15 tracks; 67 minutes
Italian guitarist Fabrizio (‘Breezy’) Rodio started out in New York but relocated to Chicago where he has worked with Guy King and Linsey Alexander, as well as working on an emerging solo career. His latest blues album (he also plays reggae!) follows on from 2011’s Playing My Game Too which featured Chicago greats Lurrie Bell and Bob Stroger. This time around the guests again include Lurrie as well as Billy Branch, Joe Barr and Carl Weathersby. The core band is Breezy on guitar and vocals, “Ariyo” Sumito Ariyoshi on piano, Chris Foreman on organ, Light Palone on bass and Lorenzo Francocci on drums. A horn section of Bill Overton on sax and either Art Davis or Doug Scharf on trumpet appears on six cuts; Billy Branch and Quique Gomez play harp on one track each, Lurrie Bell handles vocals and guitar on one track and Joe Barr and Carl Weathersby share the vocals on one track.
There is also a ‘live in the studio’ bonus track featuring Breezy’s regular band of Luca Chiellini on piano, Brian Burke on upright bass and Rick King on drums. The album was recorded in Chicago and produced by Breezy, Pete Galanis and Steve Wagner. Kate Moss’ artwork is evocative of many Delmark and Blue Bella releases and the musical content is very much straight ahead, modern Chicago blues. Breezy wrote eight of the tunes and there are seven covers.
Breezy seems to have a fondness for BB King and T-Bone Walker. The CD opens with a solid version of “When My Heart Beat Like A Hammer” (Sonny Boy I) which has excellent guitar, piano and organ to make an excellent start to the album; “Sneakin’ Around” (JM Robinson) is beautifully played, Breezy’s guitar superb in BB style and the horns providing a warm background; “Please Accept My Love” (Jimmy Wilson) has some fine churchy organ from Chris Foreman and a chorus embellished by the horns. These ballads make considerable demands of Breezy’s vocal abilities and he betrays more of an accent here than on some of the songs that are vocally less taxing.
T-Bone Walker is the source for the bonus track, a late-night “Evil Hearted Woman” on which Breezy’s regular pianist Luca stars, as well as the comical “Too Lazy” – “I’m too lazy to work, too nervous to steal” – on which Ariyo and the horns, especially Art Davis’ trumpet, lead the way. Ray Charles is also represented with a short, snappy run through of “Just About To Lose Your Clown” (J McRae) with Chris doing sterling work on the organ and the horns emphasising the latin feel of the tune as Breezy unleashes a super solo. Even Elvis is not too far a step for Breezy to try as he tackles Otis Blackwell’s rockabilly classic “One Broken Heart For Sale”. Breezy does a great job on the vocals here and Ariyo’s piano and the horns deliver a rocking punch over which Chris lays out a fine organ solo.
Breezy’s originals stand up well alongside the selection of classic covers. The title track “So Close To It” is a fine shuffle with Quique Gomez’s harp and additional backing vocals from Jen Williams featured, a song that asks the question: “If you don’t like the music, why do you stand so close to it?” Breezy’s clean, plucked solo impresses before developing into a series of bends. “Walking With My Baby” features some high note blowing on harp by Billy Branch and twinkling piano from Ariyo, a rolling blues that namechecks well-known Chicago places like Halsted and State Street. However, in this song Breezy has come prepared for trouble: “I’m walking with my baby, she’s so fine. You better stay away because I’ve got my 38.”
The horns propel “Time To Come Back Home”, an uptempo swinger featuring Chris Foreman’s organ and Ariyo’s piano, Breezy giving us another fine solo before the coda takes the pace up yet another notch for a final rave-up. “I Can’t Get Enough Of You” is another swing-style tune with more of Ariyo’s superb piano and Breezy’s relaxed and inventive guitar. “Mary” is a mid-paced piece with some stinging guitar at the beginning, very Albert King in style and the extended “The Day I Met You” (a co-write with Pete Galanis) is a fine ballad on which Joe Barr and Carl Weathersby share the vocals. Lurrie Bell shares guitar duties and handles the vocals in his inimitable style on the slow T-Bone influenced “I Win Some More”. A final slow blues, the stately “How Much More Can A Poor Boy Take” completes the originals with a wry look at how relationships can go astray.
This is a very good album of Chicago blues mixing classic styles across a blend of original tunes and covers. The playing is consistently excellent and Breezy writes some interesting songs so there is plenty for fans of Chicago blues to enjoy here.