Saturday, December 28, 2013

Moanin' - Tommy Conwell and the Little Kings

A review of Tommy Conwell and the Little Kings' cover of "Moanin'" - courtesy of blog, Kool Kovers - "dedicated to showcasing excellent cover versions and lesser known original recordings of popular songs."


Both the song and the album entitled "Moanin'" by drummer Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers are cornerstones of not just the storied Blue Note record label, but of hard bop and modern jazz.
Recorded and released in 1958, "Moanin'" is on the short list of jazz standards like "Back At The Chicken Shack" by Jimmy Smith or "Maiden Voyage" by Herbie Hancock. The blues-based theme gives it an instantly recognizable central melody and the body of the tune swings like crazy. The song was written by pianist Bobby Timmons and features saxman Benny Golson (of "Killer Joe" fame) and trumpeter Lee Morgan, who went on to his own successful recordings for Blue Note, such as "The Sidewinder".
As a drummer, Art Blakey had power and originality, favoring a dark cymbal sound punctuated by frequent snare and bass drum accents in triplets or cross-rhythms. Blakey is also widely credited with the invention of the "push roll"; a snare roll that starts quietly and rapidly increases in volume. An example of this quick riff can be heard in the opening minutes of "Moanin'". Blakey frequently employed it to dramatically signal a change to a different section of the tune.
Get your cool on and dig Art Blakey's classic, "Moanin'". The song lasts about 9 minutes, but if you let the groove pull you in, the time will fly right on by. Enjoy!
If there ever was a band that wanted their crowd to party like it's 1959, it was Tommy Conwell's Little Kings, a band named after a local cream ale sold in 7 ounce bottles. (Larger sizes were available, but that defeated the purpose of the 7 ouncers.)
Straight outta the bars of Philadelphia, Conwell had a taste of national success in the late 1980's with his band, the Young Rumblers, who cut two albums for Columbia, "Rumble" and "Guitar Trouble", and one for MCA in 1992, entitled "Neuroticus Maximus" which that label chose not to release. To this day, Conwell still doesn't know why. I've heard it. It's of that era, but it's a good record. You can listen to it and buy an Mp3 version of the album at Tommy's website. This is another good example of why it's smart to own your master tapes.
After the MCA debacle, Conwell took a break from the big time music business, except for a two-album stint on the down-low as the unbilled guitarist for Philly pop band, Buzz Zeemer. In 1997, Tommy got back to basics and assembled the Little Kings; a sturdy roots 'n blues, rock 'n roll band with a reputation for high energy, groove and chops to spare. Don't be fooled by the goofball cover art. This band was dangerous and Conwell himself was well known as a showman with a decidedly old school sensibility who was, and still is, very capable of humbling lesser guitarists. Tommy made two records with the Little Kings for the now defunct Llist label out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, entitled "Sho Gone Crazy!" and "Hi-Ho Silver". Although out of print, both are highly recommended and guaranteed to wake up a sluggish party. Like the one you're at right now.
So crack open a cream ale shorty and crank up this rippin' version of "Moanin'" by Tommy Conwell and the Little Kings! Hi-Ho Silver indeed.
Two essentials for your jazz collection are the albums "Moanin'" and "A Night In Tunisia" by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Vinyl should be available too. You can get music direct from Tommy Conwell at his website or at Amazon Mp3. Tommy is still playing the bars and clubs in and around Philadelphia. His guitar skills have only improved with time. I understand you can even get some lessons from him, if you're in the area.
Support local artists and musicians how, where and when you can, wherever you live.

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