Check out this great article about Phil by Paul Freeman in the Mercury News. Phil talks about his background, his love for the blues, and his perspective on performing, as he prepares to host the Wednesday Night Blues Jam at Club Fox in Redwood City on December 28, 2011. Gettin’ down with the old blues — definitely worth a read!
Continuing his personal quest to re-introduce the music of the late ’40s and early ’50s, Phil Berkowitz is now writing his own material reminiscent of his first solo album from 2004, Phil Berkowitz plays … Louis’ Blues … the Music Of Louis Jordan. On that CD he performed such Jordan greats as “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” “Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t My Baby” and a song performed by many in love with Jordan’s “Caldonia.” Louis Jordan is an innovator responsible for cunning lyrics and bluesy sax that helped rock ’n roll out of its diapers. Many artists jumped on the Jordan compositions. The Andrews Sisters, Louis Armstrong, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Buster Brown, Nat King Cole, BB King and dozens of others.
On this CD, Phil continues the tradition of the times with eight originals that are all bull’s eyes. Don’t expect a modern Blues shout/growl vocal on these, but more of a smoothness that fits the song. The major attraction for me is his harmonica style backed giftedly by his backup band and singers. You’ll notice the major influence of his many years transplanted from New Jersey to Northern California on songs like “Beach Bar Boogie,” “Tonka T,” and the title cut.
This is a superb record to start a party, run through the party, and then end it, too. Resplendent harmonica appears through and through. If you are lucky to be visiting California, look up a gig by Phil … And GO!!!
I’d have to call Phil Berkowitz a “lounge lizard.” Don’t really know how else to describe him. Phil was here in the Valley recently touring with Sean Carney and his new record, All Night Party, takes me back to the days of the Old Bombay Bicycle Club here in Scottsdale. I can picture Phil in my mind holding court there and playing till the wee hours of the morning. All Night Party is definitely a pleasant listen and comes highly recommended.
We open with the title track, “All Night Party,” and everyone is having a good time. “Wine, women, whiskey, rhythm & blues … with all these things … how can a young man choose?” Can’t go wrong with any of the choices although I’d pick tequila over whiskey. Phil blows a subtle harmonica and the fun’s just getting started. Notes from Sean Carney’s guitar emanate into the night and “Straight Up” is our next tune. “If you can’t help yourself … who the hell’s going to help you … straight up pretty baby … that’s the way it’s got to be … straight up baby … is it him or is it me? Three’s a crowd and Phil’s laying it down on the line straight, hard to say who she’s going to pick but at least everyone’s clear where they stand. “Tonka T” gives everyone a chance to air it out a bit as Phil’s band tackles this instrumental. Phil’s a very good harp player and I’m impressed by his phrasing in this instrumental.
Our next tune is “Ghost Child” and Marvin Greene is on the guitar for this one. “Cause I feel like a stranger … in my own mind … my thoughts just won’t let me be.” Phil lost his mother at an early age and no place feels quite right. “There goes another ghost child … riding across the night … ghost child … he hides in the shadows … keeping his dreams out of sight.” Phil’s had to learn a lot of life’s lessons on his own but he’s come through ok. “Always a First Time” finds Phil lamenting the loss of his girl to another man. “Nobody knows… nobody can tell … what tomorrow can bring … that’s how I realize there’s a first time … for everything.” The girl has moved on and Phil will recover but the loss of your first love is tough and this one will take some time. William Beatty’s keyboard work compliments Bill Stuve’s upright bass on our next tune as Phil tells us about “Ginger T”. “My little Miss Ginger T … she makes me feel so strong … you know every time I’m around her … feel like a man can do no wrong!” Phil’s got a good woman here and hopefully he’ll be able to hang onto her.
“Beach Bar Boogie” is inspired by time Phil spent in the Virgin Islands performing at a festival there. “They got a special kind of place … where they play all night and day.” “They do the beach bar boogie … boogie all night long!” Evidently everyone had a good time and kudos to Steve Simon for all the events he produces down that way.
“She’s a fine little honey dripper … and she’s driving me out of my mind … she’s got a cool way of loving … I’ll tell this mad … mad … world it’s fine.” Phil obviously found a good woman and he’s smitten by all the good loving she’s giving him in “Fine Little Honey Dripper.” This theme continues with our next tune, “If You Were Mine.” “I’m not one … to believe in love at first sight … but you changed my mind … changed it last night … I fell in love … even though I didn’t intend to … hard as I tried … I couldn’t take my eyes off you!” Phil fell hard and he’s definitely got it bad. He’s hoping she’ll keep him in mind in “Here’s My Picture.” “Well, here’s my picture, baby … please keep it in the frame … now when I’m not around … you’ll see me just the same.”
