by Mick Rainsford - Blues in Britain Magazine
Jimmy Cavallo & The Houserockers – Rock, Rock, Rock, Then & Now
Johnny Ferreira – Rock & Roll Saxophonist
The saxophone has been at the heart of jump blues and R&B for over six decades - artists like Illinois Jacquet, whose wild solo on Lionel Hampton’s 1942 hit ‘Flying Home’, and the unfettered flamboyance of artists like Big Jay McNeely, Joe Houston and Wild Bill Moore inspiring a revolution that was to explode, in the 50s, onto young white audiences as rock’n’roll, led by legendary bands like Bill Haley & The Comets and Jimmy Cavallo & The Houserockers.
Cavallo was born in 1927 and, inspired by Roy Brown, Wynonie Harris and Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams, in 1949 he formed his own quintet, which took Central New York by storm. Recordings followed for BSD Records (‘I Got Eyes For You’ and ‘Rock This Joint’) and Coral Records – and in 1956 his became the first white R&B Band to appear at the famed Apollo Theatre, culminating in his appearance singing the title track in Alan Freed’s ground-breaking movie ‘Rock, Rock, Rock’. Since then Jimmy has worked continuously recording for labels like Darcy and Romar Records – backing Nat King Cole, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis Jr and Jayne Mansfield, and sharing the stage with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Joe Dee & The Starliters, The Fifth Dimension and the Turtles.
Cavallo is now 79 and his music is as undiluted as ever, his powerful baritone voice still capable of shouting the blues with the best, whilst his sax playing is as wild and unadulterated as ever. Not convinced? Then just listen to his latest CD, ‘Rock, Rock, Rock, Then And Now’ where he is joined by ex-Houserockers John Latocha and Chuck Sgroi on bass and guitar respectively, with Tom Razzano on drums and cameos from Andy Rudy (piano), Rob Spagnoletti (percussion) and Pete McMahon (harp).
The set opens with Roy Brown’s ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’, Cavallo’s powerhouse blues shouting underpinned by his explosive sax, fat-toned swinging guitar, rocking piano and percolating organ – setting the scene for 54 minutes of great music that will delight all lovers of jump blues, R&B and vintage rock’n’roll. The jumping ‘Greenbacks’ with it’s funky guitar riff and snorting sax – a tribute to “Brother Ray” with soaring, soulful sax, wistful vocals and cascading piano on ‘Georgia”, followed by a jumping ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’ with sax and guitar sparring playfully – a brooding ‘Stormy Monday’ that segues into a frantic rendition of Jimmy Rushing’s ‘Goin’ To Chicago’ – and, inevitably, a wild workout on the classic ‘Rock, Rock, Rock’, all confirm why Cavallo’s music has retained it’s popularity over sixty plus years.Add in exhilarating renditions of ‘Flip, Flop And Fly’ and a wild ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee’ with it’s shuddering backbeat, snorting sax and wild r’n’r guitar – and I am left with no other option than to recommend this impressive set. (www.petcapmusic.com)
If Jimmy Cavallo was one of the pioneers of rock & roll saxophone, then Johnny Ferreira is a disciple and it’s future.
Ferreira is a top session player who has toured with the likes of Steve Winwood, the Rolling Stones, Little feat and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and was a featured soloist in the Colin James Little Big Band – but his roots are firmly entrenched in the music of the black jump saxophonists and rock’n’rollers of the 40s and 50s, as his latest CD testifies.
Ferreira wrote nine of the ten tracks on this set, and it is a tribute to him that they all could have been potentially written in the golden age of the genres he is portraying.
The set opens with the stomping Wine, Women & Song that comes replete with boogie piano, wild snorting sax, chanted backing harmonies and pure r’n’r guitar underpinning his suitably growled and strident rock’n’roll vocals. The slow rocking Swing That Thing features a baying horn section, a feral sax solo, percolating B3 and hip vocals from Ferreira – ‘Dancin’ Is Not My Thing’ is a call and response stomper with trashcan drumming underpinning raucous trombone (Hugh Fraser) and sax – and we are back to “head-banging” r’n’r with ‘If That Ain’t Love’ with it’s wildly riffing horn charts.
The tempo is relaxed for the rock’n’roll ballad Lady – but this is a brief respite as ‘Let’s Rock Tonite’ cranks up the tempo and the volume with it’s squalling sax – ‘Mean Mr Senf’ is a full-throttle yackety-sax instrumental – ‘Night Gown’ swings irresistibly and features suitably twee female backing vocals – ‘Creeps’ is a wild jumper fired by manic sax, trumpet (Vince Mai) and trombone – which leaves ‘Chompin’ at The Bit’, which does exactly what it says on the tin.
Whilst there are artists like Johnny Ferreira around, lovers of rock&roll and sax fired R&B can rest easy that their music is in safe hands.
What do you think! (www.johnnyferreira.com)
Blues in Britain