Living Blues 2017

February 2017

By Lee Hildebrand

Nancy Wright, Playdate!, Vizztone – VTDH-111

Since arriving in San Francisco 32 years ago from her native Dayton, Ohio, Nancy Wright has established herself as the Bay Area’s most in-demand blues tenor saxophonist.  Recordings with the likes of Elvin Bishop, Mark Hummel, B.B. King, Little Charlie and the Nightcats, Joe Louis Walker, Katie Webster and many others have helped to spread her reputation as one of the best horn blowers in the business to regions far beyond her home base.  Drawing on the styles of such tenor greats as King Curtis, Eddie Shaw and Junior Walker, she has developed a stunning command of the instrument that utilizes sputters, growls, honks and high-note wails while never losing sight of the strong melodies at the core of her improvisations.  Wright has also emerged in recent years as a singer and songwriter of high order.

Wright’s third CD as an artist, the Kid Andersen-produced Playdate!, is an all-star affair.  She gets helping hands from such friends as vocalists Frank Bey, Terrie Odabi and Wee Willie Walker, pianist Victor Wainwright, organist Jim Pugh and guitarists Tommy Castro, Joe Louis Walker, Elvin Bishop, Mike Schermer and Chris Cain, each of whom is featured on one track.  Guitarist Andersen and pianist Chris Burns are also afforded ample solo space.  Wright’s song selection draws on terrific yet largely obscure tunes.  Willie Harper’s Why You Wanna Do It Devil, Koko Taylor’s Willie Dixon-penned I Got What It Takes, Eddie Shaw’s Blues for the Westside, Martha Carson’s Satisfied, Little Esther’s Henry Glover-written Cherry Wine, Big Jay McNeely’s There is Something on Your Mind, Sammy Price’s Back Room Rock and Been Waiting That Long, a song originally recorded by country singer Rattlesnake Annie that Wright was turned on to by her early Dayton mentor Lonnie Mack.  The remaining selections are Wright originals that rise to the standard of the vintage material.  The sax woman takes the vocal helm on four tracks, applying her rich alto pipes with conviction, whether praising Jesus on Satisfied, demanding that her man choose between her and his cherry wine or surrendering to his charms on her own Good Loving Daddy.

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