Guy King Brings The Suave of Jazz to His Blues
It has always amazed us how different artists can bring so many viewpoints and feeling to a genre of music in a given era. For example, while Count Basie brought a thrill and a party to jump and swing, Duke Ellington brought an elegance to his music thanks to the arrangements of Billy Strayhorn. David Bowie brought echoes of Herman Hesse and George Orwell to Glitter rock and Glam, while Lou Reed gave us a Punk rock version of James Joyce.
These artists were masters. They were masters of space, time, and the word. They understood how to move and sway listeners emotionally. So, it is especially gratifying when an up and coming artist of this caliber finally gets their due. There is a point at which they have officially “arrived.” For Chicago’s Guy King, that time is now. Actually, his talent has been recognized and appreciated for some time, but now he is becoming more well known on a national and international level, and rightly so.
Born in Israel, King first visited the United States at 16. He returned to the US five years later, spending time in Memphis, and later New Orleans. Eventually, he decided to venture north to Chicago. Here he became a staple of the music scene in short order and served as band leader for Willie Kent for six years. After Kent passed in 2006, he began his solo journey that saw him in impressive performances throughout the Chicago area. He released Livin’ It, his first solo LP in 2009. This was followed by I Am Who I Am And It Is What It Is and By Myself.
Guy’s newest release on Delmark Records, Truth, is climbing the charts, currently number 16 on The Roots Music Report’s Top 50 Blues Album Chart. This doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has had the good fortune to encounter and immerse themselves in this seductive collection of finely crafted performances.
Guy’s playing is never hurried, or crowded. He never intrudes on a moment, but instead, caresses them. Yes, there are touches of B.B. King, Albert King, and Wes Montgomery; but make no mistake, Guy King has his Tele testifying from his heart. There is a sophistication here that alludes to those brilliant and beckoning well dressed lines of Strayhorn and Ellington, but always with the whimsy of Ray Benson, and the enthusiasm of Charlie Christian. The entire band is so together, it’s a joy to hear. And King’s vocals are smooth, with just the right touch of smokey. Sound quality and mix are excellent thanks to the recording by Steve Wagner, and the production by Dick Shurman.
Standout tracks include the ready-for-radio “My Happiness,” a fabulous duet with featured vocalist Sarah Marie Young, and the kickin’ and seriously suave “It’s About The Dollar Bill.” The deep, layered beauty of “A Day In A Life With The Blues,” captured us, and another blues, “There Must Be A Better World Somewhere” held us. The instrumental “King Thing,” is a funky masterpiece. “If The Washing Don’t Get You (The Rinsing Will)” is fine swinging blues with big band accents that will have folks tapping their toes and bobbing their heads in no time.
Would we recommend this to a friend? You bet; in fact, to all of them! Pick this album up soon.