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Blue Lunch - Saxophone Shootout II

Wilbert’s Records


Fans who have followed Roomful of Blues for many years can add Saxophone Shootout II to their collection by Blue Lunch.

Recorded live at Nighttown, Cleveland’s premier jazz club was an appropriate spot for this band to strut their stuff. The music is something out of the big band era with its nods to Glen Miller and Count Basie.

Guitar shootout albums seem to be a great marketing technique for people to shell out the bucks. This is a different idea as the focus is on the saxophone.

The saxophone players featured are Tony Koussa, Jr, Keith McKelley and Chris Burge. All three are given ample time to solo in the spotlight.

There is tight jamming on the songs. But more satisfying is that the jamming doesn’t take off into long-winded excursions that can lose listener interest. As it is the music is pretty laid back and does not lend itself to screaming me attitudes and traveling too far into the zone. For the most part, the majority of tunes last little more than six minutes so any musical sojourns by these musicians are quickly kept in check.

“Honeydripper” written by Roosevelt Sykes is a fast attention getter. The music featured on this disc is in the same sequence that was performed at the club. Mike Sand’s piano pumps up “Lowe Groovin” into its swinging boogie. The intensity increases as the ensemble outright cooks on “Foothill Drive” with Scott Flowers’ drumming driving a sledgehammer beat.

Being that Blue Lunch is a blues, jump and swing band, the songs lean heavily on being instrumentals. This is sufficient enough to put the music on auto-pilot without missing a vocalist too much. It is not until Gatemouth Brown’s “I Just Got Lucky” that vocalist Pete Brown steps up to the microphone to sing this little jump blues.

The forte in the tracks seems to follow a standard formula of letting the three saxophone players as well as the keyboardist solo. Following the solo, Pete London announces the name of the player. And for those of us who are not finely tuned to the differences between alto and tenor saxophones, this is good as we know which player stepped up to the plate.

As with any live recording, studio doctoring and overdubs always seem to get added to cover up any mistakes in a live performance. But this live document seems to reek of an honesty and not too touched up to meet a buying fan’s expectations.

The first set of music ends on Sonny Rollin’s “Tenor Madness.” It can’t end on a better note as the tune is propelled by all three sax players showing off their chops and practically blowing the roof off this club. Once again piano player Mike Sands comes up in the mix with strong support from the rhythm section taking it all home.

Not too many blues tunes are to be found on this cd. So something like Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby” is a nice track that sits comfortably amongst the others. London may not have too many moments to sing, so he’s probably happy to vocalize this obscure chestnut.

For those who tend to like blues with the guitar being in the forefront might hesitate in picking up this release. The blues rock fans who have finally entrenched themselves in the purist circles and whose tastes extend to jazz will find this offering to their liking. No doubt it’s a blast from the past and something your parents enjoyed listening to in the Post-Depression era. Sometimes a detour is necessary when the blues formula tends to get a little predictable. You may not stay there all the time. On a loose occasion you don’t mind a little side trip.

Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.

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