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Chuck Jackson & Johnny Pennino - Live On Bourbon Street # MT2-004 by Chuck Jackson & Johnny Pennino

Live On Bourbon Street is the most recent live CD from New Orleans sax man Johnny Pennino and vocalist/harp player Chuck Jackson of the Downchild Blues Band. It was recorded live at the Jazz Parlor on Bourbon St. in New Orleans, in 2004.

Also starring in this great live New Orleans jazz combo is Pennino’s keyboard playing sidekick, Richie Ladner along with renowned Dr. John drummer Freddie Staehle. Ladner’s musical roots go back to the late 50s with regionally successful New Orleans-area R&B (swamp rock) band The Jokers. Their lead singer was Roland Stone, a close associate of Dr. John, with whom Stone performed in 1962 and decades later on CD in the 90s.

Pennino’s sax virtuosity has been recognized by his induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Jackson is not only an amazing blues singer and harp player, he’s also the founder of the Southside Shuffle Blues Festival which happens every year at the same time - the first Thursday through Sunday every September, in Port Credit, Ontario (just west of Toronto). Pennino is one of the stars of this anxiously anticipated annual blues and jazz fest. The cover of the Live On Bourbon St. CD is from a painting by celebrated artist/musician Stan Street. Every year he does the Southside Shuffle poster and program art.

"Over the Waves" is the rousing musical introduction to this very lively, fun CD. Pennino’s sax soloing on "Waves" has the feel of musicians marching along in the annual New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade. It finishes with a fade-out as the ‘parade’ goes marching down the street.

Jackson’s soulful vocals on "House of the Rising Sun" are just out of this world, and are fully complemented by his impeccable harp playing. Richie’s piano soloing is rousing and full of life. Pennino’s energetic sax solo is like nothing you’ve ever heard before - it’s that good! Added to this is Jackson’s wild scatting, which ends this tune. It’s followed by the classic "Mack the Knife." Jackson’s vocals are mesmerizing in "Mack" with a ‘call and response’ to Pennino’s beautifully melodic sax playing and Ladner’s driving rhythms on the ivories. Staehle’s drumming is steady and reliable, possessing a hypnotic quality -- allowing the audience to become part of his depth of performance.

The pace slows a little, but is still ‘up there’ with the bluesy "Sick and Tired". This toe-tapping ‘complaining blues’ number is both rousing and laid-back all at the same time. When Jackson sings "I had it up to here!" Ladner answers in the best way he knows, with a rousing boogie piano solo. Staehle locks it tight with his precise drumming, while Pennino conveys the atmosphere of the ‘bad side of town’ and everything that goes with it, in his heart-wrenching sax soloing.

The pace picks up considerably with the lively, upbeat "Pennies From Heaven". Jackson’s bouncy vocals sound somewhat like a trumpet solo from the late, great Louis Armstrong. His scatting part way through gets Pennino to wail his ‘saxy’ delight.

"Besame Mucho" is an instrumental showcasing Pennino’s introspective sax playing, as he melodically solos all the way through. Staehle’s persistent, steady drumming provides a firm foundation for Pennino’s sax soloing. The somber mood in this tune evokes images of smoky 50s nightclubs and bars.

"Route 66" gets things hoppin’ with Jackson’s rousing vocals and some superb, jazzy piano soloing by Ladner that’s absolutely mouthwatering. Not to be left out of this musical galavanting, Pennino delivers some of the most soulful sax this side of ‘anywhere’. His sax-genius is followed by Jackson’s creative harp soloing and Ladner’s keyboard wizardry.

The next number is pure music heaven .... "Rainy Night In Georgia." Pennino’s sax playing response to Jackson’s vocal lament is unbelievable! This version is so good, it has to be heard to be fully appreciated.

"Just a Gigolo" was originally made famous decades ago, by the one and only Louis Prima. In this version, Jackson captures the essence of Prima’s interpretation and goes with it in his own expressive way, to sing the this quintessential New Orleans jazz classic.

Carlos Santa’s "Europa" comes across like ‘angels wings’ in Mr. Pennino’s soul-wrenching and deeply melodic sax soloing. Ladner’s sensitive interpretation of melody is played beautifully, sounding like a concert pianist’s solo with musical imagery like ‘water cascading to and fro amid the water nymphs’. Staehle’s minimalist approach in his drumming on this tune, provides just the right touch of percussion.

The finale to this thoroughly enjoyable live CD, is "Flip Flop & Fly." It’s a boppin’, rockin’, Big Joe Turner blues tune, done with a strong New Orleans feel to it. There’s a deep musical connection between this song and Jackson and Pennino that’s not apparent on the surface. Years ago, Pennino toured extensively with the originator, Mr. Turner himself, throughout Louisiana, so subsequently played the Turner/sax version, and knew it back to front. Now he’s playing the same tune with Jackson, who just happens to be lead singer with the Downchild Blues Band. Downchild had a hit with "Flip, Flop and Fly" in 1974 in Canada, featuring then lead singer and Downchild co-founder the incomparable Hock Walsh.

In this latest Jackson/Pennino version of "Flip .... " Ladner’s toe-tappin’ head noddin’ keys solo can get the hands clappin’ and the dance floor groovin’. A little "Hi Yo Silver" is added, (reminiscent of Eddie ‘the Chief’ Clearwater who made "Hi Yo" famous).

As this rousing party tune comes to an end, there’s a sinking feeling that this live concert is over, and won’t be heard again. However, since it’s on CD for the world to listen to, anyone who has a copy of it can enjoy listening to it all they want, whenever they want.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Chuck Jackson & Johnny Pennino
  • CD Title: Chuck Jackson & Johnny Pennino - Live On Bourbon Street # MT2-004
  • Genre: Traditional / New Orleans
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: MT Productions
  • Musicians: Chuck Jackson (lead vocals, harmonica); Johnny Pennino (sax, background vocals); Richie Ladner (keyboards, background vocals); Freddie Staehle (drums/ex-Dr. John band)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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