What does No More Blues, Michael B’s latest offering on Primrose Lane Records, have in common with the following?
A tread-worn tire lazily hanging from a lakeside oak tree.
A humid August evening spent sitting on Grandma’s front porch.
It’s all about the SWING and staying COOL, which is exactly what Michael B does musically with his latest effort entitled "No More Blues." The listener enjoys plenty of swing along with the cool vibe of collaborative group playing. Feel the energy oozing from every note struck in this aptly titled recording.
Michael B (short for Boggioni) follows up his freshman project as bandleader Dem’s da Breaks with this powerful declaration that screams from here on out No More Blues.
Michael B’s musicianship is basted with influences, but melded into his own bluesy, swinging, vamping, romantic style that captivates the sense that he is having more fun than he should be allowed. He uses his skills of a well-trained, disciplined artist, yet plays free from any limitation of technical guardrails. His music comes from deep in his heart. The result is passionate. Just listen.
If Luther Hughes’ punctual bass lines could speak, they would shout the old Greyhound bus slogan "leave the driving to us." His use of time and space shows his years of experience. His tone, combined with impeccably positioned lines, is superb. He provides exquisitely supportive and suggestive musicianship.
Bruce Forman shows why he is a "first" call guitar man. He brings just what the setting calls for. He adds the right ingredients to the musical mix wherever he goes. His playing is colorful and creative whether supporting the cast or fronting it.
Paul Kriebich complements the music on drums. His confidence as a player is not caught up with attempts at perfection. He plays it has he hears it and weaves in and out of the music in ways that give his partners room for ebb and flow. Some drummers try to be to perfect and sound almost too academic for the music. Paul lets the music breathe free and easy. Very nice work.
What about the Music?
This quartet shows a comfortable playing style. Never sounding too rehearsed, the spontaneity is there for the tasting and is never over-cooked.
The ear is immediately summoned to attention by Tom Jobim’s "Chega de Saudade" Brazilian translation is "no more sadness." The purposeful piano introduction foreshadows something is to emerge, but what? No hurry, no worry. Ah, patience pays off.... Bam! Let the "swing" begin. Bruce Forman’s guitar takes "point" with first a Latin-framed chorus that invokes a scene of fan-waving listeners trying to stay cool. Luther then flips the switch. Guess what? We get the swing back, front and center. Nice transition of feel unexpected but no cause for any stubbed toes.
Next, it’s Michael B’s turn on the porch swing. Then home again with a restatement of the introduction. Great opener.
Duke Ellington’s "Things Ain’t What They Used to Be" is up next and begs the subtitle "They are MUCH better." Michael B creates, and band mates maintain, a slow intensity that simmers, adding a bit more heat with each chorus. Controlled growth keeps the listener engaged and toe tapping.
Two tasty ballads follow:
"Blue Reflections" is the first original composition introduced and begins with a subtle, flowing groove supporting the piano/guitar tandem interaction on the beautiful melody. The musical journey leads to passionate solo development by Michael B and Bruce Forman.
"Be My Love" is a played with a classic ballad feel. On this Nicholas Brodszky/Sammy Cahn song, Michal B commands the piano to give the listener a lesson in ballad-ology. Highly emotional with no wasted effort.
Luther Hughes brings his bass to the front introducing the melody on "Am I Blue?" The answer here is yes, blue as a clear sky. Just plain happy music played by guys having fun.
The waltz feel with Michael B’s "New Life" delivers a hop, skip, jump briskness that allows all members of the quartet to slide in an out lightly afoot.
Erskine Hawkins composition "After Hours" is a blues that ushers in the set that begins after the club doors close for the evening. This one is just the bartenders and waiters as they clean up after a long night of serving patrons. So this is what goes on behind closed doors?
Michael B plays musical tribute to his late wife and biggest supporter with his composition "Song for Jo Jo." Music conveys love and emotion like no other creative expression. What a beautiful song for no doubt a beautiful person.
Seldom recorded Oscar Peterson tune "Blues of the Prairies" has a get-along-little- doggies pulse with wide open spaces, dusty trails, parching heat of the sun. Again, this quartet rides along together just taking care of business, keeping things going. Happy trails.
"My Romance" is a composition performed and recorded by many pianists, in many different ways, with virtually every instrumental setting. Michael B delivers his solo piano interpretation of the Rogers and Hart classic. Instructions for the listener: Listen, listen again, and then repeat. Simply beautiful in every way.
Taking us home is Quincy Jones’ "Miss Cellie’s Blues," which re-enforces how much this group of guys can swing. This time, the swing is in a honky-tonk style leaving this listener satisfied but certainly wanting more.
No More Blues is live and full of positive energy. Michael B poured his heart and soul into every second of the music. His musical brothers followed him willingly. He has truly made "these" blues into a joyful, engaging experience for the listener.