Live Music: Lawrence Lebo and Doug MacLeod at McCabe’s Guitar Shop

January 14, 2012

By Mike Finkelstein

Last week, McCabe’s Guitar Shop delivered the goods in style, as usual, with a show that featured three of their resident instructors: vocalist Lawrence Lebo, bassist Denny Croy, and guitarist Doug MacLeod.   Lebo and her combo went on first, MacLeod finished the evening, and Croy backed both of them.

Lebo’s instrumentation was noteworthy — vocals, standup bass, guitar (Tony Mandracchia), and accordion  (Phil Parlapiano).   With no drums, the subdued percussive end of the sound came from the bass and guitar strings’ attack.   The accordion weaved uniquely in, out, and around the arrangements, providing a matrix yet leaving a lot of space to hear the subtleties of each song. It was easy to experience the nuances and to catch the flavor of every part of the band.  The rhythm and tone of Lawrence’s voice over Denny’s bass was the sound’s core, while the guitar and accordion added a whole lot of color to the mix.

Lawrence Lebo

As soon as she had descended the stairs to the stage, Lawrence wondered aloud if anyone had ever fallen while making the walk.   Not much later she removed her high-heeled leopard print shoes just to be safe.   With both feet firmly on the boards she proceeded to lead her combo through a gorgeous hour long set.  Her program concentrated on material from the third volume in a series of her “Don’t Call Her Larry” CDs.   She was in great control of her voice and in the calm living room atmosphere of McCabe’s it was easy to pick up the subtleties in her vocals.  Her sound was a smooth personal tapestry of blues, jazz, and country/western swing influences.

Lawrence Lebo and Denny Croy

Beginning the set with her own “It’s Not the First Time,” the bond between her voice and Denny Croy’s Chicago styled walking bass lines was clearly laid out.   A sultry, emotive voice like Lawrence’s sounds just right over a smooth acoustic bass — very pure and balanced. An acoustic bass can mesmerize.  It draws you in with soothing tone and gliding motion, like floating down a calm river.   As he moved through his lines, Croy’s bass throbbed, clicked, and resonated beautifully in the quiet atmosphere at McCabe’s.

The covers ranged from Koko Taylor’s “Please Don’t Dog Me,” to the old standard, “How High the Moon,” and even a jazzy nod to Patsy Cline with “Walking After Midnight.”   On these tunes guitarist Tony Mandracchia shone as he cut loose a flurry of razor sharp runs and even a tasty chord solo in “How High the Moon.”   The set also included a tune that Lawrence wrote about people who take it too far with cell phones in public places called “Stop Shouting Your Business.” It’s a song whose time has certainly arrived.

The fact that Lawrence and Denny are married no doubt enhanced the sound, which leads us to “Happy Anniversary,” written appropriately by her for him. Fast but clean blues guitar flurries meshed with accordion fills to frame Lawrence’s voice and bring home the sentiments in style.  Also, it was appealing that the accordion and guitar together suggested Django-vintage French jazz sound while not simply aping it.

Doug MacLeod

Doug MacLeod came on second and played a very impressive set.  He is currently riding a nice wave of recognition, having been nominated in two categories for awards by the Blues Foundation: Acoustic Artist and Acoustic Album of the Year.   Speaking and singing with a warm drawl, he presented a very engaging demeanor onstage.  By his own admission, his set lists were unplanned affairs.   Which meant that Croy, who has backed MacLeod for years, would take his cues and just roll with it from song to song.

The instrumentation for the set was sparse but perfectly balanced.   While Croy stuck with his stand up bass, MacLeod played a resonator guitar for the whole set and really worked the finger picking and thumb-thumping angle on it, masterfully so.  He brought out the subtleties of the axe and lowered the crowd to a hush with straight balladeer chording on songs like “Run With the Devil.” On “New Panama Limited,” a train song, he used his slide, his fingers and his foot to dynamically simulate the train rattling the rails, approaching, slowing down, stopping, and speeding through the station.   And, he relayed to us something that Pee Wee Crayton once told him, “Never play two slow blues in a row.   Someone’s going to get hurt…and it might be you.”

As I walked out of McCabe’s I overheard one fellow explaining to his friends that he had coaxed them out to see some good blues, specifically not in a bar.   The group was clearly delighted to have experienced one of the tastier double bills of basically acoustic blues one might chance to see around town, without the distraction and the din of a bar.  Good call!

To read more reviews by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.

