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The Graham Album Review #2152

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Joe Krown: Tribute

(Independent release, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 4/26/2023)

New Orleans has had an outsize influence on music over several generations, starting as the birthplace of jazz, and on through the decades with a distinctive style of rhythm and blues, and funk. In the process, the Crescent City has given rise to numerous distinctive pianists, including Champion Jack Dupree, Professor Longhair, James Booker, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint and Dr. John. They brought a style that incorporated some of the multi-cultural makeup of New Orleans, including blues, boogie woogie, and some Latin American and Caribbean beats like rumba and calypso.

This week we have new album by another pianist who calls New Orleans home, and pays tribute to the city’s piano innovators. It’s Joe Krown, and his new album is called, appropriately Tribute.

Joe Krown has had a lengthy career working mainly as a sideman, being a part of the late bluesman Clarence Gatemouth Brown’s band for close to 13 years, and is currently a member of the band of blues-rock guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd. He’s a regular at the New Orleans French Quarter festival, and has released several albums, including one in late 2021 with blues harmonica man Jason Ricci.

On the new album, Tribute, Krown is joined by a variety of guests, including Ivan Neville, and Walter Wolfman Washington, who passed away late last year. Krown serves up tracks in several of the distinctive styles of New Orleans, performing compositions by some of those luminaries including Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, and James Booker, plus some originals in the various New Orleans styles, from boogie to soul to funk to Gospel influenced. The majority of the album is instrumental, but there are guest vocal appearances by the aforementioned Ivan Neville, plus Noah Hunt, and Walter Wolfman Washington. Krown also plays organ on some of the tracks, usually in combination with the his piano by means of overdubbing. The regular band on the album includes Mark Brooks on bass and Doug Belote on drums. John Fohl and Jack Muele, who co-produced the album with Krown, alternate on guitars. Another guest on one tune is harmonica man Jason Ricci, with whom Krown made an album in 2021.

Opening the generous 51 minute album is an Allen Toussaint tune called All of It with a great funky groove. Krown also is heard on organ, with the guest guitarist being Leo Nocentelli, of the Meters. <<>>

A tune by another New Orleans piano icon follows. Such a Night is a classic by Dr. John, and Ivan Neville provides the vocal. It’s nicely done, though rather close to the original. <<>>

Classified is a composition by another New Orleans pianist, James Booker. Joe Krown and band serve it up instrumentally in a kind of boogie. <<>>

Another Toussaint tune included is With You in Mind, done as a ballad with the vocals of Noah Hunt. The arrangement hints at some Gospel influence. <<>>

Henry Roland Byrd, better known as Professor Longhair, is perhaps the most iconic of New Orleans pianists. Krown creates an original piece that’s appropriately called Tribute to Fess. Krown and company capture the essence of Longhair’s style. <<>>

A further facet is highlighted on Dorothy an almost country-influenced waltz also by Dr. John. <<>>

The track with the Walter Wolfman Washington, who passed away late last year, is Feel So Bad. Washington also does the guitar solo. <<>>

In the classic Fats Domino style is Something On Your Mind which also features harmonica man Jason Ricci. Krown and company also keep it authentic. <<>>

The album ends with an all-out piano boogie, an original called Gumbo Boogie. Krown and the band again do justice to the style. <<>>

New Orleans keyboard man Joe Krown’s new album, called Tribute is just that, illuminating the iconic styles of his hometown’s piano heroes, with sounds running from blues to boogie to ballads. The album’s guests, also New Orleanians, provide heft to the project, while Krown himself demonstrates his understanding and love of his piano predecessors. While there’s nothing essentially new on the album musically, it’s a nice anthology of the Crescent City’s piano innovators.

Our grade for sound quality is close to an “A” with a nice punchy sound and absence of needless studio effects. Dynamic range could have been a better, but that’s rather typical these days on all kinds of records.

The New Orleans piano tradition is something worth celebrating, and Joe Krown does just that on his new album Tribute.

(c) Copyright 2023 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
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This page last updated April 30, 2023