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Rick Rosato - Homage (self-released)

13 October 2022

Plenty of jazz scholars often argue that without the blues, jazz just isn’t jazz, and if you can’t play the blues, you can’t hang with this music. Bassist Rick Rosato – who’s logged time with Gilad Hekselman, Roxy Coss and Joel Ross – takes that to heart with Homage, a solo instrumental tribute to the blues. We’re talking old school blues, too – pre-Stevie Ray Vaughan, pre-sixties revival stuff, with an emphasis on Skip James, who gets three covers here. As with the originals, the Montreal-to-New York musician keeps the performances riff- and tune-oriented, using his prodigious technique for short bursts of feeling, just like a good blues guitar solo. That doesn’t mean the riffs are instantly familiar – Rosato’s take on James’ “Cherry Ball Blues” and “Devil Got My Woman” might not spark immediate recognition, but the bassist turns in impressive solo (re)arrangements. Then there’s Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues,” which definitely do more than allude to their inspirations. Rosato brings it all back to his home genre by taking on Elvin Jones’ “Elvin’s Guitar Blues” and Thelonious Monk’s thorny “Crepuscule With Nellie,” not to mention his opening original title tune. He closes out with a joyful romp through Mississippi John Hurt’s “Boys, You’re Welcome” that feels like it ties directly into swing, and only strengthens jazz’s connection to the blues’ beating heart.