Blues Bytes


May 2023

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Joe Krown

Sledgehammer Records

Joe Krown

Joe Krown is one of the finest keyboard players in New Orleans, a city known for its excellent and influential pianists. He seamlessly moves through blues, jazz, funk, and soul on Tribute (Sledgehammer Records), recognizing the many artists who have influenced him.

Krown shows his skills on both piano and Hammond B-3 on Tribute, often playing both on the same song. Mark Brooks (bass) and Doug Belote (drums) back Krown on all cuts, with a variety of guitarists dropping in throughout the session. Rounding out this fine group of musicians are some very special guests.

Tribute opens strongly with the Allen Toussaint number, "All Of It," a funky New Orleans jazz/soul number featuring longtime Funky Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli, as Krown and his guest play off each other well here. Ivan Neville shows up to handle vocals on the Dr. John classic, "Such A Night," one that we've all heard many times but Krown's version gets a refreshing update.

Krown turns the James Booker classic, "Classified," into an up-tempo shuffle, driven along by Belote's steady, propulsive drum beat. The tempo slows on the next number, another Toussaint-penned song, "With You In Mind." Noah Hunt is the guest vocalist, turning in a beautiful performance on this jazzy ballad that is reminiscent of the type of work we used to hear from Johnny Adams. Krown pays tribute to Toussaint on his own original instrumental, "Ode to Mr. Davis," a mid-tempo shuffle with sax from Joe Sublett.

It wouldn't be a New Orleans tribute album without some recognition of Professor Longhair, with Krown doing his own "Tribute to Fess," taking the New Orleans piano sound to new places. Up next is a lesser-known Dr. John song, "Dorothy," that starts out as a pleasant mid-tempo number before slowing to great effect.

Krown frequently worked with the late singer/guitarist Walter "Wolfman" Washington, and it's fortunate that he got his one-time bandmate into the studio for one more cut, the Lightnin' Hopkins classic "Feel So Bad." Washington summons his inner Hopkins, with just the right rasp and growl in the vocals. Sublett returns on sax on an instrumental version of the Big Jay McNeely standard, "Something On Your Mind," with Jason Ricci joining in on harmonica. It's done in a slower tempo than Big Jay's version, and it works quite well.

Still another Toussaint classic, "Southern Nights," has Krown turning in some of his best piano work on the album. Closing the album is a Krown-penned instrumental, "Gumbo Boogie," with our star playing both piano and B-3. IT's an up-tempo stomper bringing this delightful album to a strong finish.

May I say it? Throughout the album Krown plays notes on his piano not heard on the iconic original numbers, taking these familiar songs to a new level. I love this album, and I believe all of you will, too. Tribute belongs in any collection of New Orleans piano.

 --- Bill Mitchell



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