Paul Oscher – Cool Cat
Blue Fidelity Recordings
Blues legend Paul Oscher plays piano and guitar along with harp and spent his early career on Chicago’s South Side. Sharing a basement with Otis Spann in Muddy Water’s house, Paul toured and recorded with Muddy and played with many of the notables in the blues. His career had spanned decades and he continues to churn out great music while continuing to inspire harp players around the globe. All original tunes are included here except for one cover.
Oscher plays harp and piano on all tracks. He sings on 8 of them and plays guitar on 4. Johnny Ace, Sarah Brown, Chris Alcaraz and Kid Anderson share the bass duties. Drummers are Russell Lee, Ernie Durawa and June Cone. Lee also sings on a foursome of the cuts. Mike Schermer and Mike Keller play guitar along with Oscher. Sax work was provided by Eric Burnhardt, Tom Robinson, and Tomas Ramirez. Other lead vocalists are Miss Lavelle White on “Dirty Dealin Mama” and Lisa Leuschner on the long version of the title track. Backing vocals on “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” are by Sunny Lowdown and Jeremy Dowden.
The CD opens with a NOLA flair in “Money Makin’ Woman.” The horns provide a great backing and Oscher tinkles the keys with the best of them as he growls out the lead vocals. Nice piano and sax solos here, too! “Blues and Trouble” is a thoughtful, slow blues. Paul is gritty and cool in his delivery. The tenor sax solo is beautiful mid cut and we get a little dirty guitar soloing late in the piece. “Hide Out Baby” is a fun little shuffle and features a big guitar solo and later the first appearance with Paul on harp. It’s a nice number. The harp introduces “Work That Stuff,” a blues ballad that Oscher plays and sings with emotion. The harp is excellent; he plays with restraint that just grabs the listener in this cool cut.
The lone cover is Muddy’s “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and features a trio with Oscher and the two backing vocalist. Keller and Brown along with Oscher give us great guitar work to savor here in a simple and stark cover with the snare driving the beat. The title cut has three variants. Here next the first is a prologue by Oscher speaking and playing a little piano and talking about a guy who walked by Muddy’s house with a cat tied to his waist. The cat wore a beret and sunglasses and called the cat Cool Cat. The premise for he tune is the guy’s flute tune which Oscher plays for us on the piano and simulates the kids who followed the man and his cat with some recorded kids. He transitions in the Jazz Quartet version with Durama, Ramirez and Alcarez. It’s a pretty and jazzy blues instrumental.
“Mississippi Poem” is a very dark and cool poem recited by Russell Lee before he takes the lead vocals on “Ain’t That A Man (Dedicated to Mr. Cotton).” You can figure out who the tune is about as Lee speaks and sings the lyrical tribute to James Cotton. Very cool. Miss Lavelle White is on the following tune and gives us some very cool vocals on “Dirty Dealin’ Mama.” Full of double entendres, Oscher on piano and guitar and Robinson on sax give her a great backdrop to deliver her cut.
The jazz quartet returns for “On The Edge,” and this one is pure jazz. Piano and sax trade the lead on the instrumental with a cool fade out and in that gives it a little more edge. Lee returns for “Poor Man Blues,” done in pure Chicago blues style with piano, guitar and sax responding to Lee’s call and backing him well. The album closes with the long R&B version of the instrumental title track. Oscher’s piano is the feature here as he plays with hand claps in percussive support. Robinson’s tenor solo is pretty and then Keller’s guitar gets a turn to shine. The first bass goes next (Brown and Anderson are on the track), and Lee gets a shot at the drum solo. Another bass solo and then another sax solo before Oscher takes us home on piano. Leuschner howls in support as part of the outro, a very cool ending to a cool cut about a cool cat. Well done!
This is a great CD. Oscher shows his roots with Muddy and gives us his all. Not as much harp as I expected from one of his CDs but the music is super. I liked the arrangements and songs and everyone gave their all. I recommend this one for many a fine evening of listening!