Fans of frisky boogie-woogie piano and ‘30s-style jazz will want to track down Boogie Woogie and Motel Swing, the debut release from Sue Palmer, former musical director of the Candye Kane Band. The San Diego native’s first solo release is a rollicking effort propelled by some devastatingly good piano work.
Palmer has clipped the crazy beehive hairdo she sported with the Kane Band, but her keyboard skills remain intact. With her powerful left-handed bass lines and tricky right-handed rolls, Palmer dazzles on several eight-to-the bar originals and a Meade Lux Lewis cover ("Honky Tonk Train"). Her composing skills also impress, particularly on her irresistible tribute to Duke Ellington, "Blue and Tan." Besides Palmer's piano, "Blue and Tan" features a growly three-piece horn section and sliding vocal chorus. Equally good are "Swango," an instrumental that deftly combines swing and tango, and "Do Lord, Do Remember Me," a traditional gospel number given a boogie treatment with two vocalists. Palmer also displays a knack for slow, sultry blues on her own "Blue Motel" and a sublime version of the standard "After Hours." With sax, clarinet and trombone, Duke Ellington’s "Black Beauty" is delivered with class and sass. And Romy Kane does a nice vocal turn on "Just For A Thrill," a sexy song written by Lil Hardin Armstrong (Louis Armstrong’s first wife and pianist).
Boogie Woogie and Motel Swing is the best piano-led blues CD I've heard since David Maxwell's Maximum Blues Piano (1997). It may just place Sue Palmer on the same high plane as her fellow ivory-ticklers Maxwell, Honey Piazza and Pinetop Perkins, the best in the blues biz today.
Track Listing: Room Service Boogie; Blue Motel; Down the Road a Piece; Blue and Tan; Beehive; Do Lord, Do Remember Me; Black Beauty; Sue's Boogie; Just for a Thrill; Honky Tonk Train; No Vacancy; After Hours
Personnel: Sue Palmer (piano); Sharon Shufelt (drums, vocals); Rob Thorsen, Steve Geller (bass); Jonny Viau (sax, vocals); Steve Wilcox (guitar); April West (trombone, vocals); Marie Pope (vocals) Robbie Smith (trumpet);. Eric Hybertsen (clarinet, sax); Romy Kaye (vocals); Tyler Buckley (percussion)
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.