CD Review: EG Kight’s “Lip Service”

November 28, 2011

EG Kight

Lip Service  (Vizzitone)

By Brian Arsenault

When this album started my first reaction was, “If Bonnie Raitt was Southern, this is what she’d sound like.”  But that may just be my Yankee self talking, because what you really feel when you’re moving through Lip Service, E G Kight’s latest CD, is that you just walked into a small club sort of by chance and they had this kickass band playing with a great chick singer out front.

EG Kight

But you’d either have to be in Georgia or some place where an Allman Brothers kind of band was playing its way up North before they got famous.  Kight’s songs move from country to blues and back again with an ease that’s mostly only found in Southern artists. She still lives on long time family land in Georgia.

Maybe that’s the proof that traditional country — not that contemporary junk country which is the new pop light — and the blues are not that far apart. White and black Southerners have been living together for a long time and it hasn’t all been Bull Connor and fire hoses.  They listened to each other and what came out is among the best of American music.

I’ll start with the last track because in this case the best of the songs – almost all written by Kight — was saved for last. “I’m Happy With The One I Got Now” is maybe the most traditional blues song on the album. Kight’s oh so clear, clever, teasing voice is supported by great acoustic guitar work by Tommy Talton.  Talton is perhaps the most notable of an excellent collection of sidemen playing on Lip Service.

The title song, with its nearly naughty lyrics and road house rock sound, could be recorded by the Rolling Stones in their bluesiest mood.  In fact, drummer Bill Stewart reminds me more than once of Charlie Watts at his best.

The album kicks off with “Sugar Daddy” which brings a smile while talking about hard times. You know it’s hard times when the sugar daddies are giving pearls instead of diamonds.  Of course, some of the best blues are about good times during bad times.

There’s also a Koko Taylor tribute in “Koko’s Song, and “Savannah” is a song about various kinds of “Georgia heat.”  Phew, I thought only girls of color could pull off such sensuality in music — except for Janis.

Speaking of the great Joplin, in the opening bars of “That’s How A Woman Loves” I stopped breathing for a moment because I thought Janis lives again. But the vocal warps into a little Patsy Cline too.

Versatility is another Kight strength.  Paul Hornsby’s “It’s Gonna Rain All Night” is a jazz song, a torch song in the best meaning of the phrase.  Kight could do a whole album of songs like this and it would win Album of the Year in a couple categories at least.

And if the Stones could cover a couple of the songs on Lip Service, it made me sad that Otis Redding isn’t still around to cover “Somewhere Down Deep.”  And when I mention Otis, it’s the highest praise I could offer for this recording.

More than a little production credit goes to Paul Hornsby.  You know the standard phrases: “legendary producer” and the less effusive “veteran producer.”  Instead, let me put it this way. Hornsby has produced a lot of terrific music by a lot of fine artists for a long time.

As I wrap up, I feel like maybe I haven’t said enough about E G Kight’s singing, which is so clear and so capable of irony, humor, pathos and just deep, deep feeling. But you really can’t just write about such good stuff. You have to hear it

Photo courtesy of E G Kight.  Photo copyright by 

To read more reviews and posts by Brian Arsenault click HERE

Picks of the Week: July 25 – 31.

July 25, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Justo Almario

– July 26. (Tues.)  Justo Almario Quartet.  Saxophonist/flutist Almario is one of the Southland’s great jazz treasures, a player who moves convincingly across every jazz arena. Vibrato.  (310) 474-9400.

– July 27. (Wed.)  Gladys Knight and James Ingram.  The one and only Grammy-winning Empress of Soul shares the stage with the smooth sounds of balladeer Ingram.   Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2040.

– July 28. (Thurs.)  David Angel’s Saxtet.  Angel continues his quest to showcase the jazz saxophone in all its glories.   Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

– July 28. (Thurs.)  Red Baraat.  The band that has convincingly married the Punjabi bhangra percussion rhythms with spunky New Orleans brass makes its West Coast premiere appearance.  The Skirball Cultural Center.   Free.  Seating on first come basis.  (310) 440-4500.

Ann Hampton Callaway

– July 28 – July 30.  (Thurs. – Sun.) Ann Hampton Callaway.  Blessed with one of the jazz vocal world’s most gorgeous, emotionally pliant voices, Callaway is also a convincing pianist and a masterful musical storyteller. Catalina Bar & Grill.   (323) 466-2210.

