Pepper Cake – www.RaphaelWressnig.com
The young Wressnig’s previous recording “Soul Gift” was successful, and if you enjoyed that disc you should definitely appreciate his latest “Soul Gumbo.” Veteran players (many from around The Big Easy) are featured: Walter “Wolfman” Washington, George Porter Jr., Larry Garner, Stanton Moore, with longtime Crescent City pianist Jon Cleary. Added to the roux are top flight performers: Tad Robinson, Alex Schultz, Craig Handy, “Sax” Gordon and others; yet another impressive outing by Wressnig who’s from Graz, Austria. Raph’s just thirty-five years young; brims with enthusiastic monster organ chops, musical curiosities and a deep understanding about the soulful sounds that he and the rest of us thrive on and enjoy.
Guitarist Teddy Royal’s (also from New Orleans) “Chasing Rainbows” opens “Soul Gumbo” with Tad Robinson hunkering down with powerful vocals, Schultz’s rhythmic guitar comps sound like he is also from Louisiana (he’s from NYC,); the horns are tight, as is Wressnig’s B3 on this short yet tasty chestnut. Not to be confused with the Young-Holt Unlimited million-plus selling smash hit “Soulful Stut” is the same titled (original) authored by Wressnig who gives ample time for trumpeter Eric Bloom to soar with someone named Max the Sax, Schultz punches out the funk with propulsive syncopations via drummer Stanton Moore and Wressnig’s smart organ grooves. The great Walter “Wolfman” Washington sings and plays guitar on his co-authored (with George Porter Jr. who plays bass here) dramatic and soul drenched “I Want To Know”, originally from Walter’s “Wolf at the Door” album comparatively stands as strong as the original.
It’s longer and equally dynamic with Wolfman’s guitar and vocal chops, and especially when Wressnig unleashes his B3 solo. Wressnig’s percolating “Mustard Greens” is an instrumental punchy situation that employs the horns well. Schultz blisters on his guitar break, Moore’s drumming is on steroids, Wressnig answers with another burning organ flurry on this energetic romp. Jon Cleary joins the festivities on vocals, piano and guitar on his sumptuous “Sometimes I Wonder” that elegantly simmers with fascinating shifts and changes with attentive support via bandmates Schultz, Moore, and Wressnig. Tad Robinson returns for Lowell Fulson and Billy Vera’s classic blues “Room With a View”, but I found Robinson vocally challenged and uncomfortable reaching for notes, even the ultra-reliable Schultz seems to have missed his mark on this lackluster rendition.
Nice turnaround on Wressnig’s “Slivovitz for Joe” as in (another Austrian, Joe Zawinul) is thumping journey that features the bursting trio of Moore, Schultz, and Wressnig occasionally adding Harry Sokal’s melodic tenor sax fills. Time to groove the blues on Wressnig’s longest contribution (over eight minutes,) the appropriately titled instrumental “Soul Jazz Shuffle,” first up Raph, sets the tone with a bouncy and stern organ blitz, followed by Craig Handy’s tenor sax who stretches out and shines. Schultz does his soul-jazz guitar thing as the horns kick-in and swirl the chorus to perfection.
Larry Garner takes us home on his heartfelt “Nobody Special.” Garner’s a woefully underrated songwriter and vocalist. Even though he doesn’t play guitar here, he’s also a fine guitarist. Nonetheless Garner with the (again) fine trio of Schultz, Moore and Wressnig leave a tender glow. Checkout Garner’s philosophical lyrics about how so many of us get caught up in the high-tech lifestyle – often forgetting about the simple courtesies of life – like; excuse me, please, thank you, and you’re welcome; then states “we’ve got to do something” as he starts to repeat “I want to get through to you the best way and the only way I know how.” Even though the story telling Garner recorded this tune some twenty years ago; he’s still incredibly believable, spontaneous and stunning, casting a kind shine on his surprising and welcome addition to “Soul Gumbo.”
I cannot think of any Austrian or European musicians who can interpret and add so much to American soul and funk music from Louisiana, in fact I cannot think of many non-Americans, and native North Americans who can do what Raph’s achieved with “Soul Gumbo.” On top of the fine musicianship and guest contributions, also note the informative sixteen page booklet that accompanies “Soul Gumbo.” Raph left no stone unturned for his latest chapter that leaves one question; what’s next for Raphael Wressnig? Stay tuned and surf over to www.RaphaelWressnig.com for new episodes, as the future continues to brighten for this soulful, jazzy, bluesy and talented musician/bandleader.
For sixteen years Bob Putignano has been pivotal at WFDU with his Sounds of Blue radio show (Mon. & Wed., 9am-1pm) www.SoundsofBlue.com – Previously a senior contributing editor at Blues Revue, Blueswax, and Goldmine magazines, currently the Music Editor for the Yonkers Tribune www.YonkersTribune.com – www.MakingAScene.org & www.wfdu.fm/Whats-Happening/Bob’s Music Reviews/bobs music reviews/
Bob was the 2003 recipient of the “Keeping the Blues Alive” award (given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis) for his achievements in radio broadcasting.
Putignano can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org