Jack’s Waterfall – American Roots Project
South Bay Arts
10 songs – 38 minutes
A skintight trio fronted by Jack Licitra on keys and vocals, Jack’s Waterfall has been putting their unique spin on various forms of music. But they focus put the focus on their love for New Orleans blues and piano with their latest CD, a rollicking, all-original effort that delivers plenty of fun.
A lifelong student of great piano players who’s influenced by Allen Toussaint, Henry Butler and Pinetop Perkins, Licitra possesses an energetic, rhythmic and percussive attack on the 88s. He previously led the Water Street Blues Band, a unit that was founded in update Oneonta, N.Y., before becoming a fixture at Manny’s Car Wash, the legendary blues club that was located a few blocks from Carnegie Hall on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. They released three albums, which included the song “Blame It on Jane,” which received heavy national airplay in 1997.
Based out of Long Island, Jack’s Waterfall debuted three years later with Calling All Angels, has four more previous CDs to their credit and has served as the opening actor for several major blues keyboard talents, including Perkins and Butler. As a solo artist, Licitra has also released two additional discs that use music as a healing tool.
This CD was recorded at Sky Studios in New York and co-produced by Brian Unger and Grammy nominee/M.C. Records founder Mark Carpentieri, who handles all the percussion along with bassist Trifon Dmitrov. They’re augmented by Rod Borrie on trombone and former Water Street bandmate Steve Demanchick on harmonica.
Each of the ten tracks here explore a different aspect of the blues piano tradition, beginning with “Louise,” which delivers a big tip of the fedora to Toussaint, includes steadily rolling riffs and yearns for a reunion with a lady who’s impossible to get out of the singer’s mind. Demanchick joins the action and the sound shifts to a more contemporary sound with the shuffle, “Them Blues,” which serves as a plea to be set free from an inner struggle because of past mistakes and is highlighted by a stellar mid-tune solo.
The funk kicks back in from the opening measures of “My Baby’s Gone a Long Time,” a lyrical workout in which Licitra yearns for a return of her “crazy ways.” Heavy timbre opens “Soul Rider” before immediately shifting into a swinging, mid-tempo shuffle that preaches a person’s time is always more valuable than money because you can’t take it with you when you’re gone.
The minor-key “Wise Man” follows with a Latin beat and Borrie on board as it describes a woman who just doesn’t seem to care before giving way to “Jack’s Rag,” a Tin Pan Alley-style instrumental with plenty of two-fisted appeal.
Licitra sings praise of the value of a large social network with the Big Easy-flavored “Community” before delivering “West Texas Ghost Story,” a steady-driving blues about breaking down during a downpour in the middle of nowhere and help arriving seemingly out of nowhere in the form of a man who appears like an apparition and then vanishing into thin air. Two more numbers – the ballad “I’ve Been Listening” and the uptempo “Like an Eagle” – bring the album to a pleasant close.
There’s a lot to like about this one, including clever tunes with fine musicianship to boot. Looking for something a little different? This one’s definitely for you.