Jimmy Carpenter – Plays The Blues | Album Review

Jimmy Carpenter – Plays The Blues

Vizztone – 2017

10 tracks; 40 minutes


Jimmy Carpenter spent many years playing sax with Tinsley Ellis, Jimmy Thackery, Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington and Mike Zito before he started making records under his own name. His 2014 album Walk Away was excellent and this follow-up is also very good, albeit that Jimmy is mainly covering the music he knows and loves: blues, soul and Rn’B, with just two originals this time around. Recorded in his adopted city of New Orleans Jimmy was able to use an excellent band, the late Marc Adams on keys, Matthew Johnson on drums, Bob Bridges on bass and producer and Jimmy’s former bandleader in The Wheel, Mike Zito, is on guitar, Jimmy handling all the sax work and sharing vocals with Mike. Guests include another former Wheel member Lewis Stephens on keys, Dave Keyes on piano and a slew of guitar slingers who get a track each: Anders Osborne, Tinsley Ellis, Jonn Del Toro Richardson and Tony D (MonkeyJunk).

Magic Sam’s “You Belong To Me” works really well with Jimmy demonstrating solid vocals as well as great sax work, Tony D playing sympathetically off Jimmy’s sax. If you are going to record a blues album you should always include a Willie Dixon tune and “Too Late” barrels along in fine style with Dave Keyes’ piano to the fore and Jimmy taking a great solo. “Jimmy Plays The Blues” is an original instrumental that does what the title suggests as Jimmy really cooks on the sax with subtle organ and guitar support from Marc and Mike respectively. In total contrast Jimmy’s other original is “Kid In My Head”, a wonderful two and a half minutes with Lewis’ pumping piano and Mike’s rock and roll guitar as Jimmy states what many of us feel – that in our heads we are still kids, it’s just the body that ain’t! A warm take on Little Walter’s “Blues With A Feeling” has some great piano from Marc and Jonn’s understated guitar work, Jimmy singing the familiar lyrics particularly well and giving us another storming sax break.

Three instrumentals follow. First we get one of Sonny Thompson and Freddie King’s less well-known tunes, “Surf Monkey” on which Tinsley Ellis and Jimmy duel brilliantly before a fine reading of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” reminds us of just what a beautiful melody lies beneath the familiar lyrics, Jimmy ‘voicing’ the song on sax and Anders Osborne playing some gentle chords behind him – an outstanding version of a classic song. King Curtis’ “Preach” has a gospel feel in the opening solo sax section before the band joins in and the tune develops into a soulful strut. Mike Zito sings Otis Rush’s “All Your Love” very well, reproducing that familiar riff on guitar, Jimmy plays a sort of call and response with his sax and the ending is great, just listen to the way the band urges each other forward to the conclusion. The last song is another nod to sax players in the soul arena with Junior Walker’s “Shotgun” to close a great album that really showcases Jimmy’s playing. Recommended!

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