Nancy Wright: Play Date

James Nadal By

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When Paul Williams released "The Hucklebuck" in 1949, it not only became a national dance craze, but also started the popularity of the tenor sax players, or the "honkers," during the golden age of rhythm and blues. The honkers had incredible chops and technique, developing a certain style and sound, that was raucous and raw; appreciated by live audiences, it leant itself perfectly to increasing radio play and record sales. Saxophonist Nancy Wright has been an authentic honker on the blues scene for over thirty years, and Play Date is her commitment to keeping this music alive and vital.

Based out of the San Francisco bay Area, Wright assembled premier local talent at Greaseland Studios in San Jose, under the guiding hand of producer Christoffer "Kid" Anderson. The action kicks off with Wright's commanding sax intro on "Why You Wanna Do It," the vocals delivered by bluesman Wee Willie Walker, offering up an infectious soul groove. Wright steps up to the microphone on the Willie Dixon/Koko Taylor grinder "I Got What It Takes," continuing her vocalizing on the jump blues "Yes He Do," her sax utilized in a more supporting role.

"Blues For The Westside," is pure Chicago heat, as she revives this Eddie Shaw number released during a 1966 Magic Sam session for Delmark. Another gifted Bay Area vocalist, Frank Bey, is featured on "Been Waiting That Long," keeping that soul/blues direction simmering. Terri Odabi adds her sensuous voice to "Warranty," which offers a money back guarantee if not satisfied. Displaying a deep knowledge of the genre in her original compositions, "Trampled," is reminiscent of the fabulous Junior Walker & the All Stars, authenticated by the prodigious Jim Pugh on organ. The amusing "Cherry Wine," alternates from a rumba cadence to a shuffling blues, while the Sammy Price burner "Back Room Rock," is back to the jump and jive era.

Big Jay McNeely looms large in the honker legend, and his perennial "There Is Something On Your Mind," is given the preferential treatment. This has always been a defining tune for sax players to see if they measure up, and Wright literally blows the top off, taking it out to the deep end. Adding guitarist Elvin Bishop to embellish the accompaniment was a nice touch. They wrap it up with another original instrumental, "Soul Blue," this time highlighting the tasty guitar work of Chris Cain. Again, Wright drops into that lower register and takes her time going up the scales for effective and emotional soloing, which has become her trademark.

This music, draped in a time honored tradition, has chosen Nancy Wright to preserve it, and she has taken on the responsibility with the reverence and dedication required. Much has been mentioned of musicians channeling the music they play, them being the conduit for expression. This certainly applies to Nancy Wright, and this record proves it.

Track Listing: Why You Wanna Do It; I Got What It Takes; Yes He Do; Blues For The Westside; Been Waiting That Long; Trampled; Satisfied; Warranty; Cherry Wine; There Is Something On our Wine; Back Room Rock; Good Loving Daddy; Soul Blues.

Personnel: Nancy Wright: tenor saxophone, vocals; Christoffer “Kid” Anderson: guitar; Chris Burns: keys; Joe Kyle Jr.: bass; J. Hansen: drums, percussion (1, 5, 6, 7, 8); Tom Poole: trumpet; Faris Jarrah: trombone; Martin Windstad: percussion: (1, 5, 8, 12); Lisa Leuschner-Anderson: backing vocals: (3, 9, 12); Chauncey Roberts: tambourine (7); Terri Odabi: lead vocal (8), backing vocal (1); Plymouth Church of Jazz and Justice Choir: vocals (7); Wee Willie Walker: lead vocal (1); Tommy Castro: guitar (2); Victor Wainwright: piano (3); Joe Louis Walker: guitar (4); Frank Bey: lead vocal ( 5); Jim Pugh: organ (6); Elvin Bishop: guitar (10); Mike Schermer: guitar ( 11); Chris Cain: guitar (13).

Title: Play Date | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Vizztone Label Group


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