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Monday, December 23, 2013

Walter “ Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters – Live at dba New Orleans - New Release Review - Stilladog - Guest Writer

As soon as I heard that Walter “Wolfman” Washington had a new live album out I had to get a copy. I have been a fan of his ever since Bman turned me on to him back in 1991. But back in October I met and made friends with him out on Duval Street in Key West. This album was recorded shortly after and was released on November 21, 2013 at the dba music club on Frenchmen Street in the Marginy. The Roadmasters consist of Jack Cruz, bass; Wayne Maureau, drums; Antonio Gambrell, trumpet; and the hardest working tenor man I know of, Jimmy Carpenter, sax. This is exactly the same band he had with him on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise when I last saw him. The horns of Gambrell and Carpenter are a frequent feature on nearly every song and they are fantastic. Better on this record than I remember on the cruise. The album starts off with an instrumental introduction, Funkyard, from the Funk Is In The House album. It’s a tune that features solos by both horn men as well Walter himself including his familiar Wolfman howl. It is quickly followed by a classic Wolfman number, I’m Tiptoeing Through, which was originally recorded for his Wolf Tracks CD in 1986 and re-released on his 2000 On The Prowl album. Walter and the band ease seamlessly into more of a Soul groove with a 6 ½ minute version of When The Answer Is Clear followed by At Night In The City. Both contain the understated tasteful picking for which Walter is famous. After that, the tempo picks up a bit with Girl I Want To Dance from his Sada album –which I just recently picked up and also highly recommend. Walter lays down some fantastic licks on this number as well along with a sprinkling of some hot trumpet. It’s at this point I got the feeling I was right there in the club the night these tracks were recorded. Walter slows the pace a bit for the next number a Bill Withers-esque, You Got Me Worried. The horn arrangements over top of the funk groove on this tune are really great. But the band quickly changes gears to nearly bossa beat with I’m In Love. Jimmy Carpenter takes a beautiful solo on this song that accentuates how diverse a sax man he is. Blue Moon Risin’, the slowest number –and closest to real blues– follows. So, at 45 minutes into the set the band then goes into somewhat of a structured jam on Tweakin’ from his Doin’ The Funky Thing release. This one injects a little hip-hop into the set as if jazz, soul, funk, and blues weren’t enough!
The only cover on the album is next with the Jimmy Reed classic, Ain’t That Lovin’ You? It is done completely Walter-style, which is to say, very tastefully. The horn heavy numbers Tailspin and Stop and Think conclude the album except for the typical Wolfman Washington exit instrumental, Wolfman Outro, complete with Wolfman howl. It’s clear that this album was recorded in front of an audience familiar with Walter’s music. He has a weekly gig at dba and obviously played the crowd favorites. I would almost call it a “greatest hits” style of live album (as many are). The only reason I would not is that it does not contain many of my favorite Walter “Wolfman” Washington tunes such as, It Was Fun While It Lasted, Crescent City Starlight, and Use Me. If you can handle the kind of musical diversity Wolfman Washington brings to the stage then this album is for you. As a side note, Walter celebrated his 70th birthday Friday night with a star studded gig at the Maple Leaf Bar out on Oak Street in New Orleans. The band included both Cyril and Ivan Neville, Anders Osborne, and Stanton Moore. So happy birthday Wolfman! This is a great album. Stilladog says, “Woof!” 

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