Jeff Healey

Adventures in Jazzland

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Jeff Healey's second studio foray into the traditional jazz of the 1920s and '30s is more ambitious than his first (Among Friends, recorded in 2002), and as a result is a more "serious" affair musically, though the same riotous joy is present here. The core of the same players return with bassist Colin Bray, pianist Reide Kaiser, and saxophonist Chris Plock (on both soprano and tenor); newcomers include guitarist Jesse Barksdale, clarinetist Dan Levinson, guitarist Marty Grosz, bass saxophonist Vince Giordano, cornetist Tom Pletcher, and (making appearances on two cuts) violinist Drew Jurecka. Healey's plan here is much more sophisticated than on Among Friends, and this was displayed on his live outing It's Tight Like That with Chris Barber. Healey's guitar playing, while not as wildly solo-conscious as on his blues-rock recordings, is swinging, taut, and precise. He can hang with anyone doing this music. As a trumpet player, he has improved immensely -- check him on the opener, "Bugle Call Rag" -- but try as he might, he is not Jack Teagarden as a vocalist. No problem. Another instrument has been added to Healey's arsenal here in the valve trombone, which he plays on "Emaline" and "Indiana." The sound on this record is notable for its live gritty quality. There is the live presence here that makes it all a seamless party, though the sessions were recorded over a period of time and there is overdubbing. In addition to a stellar band and a killer mix, the tune selection is impeccable, with Elmer Schoebel's "I Never Knew What a Gal Could Do," John Golden and Ray Hubbell's "Poor Butterfly," and the stompers like "Bugle Call Rag" and "You're Driving Me Crazy." All of this said, as fine as this disc is, and it's a winner top to bottom, it makes one long to see this all pulled off live, as Healey has been touring a bit with his Jazz Wizards ensemble.

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