I have always had a soft spot for pianists, and especially blues pianists, which brings us to David Maxwell. His career as a solo artist, band mate, and session player is now in its fourth decade. He has recorded with and shared the stage with blues legends such as Freddie King, Bonnie Raitt, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Lowell Fulsum, and Junior Wells.
He has just issued a follow-up to his two Blues Music Award winning albums, You Got To Move with Louisiana Red and Conversations In Blue with Otis Spann.
His new release, Blues In Other Colors, is an apt title as he fuses traditional blues with music and rhythms from other countries. The 13 original instrumental tracks find him melding Spanish flamenco music, African beats, and Eastern sounds with his blues approach. He has gathered an eclectic but outstanding group of supporting musicians in support. West African and Indian percussionist Jerry Leake, mohan vina player, (an Indian stringed instrument), Harry Manz, Turkish ney player Fred Stubbs, oud (Eastern stringed instrument) and Moroccan raita player Boujmaa Razgul, guitarist Troy Gonyea, drummer Eric Rosenthal, and bassists Marty Ballou and Paul Kochanski all make up one of the oddest group of backing musicians that have ever supported a blues artist.
The odd grouping of musicians provides the foundation for Maxwell’s blues runs. Individually and collectively they lay down a variety of rhythms that he uses as a jumping off place. His traditional American blues heritage is very clear at times, and other times are melded into the sounds and traditions of other countries music.
“Movin’ On,” “Blue Dream,” and “Big Sky” are typical of the album as the combination of foreign percussion, an American double bass, and
mohan vina, which can best be described as a fusion of a guitar and sitar, integrated into a wonderful mix of sound. When they combine with a pianist of Maxwell’s statue, the result is both unusual and interesting.
The stringed oud and the snake charmer sound of the raita are right out of Arabian nights. They are far removed from American blues yet Maxwell manages to join the two sounds together.
Part of the album’s uniqueness and charm is that Maxwell is an old style pianist in the tradition of T-Bone Walker and Otis Spann, and here he expands his musical horizons outside of his comfort zones. He proves that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks. If you like the blues and are in the mood for something different, then this is an album for you.
Article first published as Music Review: David Maxwell – Blues In Other Colors on Blogcritics.