Radam Schwartz has a reputation for making organ-based soul jazz with an aroma that is rooted in America’s South. Tinseled in smooth funk beats and dales of classic bop horns, Schwartz’s music factors in the familiar bluesy wardrobes of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker with Schwartz’s own stylistic panache and organ glitz. If the fictitious group The Blues Brothers, originally fronted by actors John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, were around today, they would be taking their cues from Schwartz, whose latest outing Blues Citizens is furnaced with briquettes of soul jazz, smooth funk and classic bop idioms.
The album resonates with the spirituality of a Baptist church choir and the reflective ambience of a jazz club band. Joining Schwartz on the recording are saxophonists Bill Saxton and Bruce Williams, guitarist Eric Johnson and drummer Cecil Brooks III, who owns the jazz club Cecil’s in West Orange, New Jersey. The mosaic of fiery and soothing blues patterns engraving Blues Citizens are soul-inspired and church choir-modeled.
The random meanderings of Johnson’s guitar along "Dem Philadelphia Oregon Blues" are like following a lost sheep being led by the mellifluous sounds and graceful movements of Schwartz’s curvy organ swells. The organ has a strong presence throughout the album as the voice which guides the action of the others, like the percolating organ keys swathing "Driftin’’ and inducing a soft soul jazz billowing through the rhythmic patterns. Schwartz’s organ wanes down to a church choir hymn with sinuous horns and a succor ambience embalming "Grieve But Be Brief." The momentum made by the skid-daddling beats racing across the title track are braided in bluesy organ sweeps which congeal with the slinky saxophone romps.
The album remains upbeat with the bouncy grooves, frilly knots and twittering keys spackling "Misty" showing an Otis Redding-whipping, and the gospel-tinged aroma coursing through "Ghost Of A Chance" with bluesy soaked saxophone riffs. The jittery horns, fluttering keys and fast paced beats of "Hangin’ With Smooth" reach full-tilt delivering a ravenous appetite to create excitement, while the bales of smooth bluesy riffs rolling across "Steal Away" have a more sedate craving. The album finishes off with a break-out of swiftly roving horns, pulsating beats and galloping organ keys grazing joyfully along "Eighth Wonder." It’s a tune that would have The Blues Brothers wishing it was theirs.
Radam Schwartz is no ordinary blues musician. His models extract ideas from soul, funk, gospel and jazz and congeal these factions into exemplary mosaics that inspire warmth in others. His heady mix shows praise for blues icons like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker and an edge to keep southern blues moving forward along with the times.