Healey's death last month robbed us of a remarkably talented musician. Just how talented is readily apparent from this posthumous release that combines four live and six studio tracks.
The studio cuts, including versions of "Jambalaya," "The Weight," and the title track, are solid. But the two opening live blues tracks - "I'm Torn Down" and "How Blue Can You Get" - recorded in London and at his own Jeff Healey's Roadhouse club in Toronto, are extraordinary, the sort of in-concert music that makes listeners sorely regret they weren't at what must have been superb gigs.
That feeling is reinforced by the two other live tracks, a barn-burning "Sittin' On Top Of The World" and a version of Neil Young's "Like A Hurricane."
And the regret is more intense because there won't be another chance to experience first-hand the fire, passion, dexterity, and technical virtuosity of one of the modern era's premier blues guitarists.
Performing with his very tight house band from the Toronto club, Healey's playing is at times a revelation.
That helps to make "Mess Of Blues" a fitting memorial.
- RICHARD PATON
With his gorgeous tone and incredible range, Don Immel makes a strong case for giving the trombone a second look as the centerpiece of a jazz combo. He commands such a smooth and warm presence with the instrument there are times listeners might think they're actually hearing the silky notes of a trumpet.
But this debut solo album, which traverses across jazz, classical, pop, and chill, also has more than enough creative musical juxtapositions and sophisticated arrangements to take the project well beyond the fuzzy, feel-good realm.
The Southern California-born trombonist and former University of Washington professor is the real deal, having played with symphonies in Houston, Seattle, and Honolulu, as well as several other pop, jazz, and opera groups before landing up at his current residence in Denmark, where he is the solo and principal trombonist for the South Jutland Symphony Orchestra.
He's also performed with stars such as Chris Botti, Cyrus Chestnut, Jon Faddis, and Larry Coryell, in addition to backing singers such as Elvis Costello, Bernadette Peters, and Linda Ronstadt and performing music for several film soundtracks.
This is one of the more outstanding indie jazz releases to come out in recent months.
- TOM HENRY
These 13 tracks make up a totally eclectic mix of music that skirts the boundaries of country throughout, from old-style traditional to western swing. Americana pop might be a more apt description.
The five talented performers dress the country part and play the typical country instruments, but these guys bring something entirely new to the party. From tales of lovestruck cowboys to lonesome western towns, the road traveled through these lyrics is wide and not always purposeful. Sometimes it's just for the sake of interesting travel, musically as well as literally.
There's romance and realism aplenty in more than 54 minutes, mixing in a few country-flavored standards such as "Frankie And Johnny" and "Take The A Train."
Lead vocalist Tim Champlin wrote nine of the songs, and the guitar work is exceptional, most notably on a fiery instrumental version of "Lady Be Good."
- KEN ROSENBAUM