Blues Bytes


August 2015

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Jeff Healey
Vintage Jazz, Swing and Blues
Stony Plain

Jeff Healey

Jeff Healey is best known for his successful career as a blues-rocker from the mid ’80s until his death in 2008, but few fans were aware of his fascination with traditional jazz of the 1920s and ’30s variety. He collected over 30,000 78’s from that musical period over his life and at 14 was already a respected jazz broadcaster on CBC Radio. Though he sold millions of records with The Jeff Healey Band, he grew tired of the “rock star” existence and the constant travel, so he disbanded the band and formed Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards in the late ’90s.

Healey played regularly with the Jazz Wizards as well as with his newly-formed blues rock band, eventually recorded four albums of traditional jazz for Stony Plain Records. The label recently released a compilation of Healey’s best recordings for the label as part of their ongoing Best of the Stony Plain Years series. Vintage Jazz, Swing and Blues includes 11 tracks from Healey’s four albums released by the label between 2002 and 2010.

There are three tracks from his 2002 Stony Plain debut, Among Friends (the Hoagy Carmichael standard “Star Dust,” the rollicking “I Would Do Anything For You,” and “Pardon My Southern Accent”), two tracks from the 2004 follow-up, Adventures in Jazzland (“Three Little Words” and “My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms”), two from the live 2006 CD It’s Tight Like That (feisty versions of “The Sheik of Araby” and “Sing You Sinners”), and four tracks from the posthumous 2010 release Last Call (a fierce reading of the Eddie Lang/Joe Venuti classic “The Wild Cat,” the entertaining string bender “Guitar Duet Stomp,” “Some of These Days,” which features Healey overdubbing himself on guitar, trumpet, and vocals, and “Hong Kong Blues”). The final track on the disc is “Sweet Georgia Brown,” an engaging live tune that has only been released on a promo-only CD sampler.

Healey plays guitar on many of these tracks, but he plays trumpet on several of the tracks and acquits himself quite well….the trumpet playing improves as the tracks progress chronologically. His guitar playing is different from what fans of his blues-rock albums will be used to, but it is nonetheless impressive and perfectly in context with this material. Vocally, while he may not have the smooth delivery of many of the original interpreters of these songs, he shows a true love of the material, singing with passion and zeal, and he has the vocal style of the genre down pat.

Then again, these recordings weren’t necessarily designed to improve on the originals. Instead, Jeff Healey was playing this music simply because he loved it and that passion just blows the listener away with every note played. I had not heard any of the music from this portion of Healey’s career prior to this release, but I came away impressed and determined to dig deeper into the individual albums. I have a strong feeling that other listeners will feel the same way.

--- Graham Clarke
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