- Howlin’ Live at DBA, New Orleans
- Walter Wolfman Washington and the Roadmasters
- Frenchmen Street Records
Reviewed by Steve Daniels. Originally published in Big City Blues Magazine
Veteran singer and guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington cuts loose on his latest release with an amalgam of soul, funk, New Orleans jazz, and even a little blues. Well, maybe "loose" isn't the proper word. Even though recorded live, with the expected musician spontaneity, this group functions like a well oiled limousine, alternately purring and roaring. The arrangements are tight, and the mostly mid-tempo and uptempo tunes are almost irrestibly danceable.
Seventy year old Washington sounds terrific. His vocals range from smooth and silky, evoking memories of his late mentor and colleague, Johnny Adams, to raspy and growling, the latter style reminiscent of Junior Wells. His six string virtuousity depends almost exclusively on single note delivery, including many dazzling, rapid jazz filigrees. Not to be slighted in the compositional area, Washington penned or co-wrote eleven of the thirteen included songs.
The Roadmasters? These guys are hot! Wayne Maureau on drums lays down a propulsive foundation; check him out especially on "I'm Tip Toeing Through" and "Girl I Want to Dance." Equally compelling is Jack Cruz on bass; his solo on the extended cut "Tweakin' " is awesome, and his contribution on every cut is superb.
Add in the exemplary horn section — Jimmy Carpenter on saxophone and Antonio Gambrell on trombone — and you have a band that finds a groove every time and works it to the limit. Both Carpenter and Gambrell provide excellent solos on "Tailspin," the only classic 12-bar blues number. Whoever did the horn arrangements for this combo earns plaudits!
After the instrumental opener, "Funkyard," the band settles into its strength, purveying one New Orleans spicy gumbo stew after another. "I'm in Love" is an exception, a ballad a la Stan Getz, with a Carpenter solo worthy of the Getz name.The only tune that you may recognize by name is Don Robey's "Ain't That Lovin' You," but it receives a tasty New Orleans makeover here. My favorite number on the album is "Blue Moon Risin'," penned by Washington and Cruz; it opens with a slow horn introduction and features a passionate Washington vocal.
It sounds like the crowd at DBA loved this outing; judging by Washington's interjections, he was having a great time, too. So will you.