Evidently the relationship is still going strong because Phil can’t stop telling us how good it is in “She’s My Baby.” “She digs boogie woogie and rock n’ roll too … this little girl is no snooty Sue … for that love I’d run a Texas mile … cause she’s a living doll.” The tempo picks up considerably in “I Want a Roof Over My Head.” “I want a roof over my head and bread on the table … and love in my heart …just for you!” Phil’s a man of simple needs and shelter, food and the love of a good woman pretty well cover all the bases.
Sean’s intricate picking is evident on our next tune, “Midnight Rooster.” “The days of wine and roses are here and now … so drink from the bottle … and welcome the dawn …little boy blue … sees it all go by … time stands still when it plays … slow down… slow down Rooster!”
What has been a great record from Phil closes with the tune “The Party’s Over.” “Well … I remember all those crazy nights … staying out drinking til dawn … I can’t say they were wrong or right … only that those nights are long gone!”
All Night Party has been a very enjoyable disc to listen to and review. I’d not known of Phil’s music before he came to town and this disc will definitely be one of the sleepers this year. For more information on Phil, check him out on his website, www.philberkowitz.com, and pick up a copy of All Night Party; it’s definitely going to be a disc that finds its way back into my CD player very soon.
San Francisco singer and harp blower Phil Berkowitz, who made an auspicious debut as a leader five years ago with Louis' Blues: The Music of Louis Jordan, is back with another winner. All Night Party includes one song originally recorded by Jordan, the fast-shuffling, humor-laced “I Want a Roof Over My Head,” but the program is otherwise made up of eight first-rate originals and treatments of Earl King's “Always a First Time,” Ray Charles' “If You Were Mine,” Billy Boy Arnold's “Here's My Picture,” and Jimmy T-99 Nelson's “Fine Little Honey Dripper” and “She's My Baby.” Berkowitz sings in a clear, declarative tenor and is a commanding harmonica player whose approach owes more to Big Walter than Little Walter.
Although Danny Caron co-produced the disc with Berkowitz, he plays on only two tunes. Marvin Greene, who, like Caron, seems to have listened to a lot of Johnny and Oscar Moore and Bill Jennings, otherwise teams up or takes turns with Ohio guitar hotshot Sean Carney. The cast of players also includes pianist William Beatty, bassists Bill Stuve and Tim Wagar, and drummer Bowen Brown. Three tracks sport a horn section.
Shuffle, swing, boogaloo, rumba, and second-line grooves give nice variety to the mostly uptempo material. Consistently imaginative arrangements make All Night Party an especially satisfying listening experience. Berkowitz doubles instrumental lines with the guitarist or pianist on some selections. On the country-tinged “If You Were Mine,” he sings the opening chorus in soft harmony with Craig Knudsen before wailing the second on his own. And for the final number, “The Party's Over,” Berkowitz seemingly concludes the Fats Domino-flavored shuffle by playing the melody of “Auld Lang Syne” on harmonica, but then Bowen Brown suddenly begins a parade beat on snare and a trumpeter, clarinetist, and saxophonist join in to take the Guy Lombardo favorite for a short romp down Rampart Street. What a wonderfully surprising way to end the party!
“My fellow Americans, we must return to simple basics in this country! For example, when investing, do not put all of your eggs in one basket!” General Wetnight, 2009.
As if answering the good General’s call, Phil Berkowitz sings, “‘I Want a Roof Over My Head’ and bread on the table and love in my heart just for you, where we can have peace of mind….” Now, it just doesn’t get more basic than that. And, speaking of “basics,” it feels so good to get back to some basic Blues done really well after reviewing three non-Blues records in a row.
This is harmonica player Phil’s “fourth official CD,” and, with eight original songs, it is a solid winner from start to stop. Berkowitz is able to convey fun and excitement in the songs, and the title, “All Night Party” seems as natural as a Jamaican work-free drug place. Studio recorded, Berkowitz and Danny Caron co-produced the album with Caron co-writing three numbers and adding some guitar. Studio guests include Sean Carney on guitar and Bill Stuve on bass. At the core are a group of Bay Area musicians: Tim Wagar, Bowen Brown, William Beatty, and Marvin Greene. The few horn parts are from Jeff “Irv” Irvin, Robert Dehlinger, and Doug Rowan. Craig Knudsen added some background vocals.
