Huggy J.B. – Live At Subrosa | Album Review

huggyjbcdHuggy J.B. – Live At Subrosa

Bellaphon 2014

10 tracks; 60 minutes. 

‘Huggy’ Jörg Borghardt has been playing blues and boogie piano since the 1980’s.  He hails from Dortmund in Germany and this CD was recorded at his 1000th professional show at a small club in his home town.  Huggy regularly plays both solo and with a larger band but for this recording he is in trio mode with drummer Manni Schultz and sax player Rüdiger Wilke.  The three musicians have played together many times and pride themselves in never rehearsing, making every show unique.  This is therefore something of a jam session with the band covering four of Huggy’s own tunes and six ‘classics’ from Elmore James, Isaac Hayes/David Porter, Jimmy Cox and Luther Dixon/Al Smith amongst others.

There is no doubting that Huggy is a fine piano player but he is not a strong vocalist and sings with a pronounced accent.  As all the covers are well known the average blues fan can get past that issue but on the originals it can be a struggle to decipher the words.  Sax player Rüdiger has a tendency to overplay and sometimes produces some squealing sounds that border on unpleasant: a pounding cover of “Big Boss Man” is proceeding well until Rüdiger overdoes it in his solo.  Having said that there are some good moments when everything comes together well, as the following examples may demonstrate:

Track 6: the slowed-down version of Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters’ “The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock And Roll” is an unusual take on the classic tune which works really well, the tune at times resembling “Stormy Monday”.  Huggy’s stately piano is the focal point over which Rüdiger embellishes with his sax.

Track 7: a solid instrumental take on Bobby Hebb’s jazzy “Sunny” finds sax and piano at their best, Huggy’s piano runs sparkling throughout.

Track 10: “It’s A Real Good Feeling” is an original instrumental that closes the album on a rolling blues with plenty of tuneful asides from Huggy who is well supported by Manni’s drums and Rüdiger’s generally well controlled sax.  The tune recalls several blues and jump tunes of yesteryear and works very well.

There is some excellent piano playing that fans of boogie and barrelhouse styles will certainly enjoy.

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