Artist: Bruce Katz Band
Album: Out from the Center
Label: American Showplace
Release Date: 09/16/2016
This is the second release for the Bruce Katz Band on American Showplace, following last year’s impressive label debut, Homecoming. This one takes a slightly different direction in that it’s all original material, written or co-written by trio members. It also puts guitarist/vocalist Chris Vitarello in the spotlight and if you were blindfolded, you might actually think it’s Vitarello’s record. He is that prominent. Vitarello has been performing with the Bruce Katz Band for ten years and proves that he can write and sing as well as he can versatilely wield his axe. Drummer Ralph Rosen also contributes in writing. The trio is joined on some tracks by Jimmy Bennett and Peter Bennett from the Alexis P. Suter Band on lap steel and electric bass, respectively.
Katz is a musician’s musician, highly sought after as evidenced by his playing on over 60 albums as a sideman. He is a four-time Blues Award nominee. He’s played with artists from Big Mama Thornton to Jimmy Witherspoon and has logged time in Ronnie Earl’s Broadcasters, The Gregg Allman Band, and his on-going gigs with Jaimoe’s Jassz Band, the CKS Band (Scott Sharrad, Randy Ciarlante) and Butch Trucks and The Freight Train Band. Katz’s versatility is often breathtaking as he rollicking B3 solos right-handed while pounding out the bass lines with his left hand; or in some cases, playing the piano with his right as he uses his left on the B3.
Katz pounds boogie woogie piano on the opener, “Don’t Feel So Good Today” and shifts into B3 mode on tunes like “Schnapps Man,” “Dis-Funkshanal” and “The Struggle Inside.” These tunes will remind you of the Jimmy Smith/ Grant Green organ trio soul-jazz of those great Blue Note records. The latter tune clocks in at over 7 minutes and is a major platform with its shifting dynamics for Vitarello’s vocals, soulful guitar playing and Katz’s awesome command of the B3. The piano-driven slow blues “Blues for High Point Mountain” is another showcase for Vitarello’s guitar. The title track ventures toward jam band mode. “All Torn Up” may be the most straight ahead blues cut but even here as on the others, you’ll hear jazzy elements. It’s “the wide world of blues” as Katz calls it.
The band has a wide swath and a great sense of pacing the album. If you get a chance, see them live as they will be touring the album and will mix these tunes in with those from the previous record, and some Allman Brothers staples too.
– Jim Hynes