Phil Berkowitz is a San Francisco Bay area based blues harmonica player and vocalist with an energetic musical style. He is a New Jersey native and the fourth child in a family of six. He relocated to California in early 1989 to complete his college degree. It was during this time at Sonoma State University that he began playing the harmonica and fell in love with all forms of blues and jazz influenced music, especially that of Louis Jordan. He decided to front a band of his own and embarked on a journey of mastering every facet of the diatonic and chromatic harmonica.
“All Night Party” is the opening track as well as the CD’s main theme. This title track sounds live and does a great job of immediately bringing the listener through the door to the party. Set at medium tempo, the song’s piano, harmonica, guitar, guests, and vocals are all intoxicatingly intertwined. The party does not end until the last song titled, “The Party’s Over,” but its rollicking piano leaves us in our dancing shoes; it doesn’t let down easy.
“Straight Up” is wonderful straight up Chicago Blues. Starting with the song’s pace, it’s classic in every way from the lyric message challenging a lover to choose to Sean Carney’s mid song guitar solo to Phil’s scolding harmonica.
My favorite song is an instrumental titled “Tonka T.” Berkowitz’s chromatic harmonica eloquently explains why it is also called a “mouth organ.” Phil claims the song was inspired by a favorite dog, so imagine a perky, playful pooch as the song bounces along.
Other standouts: “Midnight Rooster” with its slowly wrought message of timeless values, “Fine Little Honey Dripper” featuring inspired string work by Marvin Greene, and “Beach Bar Boogie” inspired by a 2007 trip to St. John and infused with an upbeat New Orleans style.
Berkowitz claims the cover songs gave him opportunity to pay tribute to idols: Jimmy T-99 Nelson, Ray Charles, Billy Boy Arnold, Louis Jordan, and Earl King.
Tired of Rock being passed off as Blues? Then get back to the basics with Phil Berkowitz. Not only is his music authentic, it is a party!
Phil Berkowitz's last CD was a fine tribute to Louis Jordan — his harmonica filling in for the horns on the originals. However — with All Night Party he presents himself in a more diverse role, although the melancholy “Fine Little Honey Dripper” does have a moody Jordanesque feel, as does the Shag music styled “Beach Bar Boogie.”
For this set, Berkowitz is joined by some A-List guests — Sean Carney adding some scorching guitar to complement Berkowitz’s fine West Coast harp and vocals on the shuffle “Straight Up” — whilst also adding Matt Murphy styled licks to “Midnight Rooster” which melds elements of Mose Allison with Sonny Boy’s wistful Storyville stylings.
“Ginger T” is pure ChiTown, Bill Stuve's upright bass and William Beatty's rollicking piano underpinning Berkowitz's fine harp which melds Rice Miller styled harp on to a Jimmy Rogers influenced song. — “Here’s My Picture,” with its tough harp, staying in the same groove. “Tonka T” and “Ghost Child” both owe a debt to George Smith, both featuring melancholy horn-like harp — “She’s My Baby” has a strong Fats Domino feel fuelled by Beatty’s piano and Jeff Ervin and Doug Rowan’s Crescent City horns, which again perpetuate that New Orleans feel on “Always A First Time,” although the harp alludes to Big Walter Horton and Marvin Greene’s guitar reverberates like a blue Duane Eddy.
The set is book-ended by the title track — a sleazy shuffle replete with full-toned harp and slow rocking piano — and “The Party’s Over” which features Danny Caron on guitars, and closes the set N’awlins style with a splash of Dixie and a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne.”
Yet another fine set from this emerging bluesman. Rating: 8.
Harmonica ace Phil Berkowitz last checked in with his surprising tribute to Louis Jordan. Now he flexes his compositional muscles on the terrific All Night Party, delivering a set that spans powerful West Coast chromatic swing (“Tonka T”), tough blues (the aptly named “Straight Up”), and lush ballads (“Ghost Child”). Sometimes the feel draws on Memphis or Chicago vibes (“Ginger T” and Billy Boy Arnold's “Here's My Picture”), but Berkowitz is just as comfortable visiting New Orleans, as on Earl King's “Always a First Time.” Berkowitz's singing is relaxed and unaffected, his harp tone resplendent, his phrasing inventive. William Beatty on piano anchors a trio of wonderful guitarists; Danny Caron and Sean Carney augment or substitute for main man Marvin Greene on six tracks.
