Bruce Katz Band – Out From The Center
11 Tracks; 61 minutes
Considering the stellar cast of musicians Bruce Katz has played with in his career – Delbert McClinton, Duke Robillard, David “Fathead” Newman and John Hammond for starters – and considering he was a professor at Boston’s famed Berklee College of Music, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Bruce Katz can play the keys. But man, how he plays. He is a true master of both piano and organ.
On this CD, he is joined by his usual band mates, Chris Vitarello on guitar and vocals, and Ralph Rosen on drums, along with superb back-up from Peter Bennett on bass for five of the tracks (Katz plays Hammond B3 bass on the other six tracks) and Jimmy Bennett on lap steel guitar for a couple of tracks.
So, now that we’ve established Katz’s and the band’s chops, let dive into this terrific CD. On this album, they boogie, they jump, they swing, they shuffle and they conquer.
The CD takes off quickly with “Don’t Feel So Good Today”, written by Katz and drummer Ralph Rosen. This is a full-tilt boogie that Katz just rocks on the piano. When you listen to this song, you’ll start feeling better very quickly.
The next song, “Schnapps Man”, written entirely by Rosen, shifts gears into a jazz/rock organ-fueled instrumental that demonstrates just how talented this band is. This is a remarkably varied CD with all the band members bringing a lot of different influences and sensibilities to the work. This song incorporates a few of them – jazz, soul, and a touch of funk.
“The Struggle Within”, writte by Chris Vitarello, is a heart-wrenching slow blues with beautiful guitar accents and riffs supported by Katz’s B3. It also illustrates that true blues resides in forms beyond 12-bar .
In keeping with the various styles this band is capable of, “Blues From High Point Mountain” is comprised of many influences. There is some sweet jazz chording on both guitar and piano, but there are also hints of country, or perhaps more accurately, Ray Charles’s version of country, in some of Katz’s licks.
“Out From The Center”, the title track, is very, very far away from blues. It is very reminiscent of John McLaughlin from around 1971. For a moment, I was carried back to a smoked-filled basement, my head on my girlfriend’s lap as she bent over to kiss me, her long, straight hair tickling my nose. Dreamy, ethereal and a leap back in time.
The rest of the album continues morphing across genres.
“All Torn Up” – great mid-tempo shuffle. This is a lesson on how to play blues organ.
“Bessie’s Bounce” – goes to show that blues includes a very many different styles. This is a honky-tonk, blues stride piano tune that shows off Bruce Katz’s astounding versatility.
“Another Show” – another mid-tempo, piano driven tune with excellent vocals from Chris Vitarello. Actually, his vocals throughout this CD are superb. They match the arrangements perfectly.
“Think Fast” – Vitarello leads off with some brilliant guitar licks. He and Katz then continue to pass off leads to one another for four minutes of driving, 88 octane mayhem.
Not every song on this CD is a masterpiece, but they demonstrate the depth of songwriting in the band. Katz, Vitarello and Rosen all contribute solo and collaborative songs encapsulating many styles and nuances. What makes this a truly outstanding CD is the virtuosity of every musician. In addition, the production is outstanding, and the mix, flawless. This is a must-have CD.