By Jeff Cebulski
Singer Gerald McClendon and horn player/harp blower Vince Salerno’s latest contribution to Chicago’s R&B-inspired tradition, Blues from All Points, continues the vibe of their initial offering, Grabbing the Blues by the Horns, and expands it with new compositions mixed with some perhaps-forgotten songs. McClendon remains in sure, punchy voice, while Salerno’s band is pared down a bit with a greater emphasis on Salerno’s harmonica and the musical and composing contributions of guitarist Thomas Klein, thus giving this effort something closer to a Paul Butterfield band ambiance.
After a rollicking rendition of Junior Walker’s “Hip City,” Klein and McClendon account for the next two selections, “Antidote for Love” and “Do Drop In.” “Antidote” immediately conjures memory of the great Butterfield band, with Salerno pushing the vibe with his harmonica on top of Klein’s gritty slide chords. Thomas Linsk adds a tasty organ solo. “Do” is Klein’s Steve Cropper/Stax item, the horns supplementing a swinging, electrified rhythm with Salerno’s solo the cherry topping.
A T-Bone Walker urban observation, “Street Walking Woman,” is pure city jump blues, rendered pretty much in tandem with the original. Salerno’s smoking tenor insertion improves the initial recording’s, and Klein is sharp with his blues picking. The standard “Highway 49,” made famous by Howlin’ Wolf, follows, Salerno again leading the way with harp pleasure supported by Linsk’s barroom piano.
“Flame to Ash” is another Klein contribution, pure R&B with guitar phrasing that sounds suspiciously like a theft of Deep Purple’s “Woman from Tokyo.” This one swings harder, though, with Salerno adding a nifty harp comment.
As with Grabbing the Blues, the album then turns to jazz blues performance, begun with an upbeat version of Coltrane’s “Bessie’s Blues,” followed by a change-of-pace zydeco treat, Clifton Chenier’s “Ay-tete Fee,” where Salerno gets to show off on accordion. Then Junior Walker music returns with “Cleo’s Mood,” as Salerno switches back to his wailing tenor and Linsk to his soulful organ.
“Harpacordia” is Klein and Salerno’s trip, with the band leader double-tracked on harmonica and accordion. Finally, Salerno’s “Blues and Trouble,” recorded live (oh for more of this), brings the band back into Butterfield country, with McClendon and the deeply crooning horns having the last word on reasons to travel out of town.
As usual with these guys, the Chicago Blues remains front and center, never letting us forget how our urban life is both sweet and sour. The tradition rests. Pravda Records, 2021.
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Vince Salerno—tenor and baritone saxophones, harmonica, flute
Thomas Linsk—piano, organ, accordion
Michael P. Fiorino—bass
About Jeff Cebulski Jeff Cebulski, who lives in Chicago, is a retired English educator (both secondary and collegiate) and longtime jazz aficionado. His career in jazz includes radio programs at two stations in southeast Wisconsin, an online show on Kennesaw State’s (GA) Owl Radio from 2007 until 2015, and review/feature writing for Chicago Jazz Magazine since 2016, including his column "Jazz With Mr. C". He has interviewed many jazz artists, including Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, John Beasley, and Chris Brubeck, as well as several Chicago-based players. Jeff is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association.