The disc title, as well as the opening tune's one, tells it: this is indeed “party blues“. After a 1st album dedicated to Louis Jordan's music, Phil Berkowitz issues a more personal new CD in that his blues is more modern as the one of his mentor, but also because he wrote 8 out of the 14 tracks on it.
But the filiation is there. It is reinforced by the presence of Sean Carney on guitar on 4 tracks, Bill Stuve on upright bass on 3 and Eric Blume on drums on 2 — as a matter of fact, the whole Sean Carney Band backs up Berkowitz on Midnight Rooster — but the other musicians on the session ain't no slouch either. Phil Berkowitz does all the lead vocals, and the man knows how to place his voice exactly how it should be, where it should be. But it's on the harmonica that he's especially remarkable. For not only his phrasing, sometimes delicate, sometimes stronger, will catch the listener's attention, but his mastering of so many different tones is just as enjoyable.
A few well chosen covers, such as “Always A First Time” by Earl King, “If You Were Mine” by Ray Charles, “Here's My Picture” by Billy Boy Arnold, “She's My Baby” by Jimmy Nelson, “I Want A Roof Over My Head” by Harvey Brooks, contribute to the success of the whole thing. Bonus points for the tribute to Chubby Carrier in “Beach Bar Boogie” lyrics.
Another thing should be noted as well: if this is indeed the disc of a harmonica player, Berkowitz didn't make it a harmonica album. He could have, considering his skills on the little instrument. Instead, the man prefered to put the accent on the songs as such. Virtuosity lovers will then have to pay a very careful attention, the musicians talent being here 100% dedicated to the music itself. As for everyone else, they'll enjoy about an hour of varied good tunes, quite well done to boot.
In the swing and Americana side of Blues, Bay Area singer and harmonica player [Phil Berkowitz] discovered his musical direction while at university. This, his third full solo album, and a couple of years in the making, is a lot more authentic than what most young Bluesmen produce. The opening title track, despite its bubblegum pop party lyrics (think Racey), nods heavily to ‘Mustang Sally’, crossed with Eric Burden’s two War albums. So, that’s no bad start, and from then on it’s more mainstream Blues, with a boogie rhythm, spanking piano and a heavy lean on the lead harmonica. There’s a soulful and jazz feel to the ballads. Most of the tracks are self-penned, but one cover most will like is Ray Charles’ ‘If You Were Mine’, where the piano and guitar have a chance to shine. A good album with variety to keep you interested.
Wer auf der Suche nach einer geschmackvollen CD in Sachen Westcoast-Blues mit reichlich guter Harp ist, kann hier zugreifen. Phil Berkowitz legt fünf Jahre nach der viel beachteten „Louis’ Blues“-CD einen mehr als würdigen Nachfolger vor. Unterstützt von einer Menge guter Musiker – darunter Sean Carney, Danny Caron und Marvin Greene an den Gitarren, Bill Stuve und Tim Wagar am Bass – zeigt der gute Sänger und Harpvirtuose aus San Francisco, wie man lässig satte vierzehn Songs lang begeistern kann. Berkowitz hat acht interessante Songs selbst geschrieben und covert unter anderem Earl Kings „Always A First Time“ im typischen New-Orleans-Gewand, „She’s My Baby“ von Jimmy „T-99“ Nelson im Midtempo-Swing und Billy Boy Arnolds „Here’s My Picture“ mit gelungenem Rhythmuswechsel. Uptempo-Blues, Shuffle, Swing, Boogaloo und Second-Line-Grooves wechseln sich mit langsameren Stücken ab und die CD endet mit einem fulminanten „The Party’s Over“, das am Schluss an eine Street Parade in New Orleans erinnert. Klanglich gibt es nichts auszusetzen und die Party-Musiker aus Kalifornien und Ohio haben hörbar Spaß an der Sache. Für alle, die Westcoast-Sound mögen und nicht auf Bluesrock stehen, ist diese CD wärmstens zu empfehlen. Persönlicher Anspieltipp ist das Instrumental „Tonka T“ mit chromatischer Harp in bester William-Clarke-Manier.
For St. Patrick's Day last night, I decided to avoid the huge crowd that was taking place downtown in the mini-festival headlined by Little Charlie & the Nightcats. Also had a chance to see Savoy Brown for free or Chris Cain down in Salem. I have seen all these guys quite a bit.
