12 tracks / 66:23
A long path was traveled to produce Italian pianist’s Henry Carpaneto’s debut album, Voodoo Boogie. The journey started in New Orleans after a tour with famed blues guitarist Bryan Lee when the two of them headed into the studio to lay down the keyboards and Lee’s guitars and vocals. After two years, Lee sent the tracks along to Henry in Italy where the bass, drum, and saxophone tracks were recorded. The final three tracks were finished up in London with guest artists Otis Grand on guitar and Tony Coleman on the drums. The final results are very good, with a strong set of piano-driven blues that should please most blues fans.
Henry Carpaneto is the top blues pianist in Italy and is constantly working, but his reach extends beyond the European continent to the home of the blues in the United States. He appears at major festivals and shows across America, including recent gigs at the New Orleans Jazz Festival and the Blues Memphis Awards. He has worked with a fine group of solid musicians over the years including Guitar Ray & the Gamblers, Jerry Portnoy, Lea Gilmore, Sonny Rhodes, Paul Reddick, and Big Pete Pearson.
Voodoo Boogie comes in at well over and hour and is made up of eight songs written by Lee and four neat cover tunes. The first track is the original tune “Drinking and Thinking” with a heavy beat and a sweet guitar and piano intro. Lee has a very effective tenor voice to go along with his perfect guitar phrasing, and Carpaneto bangs out a complicated honkytonk piano part throughout. All of this is set over the rock-solid beat of the house band of Andrea Tassara on drums and Pietro Martinelli on the double bass.
Henry switches to the Wurlitzer for “My Brain is Gone” which is a well-written 12-bars blues track with jazz influences. Lee knows how to build a song as well as he plays the guitar, which is no small feat, and he and Carpaneto trade solos in this mid-tempo piece that will put a smile on your face. “Angel Child” brings Paolo Maffi’s saxophone into play on the album. This slow 12-bar blues song uses the age-old theme of lost love to good effect, and hearkens back to the transition of blues to rock in the mid 1950s.
The three London tracks feature classic big band blues leader and guitarist Otis Grand and B.B.King’s drummer, Tony Coleman. There is Louis Jordan’s jump blues classic “Caldonia,” so of course Maffi’s saxes are prominently featured as well as Grand’s red-hot leads. Another fine selection is B.B King’s “Rock Me Baby” and Lee does a respectable rendition of the Beale Street bluesman’s classic vocal sound as Coleman keeps time on his hi-hat.
Just to show you that Henry has a bit more in his bag than the blues, the band tears off a quick ditty, the Latin-themed “Mambo Mamma” which might not be the most politically correct tune in the world “She’s not fat, she’s just tall…” but it certainly is a fun song! They also throw a little boogie-woogie into the mix with “Turn Down the Noise,” which provides a nice break in the heavier blues action.
The album draws to a close with one last original, “Blind Man Love,” which is five minutes of slow-tempo juke joint glory. An old-time feel is attained through Lee’s dirty guitar (which features a fabulous solo) and Carpaneto’s saloon piano sound that benefits from a strong right hand. When the song is over do not pop the disc out right away, as there is a bonus track hidden at the end that provides one last taste of Henry’s piano magic.
Henry Carpaneto’s Voodoo Boogie is a testament to the value of hard work, perseverance, and good communication. It stands together as a singular body and does not sound like a mishmash of different pieces that were stuck together, which is a real danger with projects that were spread out like this one. Henry and Bryan can be proud of the work they did here, as the result is a solid set of piano-driven blues that is worthy of your valuable listening time and a bit of your hard-earned money.