Blues Blast Magazine 2017
Nancy Wright – Playdate! | Album Review
Blues Blast Magazine, February 9, 2017, Marty Gunther
Nancy Wright – Playdate!
VizzTone Label Group VTDH-111
San Francisco-based sax player Nancy Wright wasted no time following up on last year’s well-received release, Putting Down Roots, with this star-studded CD.
Dedicated to her mentor and friend, guitar giant Lonnie Mack, Playdate! came about after Wright took blues historian/producer Dick Shurman’s words to heart after he spoke about challenges facing folks in the music industry today and he remarked: “Do what you love.”
A veteran horn player who’s toured with Elvin Bishop, Commander Cody, John Lee Hooker and Maria Muldaur in addition to being a popular studio musician, she didn’t hesitate.
Like her previous CD, this one was produced, recorded and mixed by 2017 Blues Foundation Keeping The Blues Alive honoree Chris “Kid” Andersen at his Greaseland Studios. He provides guitar backing throughout with a unit that consists of Chris Burns on keys, Joe Kyle Jr. on bass and recently departed Nightcats bandmate J. Hansen on drums with Tom Poole (ex-Tommy Castro Band) on trumpet and Faris Jarrah on trombone. Adding to the mix are Martin Windstad (percussion), Lisa Leuschner-Andersen (backing vocals), the Plymouth Church Of Jazz And Justice Choir and Chauncey Roberts (tambourine).
Pushing the mix over the top are guest spots by several of the top names and rising stars in the business, including guitarists Joe Louis Walker, Castro, Bishop, Chris Cain and Mike Shermer, keyboard players Victor Wainwright and Jim Pugh and vocalists Wee Willie Walker, Frank Bey and Terrie Odabi, most of whom laid down their parts in Andersen’s hotel room in Memphis at last year’s BMA Awards.
The end result is a funky, soulful album that jumps from the first note and pulsates throughout. “Why You Wanna Do It” features Wee Willie on vocals backed by Terrie as they deliver a powerful Memphis funk with Nancy driving the horn section and laying down a greasy mid-tune solo. If you’re not aware of Walker yet – a star in the ‘60s who’s enjoying a second career in the spotlight, his rendition will have you yearning for more.
Castro’s featured on six-string for as Nancy successfully steps to the mike for a percolating cover of Willie Dixon’s “I Got What It Takes” before Wainwright soars on the 88s for the Wright original “Yes He Do,” a West Coast jump. Next up, Nancy delivers a new take on the sultry, smokin’ Eddie Shaw sax instrumental, “Blues For The Westside,” with Joe Louis featured throughout.
Wright heard the next tune, the previously unrecorded “Been Waiting That Long,” when Mack played it for her at his kitchen table a few months prior to his death. Featuring Bay Area powerhouse Bey on vocals, it describes a life living “high on promises with nothin’ comin’ in” atop a driving horn line. The funk continues as Nancy’s talents are on full display for her original instrumental, “Trampled,” aided by Grammy winning organist Pugh and Andersen on guitar.
Nancy dips into the songbook of 1950s “Rockin’ Queen Of Happy Spirituals” Martha Carson as she vocalizes a pleasing cover of the country-gospel hit “Satisfied,” backed by the choir, before Odabi voices Wright’s sultry original, “Warranty,” before Nancy covers another ‘50s hit, the Esther Phillips jump classic, “Cherry Wine.”
A smooth instrumental reprise of the Jay McNeely classic, “There Is Something On Your Mind” features Bishop on guitar before a trio of Wright originals — “Back Room Rock,” aided by flashy fretwork from Schermer, “Good Loving Daddy,” featuring Nancy on vocals, and “Soul Blue,” showcasing Cain – bring the set to a close.
Available through Amazon, CDBaby, iTunes and other online retailers, Playdate! is stellar throughout. Nancy’s horn playing has always been exceptional. She’s proving herself to be a rock-solid vocalist, too.
– Marty Gunther