For those who knew the remarkable, blind, Canadian guitar player Jeff Healey as a hard rock blues musician with few compunctions to yank the Hendrixian psychedelic into his repertoire, this disc is going to be a revelation. Healey's well-hidden truest love was Louis Armstrong and 20s/30s jazz (and he had a phenomenal collection of 78s and other old sides), and Last Call represents his ability to jump into the deep end of the pool without apologies. It was made secretively, as he didn't want to offend his touring and recording band members by not inviting them. Even went so far as to emulate Sidney Bechet's example, wherein the esteemed jazz great was so aesthetically taken by all sections of the musical experience that he cut some 1941 sides by playing up to six instruments himself. You didn't know Jeff played Trumpet? Well, you'll find that out here.
As a music aficionado who treasures Gilbert & Sullivan and other show tunesmiths while reviewing brutal metal, ultra-sophisticated prog, and git-down bluegrass, I can well appreciate Healey tending to hide his affinities for the old swinging modes of yesteryear, but thank Christ the Stony Plain label released this CD. I mean, I thought I knew the late guitar wizard pretty well. Caught him decades ago opening for ZZ Top, grabbed a number of CDs, and even copped the little-known Legacy Vol. One DVD-CD three-fer with appearances by George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Mark Knopfler, Tom Cochrane, SRV, Clapton, and Keith Richards. Still, I never guessed he was this taken with croonin', be-boppin', hot swingin' proto-jazz.
The Reinhardt / Grapelli renditions with violinist Drew Jurecka are note perfect Parisian summer night materials, and Jeff's trumpet playing will set you back on your heels. The guy sounds drop-dead like something out of a Betty Boop cartoon! He also sings with a very recognizable old school laid back mellifluity and West Coast cool, more Bing than Baker. Pianist / clarinetist Ross Wooldridge similarly is every inch as hoary with the rime of yesteryear as Healey, turning in performances that may very well wring a happy tear of nostalgia from veteran eyes near and far.
If you, like me, felt Jammin' Jeff went to sing and play with the choir invisible much too soon, this disc is going to tug at your heart. Last Call is sincerely an eye-opener re-making Healey into a much broader artist than many had guessed, emphasizing just how catholic and short-sighted we can be in our expectations of art and artists.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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