So instead, I chose to see San Francisco's Phil Berkowitz' tribute show to Louis Jordan, titled "Louis' Blues." I love Jordan's music and was quite interested in seeing Berkowitz switch the sax riffs with his exceptional harmonica playing. It was a very enjoyable performance. I ended up staying for all three sets. Though with all the other events happening it didn't leave for much of a crowd (40-50 people), Berkowitz still presented a nice outline of Jordan's career in song. Almost most of the numbers you can think of were played: "Saturday Night Fish Fry," "Let the Good Times Roll," "Just Like a Woman," "Beware," "Blue Lights," "Caldonia," and so much more. The only one I could think of right off the top of my head to be missing was "Open the Door Richard."
It was both a festive and relaxing evening and if you have the chance, you should check this show out. All of the musicians were very good, Marvin Green on guitar, Curtis Love on keys and of course Marty Dodson on drums who will be back this next Friday playing in his usual gig with Mark Hummel & the Blues Survivors (that show will also include James Harman and Billy Boy Arnold!!).
Berkowitz … sounds like he's having fun and does a nice job of transposing his harmonica for Jordan's sax.
Tribute albums are notorious for often presenting performances that are merely pale imitations of those that they seek to honour; so it is a pleasure to report that [this album is] not just [a] tribute but [an] excellent recording in [its] own right from [a] hugely talented harp player.
Berkowitz has been smitten by the music of Louis Jordan since hearing Joe Jackson's tribute to Jordan and Cab Calloway in 1981, and has taken time out from his blues combo, the High Rollers, to record this selection of fourteen numbers associated with the great man. To help in this project, Berkowitz has recruited ex Charles Brown guitarist Danny Caron, pianist Scott Lawrence, bass player "Little David" Rose and drummer Bowen Brown, a combo who effortlessly capture the infectious swing that permeates Jordan's music; whilst Berkowitz's vocals have a relaxed hip sensibility that is totally unaffected.
Opening with "Salt Pork, West Virginia", the band immediately generates an irresistible groove underpinning Berkowitz's low-key vocals and swinging harp, with Caron adding clear ringing guitar lines, both harp and guitar demonstrating an excellent command of dynamics, tone and phrasing. The relaxed swing of "Let The Good Times Roll" finds Berkowitz's harp echoing his vocals as Lawrence's piano rocks slowly, before cascading in unison with Caron's mellow guitar as they enhance the mood created by Berkowitz's melancholy harp and wistful vocals on "I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town".
All of the well known numbers are here, "Caldonia" boasting wildly eccentric and frantic guitar with boisterous harp; "Blue Light Boogie" mining a seductively mellow groove; "Early In The Morning" swinging lazily as Berkowitz's harp shows the influence of Big Walter Horton; "Choo Choo Ch' Boogie" fairly rattles along, whilst "Saturday Night Fish Fry" rocks infectiously as Caron excels with salacious chording and guitar fills.
The hot swinging West Coast R&B of "Cat Scratchin'" brings both Rod Piazza and George Smith to mind, the influence of Smith again evident in "If You're So Smart, How Come You Ain't Rich?"; two more gems on this highly recommended set.
I received this CD from Phil himself, with a note saying Sean "Blue Guitar" Carney advised him to send me a copy. Well, let me thank both of them here, for this may as well be my own 2006 best Christmas present. Now let me tell you why.
This collection is a tribute to Louis Jordan music, and one could think "who needs another CD like this?" Sure, we got Jordan's music by the great Louis himself, we got a tribute album by BB King, we got a tribute album by Clarence Gatemouth Brown, I even have an excellent tribute CD by an unfortunately defunct French band called the Little Big Band, not to mention the many Jordan covers one can find on so many other CD's out there, be it in the blues field, the rock field, the country field or the western swing field and maybe other genres too. So what's the use of yet another one?
Well, the thing is Phil Berkowitz was clever enough to give his own tribute to the master a totally different approach. And the master word here is subtlety.
First Berkowitz sings these eternal songs with a soft yet assured voice he "deposits" with delicacy upon the finest instrumental backup provided by a great band. Not only that, but on top of it, the man provides an extraordinary work on the harp that reminds me not so much of the great harpists who came before him, but of that French harmonica player who fronts a band called the Hoodoomen, a man who goes by the name of Philippe Brière. And what do Phil Berkowitz and Phil Brière have in common? It's the way they both have worked the many sounds and tones one can blow and suck out of that little instrument, using only their own breath and hands to vary those in what seems to be an endless variety of possibilities.
And don't get me wrong, the whole CD is not just another demonstration of incredible skills, but those are only used to provide one of the best heart felt and tight renditions of Louis Jordan's music, still putting every bit of Berkowitz and his band own musical personnality into it.
So, would I recommand this CD? You bet I will!
