Album Reviews

Nancy Wright


Artist:     Nancy Wright

Album:     Playdate!

Label:     VizzTone

Release Date:     09/30/2016


San Francisco Bay area-based Nancy Wright is a highly sought after saxophonist and vocalist, who has already been inducted into the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame. This is her third album as a bandleader and she has assembled a cast of West Coast luminaries for this project. As with many West Coast blues albums these days, it was produced, recorded and mixed at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose. 

Her style of sax playing, full of a big, rich tone, plenty of vibrato and funky timing, may remind you of King Curtis and Junior Walker. Most of the music takes on that same soulful, funky quality, getting off to an sweaty start with Wee Willie Walker on vocals for “Why You Wanna Do It.” Tommy Castro takes the guitar lead on Willie Dixon’s “I Got What It Takes” a takeoff on “Same Thing.”   Pianist Victor Wainwright and Joe Louis Walker (guitar) take their turns too along with Frank Bey (vocals) and Jim Pugh (organ) on subsequent tracks. A less familiar name, Terri Odabi, takes the vocal lead on Wright’s own tune, “Warranty,” which is especially rhythmic and funky. The latter half of the album has guest turns from guitarists Elvin Bishop, Mike Schermer and Chris Cain on particular tracks.  There’s even a gospel track, “Satisfied,” featuring a small choir.

The album is dedicated to Wright’s friend and mentor, the late Lonnie Mack. Here’s her explanation of the inspiration for the project, “Some of this music influenced me early in my career, but two songs that were new to me perhaps served as the catalyst to make this record. Friend and mentor Lonnie Mack played his unreleased demo of “Been Waiting That Long” as we sat together at his kitchen table last year. A few months later, while listening to a Sansu collection of Allen Toussaint’s passing, I discovered “Why You Wanna Do It Devil.”  Even though the Putting Down Roots CD was released less than twelve months prior, I found myself headed back to the studio.”

Wright respects the blues and soul tradition and is able to both write and play naturally. There’s swagger and joy in all of these tunes. Wright would not be able to attract a roster of high caliber musicians like this unless she had their mutual respect. It’s clear that she does.

– Jim Hynes


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