Big JAMES & The Chicago Playboys – Right Here Right Now 2009

Big JAMES & The Chicago Playboys – Right Here Right Now  2009

Blues

Big James and the Chicago Playboys are very much in the vein of Little Milton and the like. This is straight ahead Chicago soul/blues with lots of funk and soul. Phat horns and a richness and depth that is not easily achieved, this is the real deal through and through. One of the reasons I love blues as much as I do is the diversity of styles. Charley Patton and Big James can play back to back and the thread stays intact. Lead vocalist and trombone player, Big James Montgomery is a tremendous showman and bandleader and one great storyteller. This is music that will draw you close to that special someone and turn up the heat exponentially. This is as good as soul/blues gets…smooth, soulful and burning with passion. It feels good to know that someone is stepping up to perform this particular style. As the old guard continues to age gracefully, the young lions are learning their lessons well. James worked with Little Milton for two years, moved on to play with Albert King, Johnny Christian, Buddy Guy and more. This band has all the tools they need to get the job done…well, and are diverse enough to keep it interesting. From hardcore soul/blues, this band can slide effortlessly into straight-ahead Chicago blues. Not unlike fishing with multiple hooks, this band can hook you from any number of directions. One thing’s for sure…there’ll be no putting this band into a box. Give them a listen. Something here will catch your ear for sure.
By Bill Wilson.
**
Name one contemporary Blues band led and fronted by a trombone player. Right, Big James and the Chicago Playboys – that’s one. Can you think of any others? I can’t either. While I have stated previously that I am not a big fan of horns in Blues bands, Chicago’s premier R&B ensemble has found a way into my heart.

“Right Here Right Now” is their fifth album, and its major label release on Blind Pig is a well deserved step up reflecting their critical acclaim. Introducing newcomers to the Playboys’ unique horn-driven sound, the CD features seven James Montgomery original compositions as well as covers of Bobby Bland, Tyrone Davis, and the O’Jays.

Lead vocalist “Big James” Montgomery is a young man with a solid pedigree in the world of Rhythm & Blues. He played with Little Milton, Albert King, and Buddy Guy before fronting the Chicago Playboys. Drawing comparisons to James Brown’s former rhythm-intensive backing band, they have also backed Eric Clapton and Otis Rush. Having seen them live four times, I can testify that when big James and the Chicago Playboys take the stage, they are tighter than a gnat’s ass stretched over a rain barrel.

Guitar fans should fret not; Mike Wheeler plays plenty of burning leads and rhythm interspersed in the mix with his background vocals. The Chicago Playboys are further comprised of original member Charlie Kimble on saxophone, Joe Blocker – keyboards, Larry Williams – bass, Cleo Cole – drums, and Theresa Davis – backup vocals. Kenny Anderson’s highly sought after trumpet and co-arrangements are studio added. Montgomery’s nephew, Derrick “D-Mose” Moseberry adds a rap segment to “On the Grind.”

Having gained the attention aficionados, Big James and Chicago Playboys have won the Living Blues magazine annual Critics’ Poll for Most Outstanding Horns in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, and received award nominations in 2002, 2006 and 2008 for the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards. In addition they won the 2008 Prix Blues from the Académie du Jazz for their last Jamot release, “Thank God I Got the Blues.”

Opening the set with the title track, The Playboys’ dynamic sound supplements Montgomery’s heart felt lyrics making a plea for humanity to do better, right here right now. The song displays the full band’s capabilities executing Montgomery’s and Anderson’s original horn arrangements supported by the rock solid drums and bass of Cleo Cole and Larry Williams, thoughtfully placed guitar work from Mike Wheeler, and rich keyboards from Joe Blocker. Big James’ vocals become nicely choral when Davis and Wheeler join in the background.
Other standout favorites include an ode to Mom Yvonne Montgomery “A Mama Like Mine,” a Chicago Blues testimonial “Worry,” the slow, emotional “Expect the Best” (but prepare yourself for the worst), and Wheeler’s scorching guitar runs in “I Love’em” in which Montgomery laments the untimely passing of Marvell Collins Woods and Vernon “Chico” Banks.

Horn lovers are obviously going to be in heaven with this release while Blues fans of all types will find something to like within. Find out what the critics have known since 2002, and then follow up this CD with Big James’ previous killer self release, “Thank God I Got the Blues” from 2007.
**
“Big James” Montgomery has played with Little Milton, Albert King, and Buddy Guy before becoming the trombonist and lead vocalist with the Chicago Playboys, the Windy City’s premier R&B ensemble. Right Here Right Now provides ample servings of The Playboys unique-horn-driven sound, which is a little R&B, a little jazzy funk and whole lotta soul. It features eight original compositions as well as covers of Bobby Bland, Tyrone Davis, and the O’Jays, all highlighted by precisely-executed horn arrangements and dynamic, soulful musicianship.

This was a nice change from the traditional blues standards. The horns were good, had that funky James Brown vibe. The Chicago Playboys sounded really tight. I had the chance to ask Big James about his influences, he said James Brown, Little Milton, Albert King, O.V. Wright and Bobby “Blue” Bland and a few more like Muddy, Buddy. Listening to this CD it’s easy to hear all these influences. Big James told me while he was in the studio he received a call that his last CD won “Best Blues Album of the Year” from the Academie of Jazz in Europe. His song “Thank God I Got The Blues” is in the movie “Cleaner” starring Samuel Jackson & Eva Mendes. This is going to be a good year Big James.
Peace and Love
Peter ‘Cornbread’ Cohen.
**
Big James- (Trombone, Vocals)
Kenny Anderson- (Trumpet)
Charlie Kimble- (Saxophone)
Joe Blocker- (Keyboards)
Derrick “D-Mose” Moseberry- (Vocals)
Theresa Davis- (Background Vocals),
Mike Wheeler (Guitar, Background Vocals)
Larry Andrew Williams- (Bass)
Cleo Cole- (Drums)
**
01. Right Here Right Now 4:27
02. A Mama Like Mine 4:39
03. Love To See You Smile 4:04
04. On The Grind 3:40
05. Expect The Best 4:21
06. I Love ‘Em 3:57
07. A Little Attention 4:37
08. The Goose 3:16
09. Help (Somebody Please) 5:00
10. Without You In My Life 3:26
11. Worry 5:37
**


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