Vince Salerno And Gerald McClendon – Blues From All Points
Pravda Records – 2022
11 tracks; 40 minutes
Vince Salerno has been a mainstay on the Chicago scene for many years but only made his debut recording a couple of years ago. Regrettably, I did not get the chance to hear Grabbing The Blues By The Horns, because if it was like the disc currently under consideration it would undoubtedly have been right up this reviewer’s alley! Vince is on tenor and baritone saxes, harmonica and flute, Gerald McClendon, Chicago’s “Soulkeeper”, handles the vocals and the support comes from Thomas Klein on guitar (who also produced the album), Thomas Linsk on keys and accordion, Michael P Fiorino on bass, Chuck Schwartz on drums, Ellis Clark on percussion and Ron Haynes on trumpet. The material is a mix of six covers and five originals; writing credits go to Thomas Klein (three), Gerald (two), Vince (two), Ellis and Thomas Linsk (one each). The material is a great collection of blues and soul plus a touch of jazz.
The album opens with “Hip City”, the first of two Junior Walker tunes here. The funky, stop-start tune suits Vince’s high energy sax style and Gerald’s enthusiastic encouragement to people to “get on the floor”. Two McClendon/Klein originals follow: “Antidote For Love” sets Vince’s harp against slide guitar and plenty of percussion as Gerald testifies in style about how his girl’s love may end up killing him; “Do Drop In” is an outstanding piece of soul music mixed with rock elements, Gerald describing the club setting: “Everyone was waiting for the band to begin and we were having fun pouring whiskey and sin”. Thomas’ guitar provides a classic Keith Richards lick, the horns sound terrific and Vince steps out for a rasping tenor solo – what else could a soul music fan want? Gerald sings the familiar lyrics of T-Bone Walker’s “Street Walking Woman” convincingly, Thomas showing a completely different side to his playing and Vince again soloing impressively. Sticking to classic blues, the band gives us a fine version of “Highway 49”, a Joe Williams tune best known from Howling Wolf’s version, slide, piano and harp all to the fore.
The original “Flame To Ash” has a catchy guitar riff and chorus, a blend of soul and rock, before the band tackles “Bessie’s Blues”, an instrumental from the John Coltrane songbook. Vince is straight into some serious tenor work as pianist Thomas covers the whole keyboard in a great solo and the rhythm section excels on this jazz number. Clifton Chenier’s “Ay-Tete Fee” (“Hey Little Girl” in English) is a complete contrast, busy accordion backed by bubbling baritone. The second Junior Walker tune is the instrumental “Cleo’s Mood”, Vince back on tenor and lots of organ work from Thomas L. Another instrumental, the rollicking “Harpacordia”, features accordion and harmonica and the album closes with Gerald returning to the mike for the Rn’B tune “Blues And Trouble”.
Overall this is an excellent album with a variety of styles, solid vocals and good instrumentalists. It may have taken Vince Salerno forty years to release an album under his own name, but this second one is definitely a keeper.