– July 29. (Fri.)  Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos.  One of the major pop music breakthroughs of the past decade, the Grammy winning, platinum producing Lonely Boys share the stage with the older, more established, but no less compelling Los Lobos. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

– July 29. (Fri.)  John Proulx, Kristin Korb and Dave Tull. Trio’s like this don’t come along very often.  Pianist Proulx, bassist Korb and drummer Tull are all first rate instrumentalists  But each of them is also an appealing jazz vocalist.   Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– July 29 & 30. (Fri. & Sat.) Michael Feinstein and the Singing Stars of Television.  Pianist/singer Feinstein, who matches his musical adroitness with a dedication to the glories of American song, performs with Wayne Brady, Florence Henderson, Cheyenne Jackson and Dick Van Dyke.   Hollywood Bowl.    (323) 850-2040.

– July 30. (Sat.)  Trouble in Tahiti. The too-rarely seen Leonard Bernstein one-act opera receives a rare and unusual performance in a night club setting.  Jessica Marney and Phil Meyer star.   Vitello’s.  (818) 769-0905.

– July 30. (Sat.)  Shoghaken Ensemble and Tigran.  An evening overflowing with the colorful, far-reaching melodies and rhythms of Armenia.  Grand Performances.

(213) 687-2159.

– July 30. (Sat.)  Chuck Manning Quartet.  Versatile tenor saxophonist Manning brings an inventive point of view to his bop-influenced, straight ahead style.  His stellar backing includes Jay Daversa, trumpet, Pat Senatore, bass and Jimmy Branley, drums.  At 6:30 and 10:30, the Otmaro Ruiz duo.   Vibrato.  (310) 474-9400.

Peter Frampton

– July 30. (Sat.)  Peter Frampton.  One of the icons of classic rock, Frampton was a co-founder of the group Humble Pie when he was only eighteen.  Still a star, this time out he performs his multi-platinum album Frampton Comes Alive! in its entirety.  Greek Theatre.   (323) 665-5857.

– July 30 & 31. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Central Avenue Jazz Festival.  The 16th annual festival, always a showcase for the Southland’s finest, takes place in one of the founding places of Los Angeles jazz.  This year’s line up includes: on Saturday: Pete Escovedo, Kamasi Washington, the Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra, Karen A. Clark Project, Ashley Siris, Dorian Holley, The LAUSD All-City High School Jazz Band.  On Sunday: The Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Katia Moraes and Sambaguru, Deacon Jones with Ray Goren, Ernie Andrews, Jazz America tribute to Buddy Collette.  The Central Avenue Jazz Festival takes place on Central Ave. between 42nd and 43rd streets.  Free.  (213) 473-2309.

San Francisco

New West Guitar Group

– July 27. (Wed.)  New West Guitar Group. A trio of gifted young guitarists – John Storie, Perry Smith and Jeff Stein, the New West players have thoroughly authenticated their ability to move freely and imaginatively across jazz, rock, folk and beyond.  Freight & Salvage.  (510) 644-2020.

– July 29. (Fri.)  Lavay Smith’s Crazy in Love with Patsy Cline.  The one and only sultry siren finds entertaining common ground between jazz, blues and country.  Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.   (510) 644-2020.

– July 31 – 31. (Sat. & Sun.)  The Fab Four.  Tribute bands seem to be proliferating in every direction.  But none do a more entertaining job of it than the Fab Four’s ear and eye catching versions of the Beatrles. Yoshi’s San Francisco.    (415) 655-5600.

New York

– July 26 – 30. (Tues. – Sat.)  Leny Andrade“From Rio With Love.”  The title is great, but it doesn’t say it all.  Andrade, in fact, has for years been one of Brazil’s most proficient jazz vocal artists, combining her deep understanding of Brazilian rhythms with an equally inventive jazz style.  Birdland.     (212) 581-3080.

– July 26 – 31. (Tues. – Sun.)  Fourplay. Guitarist Chuck Loeb joined founding Fourplay members Bob James, keyboards, Nathan East, bass and Harvey Mason, drums in 2010.  The result has been a further musical enhancement of a group that has always had the ability to find the creative heart of whatever style they elect to play.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.

Claudia Acuna

– July 26 – 31. (Tues. – Sun.)  Claudia Acuna.  In a jazz world overflowing with talented female vocal artists, Acuna continues to soar freely at the highest levels of the art.  Chilean born, she mastered the basics quickly, but what makes her special is the way she has shaped her version of those basics into her own mesmerizing musical story telling. (212) 258-9800.   Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.


– July 29. (Fri.)  Ravi Coltrane Quartet.  Tenor and soprano saxophonist Coltrane has successfully accomplished the difficult task of creating his own convincing musical identity, expanding inventively from year to year, inspired but undistracted by the greatness of his father.  New Morning.    01 45 23 51 41.

Justo Amario photo by Tony Gieske.


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