Big Jay McNeely – Honkin’ & Jivin’ at the Palomino! | Album Review

Big Jay McNeely – Honkin’ & Jivin’ at the Palomino!

Cleopatra Blues

CD 8 tracks plus a DVD

Ninety year old Big Jay McNeely still tours the world honking on his sax and amazing crowds.  He had retired in 1963 but after 20 years the itch to perform remained strong and his career resurfaced in a big way.  He was honking in West Berlin in 1989 as the Wall was literally coming down.  Here we get a set of 8 tunes from that year from a show at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood for Ronnie Mack’s Barn Dance.

The ensemble with Jay was Marty Rifkin on pedal steel, Steve von Gelder on fiddle, Dales Watson and Ronnie Mack on guitar, Keith Rosier on bass and Billy Block on drums.  Playing in the signature over blowing (honking) sax style he created, this is a marvelous sampling of soul, pop, rock and R&B with a little country twang thrown in for good effect.  The Barn Dances in North Hollywood drew many celebrity artists over the years, and this one drew in a huge and appreciative crowd.

The package has the 8 cuts on CD and a DVD from the night plus the DVD has a bonus interview with Big Jay.  Recorded August 15, 1989, the show remains fresh and entertaining even in today’s standards. Most of the cuts are McNeely’s own- “Palomino Hop,” ” All The Wine Is Gone,” “There Is Something On Your Mind,” “Young Girl Blues,” and “Big Jay Shuffle.”  He covers classics like “I Can’t Stop Loving You” in a way that is not schlocky or over done; it’s a very cool version and the crowd ate it up.  “Honky Tonk” is the other cover and it is 7 plus minutes of raucous fun that had the crowd on their feet.   Jay goes over the top on his “Young Girl Blues,” blowing his horn stratospherically to close the show; he then encores with his shuffle, a beautiful slow blues.  The set list on the DVD is the same, but getting to see McNeely work the crowd and his great facial expressions make for more fun.  Some classic old photos of Jay are interspersed with the video and the interview is interesting.

High energy and some fine saxophone with a superb backing band is what we have here.  There is nothing not to like.  It’s great to have gems like this surface after nearly 30 years for us to savor and enjoy!  I recommend this one highly!

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