11 songs – 39 minutes
The cover of Swingin’ Some Blues features a brightly-colored retro image of a young lady from the early 1950s, dressed in a bikini and energetically working out on a child’s swing, her hair blowing and with a huge grin on her face. In many ways, it is the perfect cover shot for Cincinnati-native Ricky Nye’s new album. There is a retro vibe to the whole release, from the warm-but-not-in-your-face production, to the emphasis on piano rather than guitar and the heavy jazz influence on many of songs. Perhaps more importantly, however, this is music that really swings with controlled abandon and there is a sense that all the musicians were playing with huge grins on their faces throughout the session. This is old-fashioned, good-time dancing music, played with no little vim and wit.
Nye plays piano and organ as well as singing, and he is backed by the seriously good rhythm section of Chris Douglas on upright bass and Paul Ellis on drums (Ellis’s musical swing on “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone” is simply outstanding). Guest musicians include Brian “Boss” Hogg on tenor sax, Sylvain Acher on guitar, Tom Moore on harmonica and Dan Dorff on percussion.
Nye’s keyboard skills are to the forefront of every song, but he resists the urge to overplay his hand, always giving the other musicians plenty of space in which to express themselves (check out Moore’s funky, staccato harmonica on “Low & Slow”). His piano playing however is top drawer, in particular when he pulls out an old classic like Jimmy Yancey’s “The Rocks”. The rhythmic thump of his left hand on a boogie is a joy to behold.
The 11 songs on Swingin’ Some Blues comprise a neat selection of standards (“Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone”, “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” are the first three songs on the album); four songs written or co-written by Nye himself, a rollicking cover of NYC boogie woogie maestro Dona Oxford’s “Let’s Have A Ball”, plus a few piano classics such as Albert Ammons’ “Monday Struggle” and Charlie Booty’s “Davenport Stomp”.
This is uptown, swinging music that is reminiscent of the likes of Big Joe Turner, Charles Brown or maybe Jimmie Witherspoon, where blues meets jazz and the result is good old-fashioned party music.
One of the many highlights of the album is the jungle rumble of “It’s Wrong”, which features more excellent harmonica from Moore and another demonstration from Douglas and Ellis of how a rhythm section should operate.
The closing track, “Epididymitis Boogie”, is a fine way to finish the album. It’s a barreling instrumental, led by Nye’s pounding boogie woogie piano but also featuring short but entertaining instrumental breaks by Hogg, Ellis and Douglas. In contrast to its name, this song will have people up and dancing rather than wincing at the mere thought of it.
Swingin’ Some Blues is a short but highly enjoyable slab of good-time, piano-led, upbeat and fun music and is warmly recommended, especially if you like your blues to include a hefty dose of melodic jazz.