THE PLAYERS. Two boldface words on the inside of the jacket say it all. Seventeen of the most gifted East and West Coast blues players, in small combos, enliven the songs of award-winning pianist, organist and composer Anthony Geraci on his new album, “Why Did You Have To Go.”
“I chose each musician for their individual talents,” the New England mainstay said of his friends. He selected them perfectly; their shared performances come together in a seamless, electrifying hour of pure blues delight. Geraci’s 13 original songs traverse a wide spectrum of music and emotion. The individual personalities enhance every aspect.
Dejection actually feels good when Sugar Ray Norcia sings of it in “Why Did You Have To Go,” partially written at the Mississippi gravesite of Sonny Boy Williamson II. Despite that solemn setting, and the matter at hand, drummer Marty Richards and bassist Michael Mudcat Ward drive a swanky beat, with bursts of neat heat by Sax Gordon Beadle, trumpeter Doug Woolverton and guitarist Monster Mike Welch.
Geraci gives way to them all with rhythmic piano, waiting until the charging “Don’t the Grass Look Greener” to commence his brilliant rippling. There, West Coast VIPs Jimi Bott on drums, Willie Campbell on bass, and guitarist Kid Ramos (all former members of both The Fabulous Thunderbirds and The Mannish Boys) meet the New Englanders, and tear it up together. Rising star and also former Mannish Boy Sugaray Rayford commands the song in voice.
Geraci gathered all his partners in Sugar Ray and the Bluetones (Norcia, Welch, Ward and drummer Neil Gouvin) for two numbers, and brought in original Bluetones guitarist Ronnie Earl to wonderful effect. That collective’s downtrodden, smoky rendering of “My Last Goodbye” finds Norcia, Geraci and Earl trading off particularly emotional pleas through their instruments — Norcia in one of blues music’s best voices and through steamy harp blowing.
Altogether a blues album of the highest order, the set actually closes with several of these masters of their craft exchanging ideas and blending wonderfully within the breezy, beautiful jazz of “A Minor, Affair.” The players certainly say it all here, but the songcraft too lifts “Why Did You Have To Go” into the category of extraordinary blues albums.
- Anthony Geraci
‘Why Did You Have To Go’
Release: Sept. 21, 2018
Label: Shining Stone