Bruce Katz Band – Connections
Dancing Rooster Records
11 songs – 56 minutes
Bruce Katz is a musician’s musician, having played with a veritable Who’s Who’s of modern musicians over the course of his storied career, including being the long-time keyboardist for Greg Allman and various Allman “family bands” as well as releasing a series of impressive solo albums.
Connections contains 10 original tracks (plus a cover of Jessie Mae Robinson’s “Sneakin’ Around” that some listeners may recognise from Delbert McClinton’s cover) that lovingly explore Katz’s primary musical influences, and it’s all here: blues, soul, jazz-rock, jam band, New Orleans R’n’B and blues-rock. The album kicks off with the ferocious instrumental boogie of “Right Here, Right Now”, highlighting both Katz’s wonderful boogie woogie skills but also Aaron Lieberman’s raw and dirty guitar. Lieberman and Liviu Pop (drums) are the newest members of the Bruce Katz Band and they bring with them an intensity and drive that clearly has brought out the best in Katz himself.
The album is primarily instrumental, with all the musicians contributing fully, although Katz’s Hammond B3 and piano are front and centre, with Katz also adding Hammond organ bass on eight of the tracks. Shaun Oakley (grandson of original Allman Brothers bassist, Berry Oakley) plays bass on three songs.
While the majority of the solos are taken by Katz and Lieberman, the funky “Where’s My Wallet’s” even contains a short drum solo, in keeping with its Wired-era Jeff Beck sound (although to be fair, many of Pop’s fills in the rest of the song are outstanding). The hard funk rock of “Down Below” also has hints of Beck, but more from his Beck-Bogart-Appice period. Lieberman’s soul-fuelled voice perfectly complements Katz’s organ on tracks such as the swampy Louisiana pop of “Nighttime Stroll” or “Sneakin’ Around” (which features an outstanding solo from Katz).
These boys are monster musicians. There is a lightness and joy to tracks like “Morning On Basin Street” and “The Dream” that belies the casual yet technical ferocity of the players, with subtle rhythmic changes implemented and unexpected musical directions followed. The manner is which Katz and Lieberman play off each other each on “Gary’s Jam” benefits from repeated listening. It is obvious that everyone in the band is listening closely to what everyone else is playing and responding accordingly. The result is a genuinely musical conversation.
Connections was recorded at the legendary Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia, which was Ground Zero for Southern Rock in the 1970s, and it was an inspired choice by Katz. This album channels that open-minded era’s approach to music. Katz produced the album with Legare Robertson, and it was recorded, mixed and mastered by Rob Evans and together they have done a great job in capturing a raucous, live and yet wholly modern sound.
This isn’t a straight blues album by any means, but if you like to hear fabulous musicians enjoying themselves with well-written songs that give the the space to stretch out and probe different ideas and approaches, you will find a lot to enjoy on Connections.
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