by B-3 meister Rob Waters. "Texas Top" has a greasy Jimmy Vaughan feel. The cover of Dizzy Gillespie's "Birk's Works" is the purest jazz cut on the album, and it offers inspired improvisations by Specter, Waters, and saxman Rich Parenti. Waters cooks on Charles Earland's "The Mighty Burner," while the band dons its funky shoes for the Meters' "Look-Ka Py Py." On "Blues for Magic Sam" and "Dark Hour Blues," Specter revisits his Chicago roots (he formerly played with Son Seals).
The all-instrumental format really suits Specter, who has evolved from mainstream Chicago bluesman to savvy, versatile picker. On Speculatin', Specter jazzes up the blues with style and feeling.