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It's Tight Like That

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Album Review

Canadian Jeff Healey burst on the rock scene in the '80s with a unique lap-style electric guitar approach that became codified when he and his band appeared in the movie Road House. Listeners approaching It's Tight Like That expecting more of that trademark blues-rock are going to be mighty surprised, however, because Healey has not only changed the kind of music he plays here, he has even changed the instrument he plays. Oh, he plays some guitar on this new album, but in the past few years Healey has taught himself the trumpet, and that's the dominant instrument here, for It's Tight Like That is an album of classic '20s and '30s jazz. This isn't a passing fad for Healey, either. He's been a vintage jazz buff for years, and has hosted his own jazz show on CBC Radio called My Kind of Jazz for awhile now, and has released two previous jazz albums on his own HealeyOphonic imprint, 2002's Among Friends and 2004's Adventures in Jazzland. Healey still plays occasional shows in the old blues-rock style (he's no fool and knows full well what put him on the map), but most of his gigs are now with the Jazz Wizards, a group which features violin, guitar, piano, bass, and drums, and plenty of Healey on trumpet. It's Tight Like That was recorded with the Jazz Wizards live over two nights at Hugh's Room in Toronto (two additional tracks, "Little Girl" and "Sheik of Araby" were recorded at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2005) with veteran British jazz trombonist Chris Barber sitting in, and the results are an exuberant blast of traditional jazz, with no trace of rock in sight and no slashing electric guitar slide runs, either. It should be noted that while Healey certainly holds his own on trumpet here, he's no Louis Armstrong, but then Healey himself already fully knows that. He's obviously having fun and playing music he loves. Highlights include a lusty take on Sam Coslow and W. Frank Harling's "Sing You Sinners," voiced by Healey, a feisty version of Bessie Smith's "Keep It to Yourself," sung by Terra Hazelton, and an impressive "Basin Street Blues," written by Spencer Williams and made famous by Louis Armstrong. Barber's vocal, which sounds eerily like the vocal style of another pretty darn good trombonist, Jack Teagarden (who turned "Basin Street Blues" into one of his own signature songs), makes it the album's standout track. Who knows if Healey's old blues-rock fan base will follow him over to the jazz side — a guess would be they won't, since he isn't playing as much guitar — but he may well pick up a whole new group of fans with this style of upbeat jazz.


Born: 25 March 1966 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

What made Jeff Healey different from other blues-rockers was also what kept some listeners from accepting him as anything other than a novelty: the fact that the blind guitarist played his Fender Stratocaster on his lap, not standing up. With the guitar in his lap, Healey could make unique bends and hammer-ons, making his licks different and more elastic than most of the competition. Unfortunately, his material leaned toward standard AOR blues-rock, which rarely let him cut loose, but when he did,...
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It's Tight Like That, Jeff Healey
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