Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fred Kaplan -- "Hold My Mule"

Blues music goes through phases. This isn't a criticism, just stating a fact. Lately it seems like we have been in a phase where the guitar is everything--we have guitar players, and people who sing and play guitar, men and women who play guitar and sing--and sometimes it seems like that's all there is. Well, this new Fred Kaplan cd is a wonderful journey through a style of blues that mostly doesn't exist anymore--piano based blues music in the style of the 1940s. That might sound old-fashioned to you, dear reader, but don't think this is a sepia-toned museum piece. This is lively music to dance to, music to cuddle up with, music for all occasions. Fred Kaplan is a wonderful pianist/organist, and after spending a bunch of years playing piano for the Hollywood Fats Band, most of that time with Richard Innes on drums, Fred is releasing his third solo cd. All the seventeen original songs here were written by Kaplan. They are all instrumentals. The longest song here is 5 minutes and seven seconds, and there are no overdubs. Fred Kaplan plays lead piano, and there's tenor saxophone played by Gordon Beadle on nine songs, and the guitar is by Junior Watson, and Kedar Roy is on bass and Richard Innes on drums. David Kaplan plays congas on one song. All of them are great players, and more importantly than their individual abilities, they each listen with a musical depth to the songs and they play the music that each song needs, and not one note more. The notes they don't play are every bit as important as any that they do play.

From the liner notes: "These recordings were an accumulated effort, completed over a two year time period. All the tracks were recorded live, with no over-dubbing whatsoever. Most of the compositions are first takes, never to be duplicated again. These musical friends are a living testimony to their high-caliber skill levels, both individually and as a collaborative group. The artistic love, mutual respect and musical integrity that became evident throughout this project was due, in large part to the passion of my gifted friend Bharath Rajakumar's creative and forward thinking. It is my hope that you will enjoy the magic as much as we did."   Fred Kaplan

Do you remember Booker T & the MGs? Steve Cropper was their lead guitarist, and do you remember his famous little solo on Sam & Dave's "Soul Man"? 6 notes at the most, but the most  perfect 6 notes. That solo is what made Steve Cropper's whole career worth hearing. On this disc nearly every song has a moment like that.

Let me give you just one example: in "Jumbalaya Jump" Junior Watson just kills it on guitar--he kills it--and then Gordon Beadle picks up the lead, and he just makes the song jump, and then Fred Kaplan kind of slides to the front on the piano, and I realized each of these three guys has been playing beautifully for the whole song, weaving in and out, front and back, with great support from Kedar Roy and Richard Innis, and this is a brand new song I've never heard before & I honestly didn't miss the lyrics at all. In fact, I listened to the cd twice all the way through before it dawned on me that they were all instrumentals.

There's some swing blues here, and some jump blues, and great musicianship throughout. Fred Kaplan is a wonderful piano player, and this is a terrific release. I highly recommend it.

You can buy this cd from Fred Kaplan's website:

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