Harmonica ace Phil Berkowitz takes an interesting notion — replacing saxophone with harp and recording an album's worth of Louis Jordan covers — and comes up with the immensely enjoyable Plays Louis' Blues (Dirty Cat 0001). Of course "Caldonia," "Saturday Night Fish Fry," "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby," and "Let the Good Times Roll" are here, but so are lesser-known gems "Three-Handed Woman" and "Salt Pork, West Virginia." Berkowitz's vocals are engagingly hip, but not self-consciously so. His playing and tone echo Jordan's parts admirably, and the other musicians — three members of jazz-jumpers Stompy Jones plus immaculate string-bender Danny Caron (formerly Charles Brown's bandleader) — display absolute accuracy in the style.
Danny Caron and Phil Berkowitz produced this CD dedicated to Louis Jordan and the novelty musical style combining humor and jive which bridged the gap between big band style and rock and roll resulting in what would become known as jump blues. The fact that Danny Caron was involved in this project gives it stature due to his successful stint as musical director for the late Charles Brown.
The opening cut of "Salt Pork, West Virginia" is a pure jump tune with Berkowitz on vocals and harmonica. "Let The Good Times Roll" is a bluesy exploration with Berkowitz doing an interesting vocal interpretation with a supple voice that is catchy. Caron leads off "I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts of Town" with his uniquely tasteful guitar style and Berkowitz displays good control on harmonica. Berkowitz's harmonica really shines on "Caldonia" and Caron's sizzling guitar licks behind the vocals is delightful. "Cat Scratchin'" is a playful romp that is alluring. One of the best tunes is the slow "Blue Light Boogie" which has a rhythmic pattern laid down by supporting musicians Caron on guitar and Lawrence on piano. On the bluesy "Early In The Morning" imaginative percussion work by Brown drives the rhythm and there are some good harmonica trills. "Three Handed Woman" features a short guitar solo by Caron demonstrating his clean, uncluttered tones. The final cut is "Saturday Night Fish Fry" with animated vocals by Berkowitz.
This CD consists of fourteen cuts and it is a worthy exercise which will appeal to Louis Jordan fans. Berkowitz gives a heartfelt performance and it doesn't hurt to have the brilliant guitarist Caron at your back. I thoroughly enjoyed this CD and would give it a good recommendation.
Phil Berkowitz puts on a great show. Few harp players can do Louis Jordan justice, and Philip does a great job. Congrats on a fine new CD.
Capturing the conversational phrasing and sly humor in much of Jordan's material and translating Jordan's jazzy, blues-soaked saxophone riffs to diatonic harmonica are not easy tasks, but Berkowitz rises to the challenge with aplomb on Louis' Blues. …
Berkowitz mixes such major Jordan hits as "Caldonia," "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie," and "Saturday Night Fish Fry" (all of which made both R&B and pop charts in the '40s, an indication of Jordan's huge crossover appeal) with delicious obscurities like "Do You Call That a Buddy? (Dirty Cat)" and "Three Handed Woman."…
Producer-arranger Danny Caron … places frontman Berkowitz in an appropriately swinging context for his journey through the Jordan songbook. Jordan's music, Berkowitz points out, was simultaneously down-home and urbane, reflecting his Arkansas upbringing and his tenure in drummer Chick Webb's New York orchestra. Berkowitz and company do a most satisfying job of projecting those timeless qualities.
Bay Area-based boogie/jump blues band The High Rollers are blasting through with their latest release, High Time (Rollin' and Tumblin' Music). This quartet of fine musicians delivers one tight set of 12 originals based on the swinging styles of blues having a resurgence of sorts in blues clubs from Redding to Fresno. The CD title explains the thread that runs through this disc, with tunes centering on time-related tales.
Lead man "Harmonica" Phil Berkowitz blows inspiring harp and sings on every tune, causing the toes to tap and the fingers to snap along with his constant rhythm. Berkowitz also contributes to the songwriting detail by penning nine out of the 12 tunes. Rounding out the band is Bruce Todd on guitar, Des Mabunga taking the bass chores and Elvis Johnson drums. Sitting in on various songs is Tom Whitehead adding New Orleans boogie style piano on "Before You Go" and pianist Pawel Kuczera on the rest. What blues CD would be complete without some trace of horns? Enter Kevin (Spazz) Burkhardt on trombone and Doug Rowan playing alto sax on the lazy blues number "Before You Go." Berkowitz's wife, Ms. Ginger T, adds capable singing to "5-10-15 Hours." Very enjoyable disc.