December  2009





I Happened To Hear… December 2009


 … Good Morning by Adam Palma

At Bass Day 2009 in Manchester I met Polish guitar wizard Adam Palma. He has worked with many of the top pop and jazz artists in Poland and with international names including Chris de Burgh and the Average White Band’s Hamish Stuart.

This is a startling album of solo acoustic guitar played fingerstyle with no overdubs or studio tricks – I say startling because at times you would think there were two or even three guitars. Many of the songs are originals, such as the bluesy opener ‘Rocky Mountains’ which displays dexterity I’ve only heard on records by the world’s finest players. I also love the chord changes in his gorgeous ‘When Tommy meets Chet’ and here Palma’s sense of humour is in evidence.

That same sense of humour surfaces on his rendition of the ‘Inspector Gadget’ theme. And it’s impossible not to smile during his staccato version of ‘Love and Marriage’. I’d love to hear this as part of a movie soundtrack – it really does bring something new, warm and endearing to an old song.

He offers a respectful take on Joe Zawinul’s ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ and how one man and one guitar bring the drama of this song to an audience I’m struggling to understand – but he does it. His arrangement has the melody line and bassline crossing in a way I’ve not heard before. And his use of harmonics leaves me speechless. The Average White Band connection is here: ‘Pick up the Pieces’ chugs like it should with one guitar providing rhythm, bass and melody. There’s nothing missing here…

Fans of fingerstyle guitar and imaginative arrangements should check out this CD and the site:


… Lookin’ for a Change by Joe McBride

Pianist and singer Joe McBride is also full of surprises on his latest Heads Up release.

Gnarls Barclay made people sit up with ‘Crazy’ and Joe’s version of this song has the same bounce but the vocals are smoother and there’s a sophistication there that allowed me to focus on the lyric more. It’s superb, really superb. A jazz trio setting for this song seems so right. I can also home in the beauty of Coldplay’s lyrics on this version of ‘The Scientist’. The song has been transformed seamlessly into a jazz standard right in front of your eyes.

‘Word Up’ which made Cameo popular beyond funk circles is delivered in a sassy, punchy way and I swear I’d love to experience this song live. The swing is absolutely unstoppable. McBride’s piano chops are just amazing. The ebb and flow of Seal’s ‘Kiss from a Rose’ are just right and the intense romanticism of the song remains intact – I’d say it’s even enhanced.

There are three originals on this album and I particularly enjoy ‘Secret Rendezvous’. It washes over me and the wistful harmonica seals my fate – this is timeless jazz and don’t be surprised to hear other singers pick this up in the future. It’s damned hard to pick a favourite song from this twelve-song package but the version of Vanessa Carlton’s ‘1000 Miles’ takes it for me. To my shame I don’t know Vanessa’s music and so I hear this song on its own terms, and it’s sublime and haunting.

This is the first Joe McBride album with vocals on every song and it’s notable for that alone, but for his jazz interpretations of other artists’ songs, well-chosen songs, this really should expand his audience and please his existing fans. Sit back, be transported…

Read more about Joe here:


… It is What it Is by Brian Bromberg

A new Brian Bromberg CD is always an event for me. For a start, his songs are fantastic and often have witty titles and you’re never sure if he’s going to be concentrating on acoustic or electric bass.

Here he’s electric – in more than one sense. The barnstorming title track moves at high speed and he has luminaries such as Jeff Lorber, Patrice Rushen, Alex Acuña and Eric Marienthal (to name a few) for company. I’ve loved the B52’s ‘Love Shack’ since the first time I heard it: Bromberg’s version will knock your socks off. The horns, arranged by Nathan Tanouye, are blazing.

There’s heavy funk on ‘Excuse Me?’ and ‘Elephants on Ice Skates’. The bass gets down and, let’s be honest, dirty. Oh Lord, bass-heads gather in the temple for ‘Slap Happy’ – yes, do I need to say any more?

Those who want to hold back from the ultimate freakout are going to drool over ‘Martinis at the Velvet Lounge?’ – it gives all it promises with Gary Meek’s sexy flute trickled over that tight Latin rhythm. And you’ve got strings, man. Lush. The mood is more sombre for the solo bass piece ‘The Mirror’. So much light and shade on one album is something truly to marvel at.

The song which sticks in my head and won’t let me go is ‘Heaven’. The fretless bass takes the lead on much of the song which, despite the layers of bass guitar on the track, never gets cluttered. The beautiful string section soothes you while you marvel at the sounds that a soulful player can extract from a bass. The song is – heaven. It’s close to being transcendental. I live to hear things like this…

More about the astonishing Mr Bromberg here:


… the first album by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly

I have been fortunate in recent weeks to be in touch with Robin Duhe, Maze’s bass player for over 30 years. I’ve heard both of his solo CD’s and had the most enjoyable interview with him.

Maybe I didn’t need to remind myself why Maze had such an impact on soul music fans in the 70’s and 80’s but I went looking anyway. ‘Colour Blind’ was the first maze song I ever heard – I had it on a 7” single and the funk that grabbed me then still grabs me now, thanks in no small part to that Duhe groove. The opener ‘Time on my Side’ is funky too and puts you in a great mood that is maintained throughout the album.

Several of Maze’s songs could rightly be called anthems and ‘Happy Feelin’s’ for me is one of those. It has the spirituality of Earth, Wind & Fire songs from the same period and of course the incomparable husky vocals of the Frankie Beverly. You’ve got eight minutes to get wrapped up in the lovely midtempo and hypnotic ‘You’ which features some particularly tasty lead guitar work from Wayne Thomas.

The song that always slayed me was ‘While I’m Alone’. I love the sway of the rhythm section, I love the vocals, I love the lyrics. I think I’ll always feel the same. In its 24-bit remastered version, this album really has the power to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Ooh.

I apologise if I’m telling you stuff you know. If you have this album, play it today and if you don’t have it, do yourself a favour and go record shopping.

Whet your appetite here: