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Last Call

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Album Review

The first two posthumous Jeff Healey albums, Mess of Blues (which appeared only days after his death in 2008) and Songs from the Road (2009), focused on his blues-rock guitar playing, the basis of his renown, even though he had spent much of the last decade of his life performing and recording in the early jazz styles of the first three decades of the 20th century, and often playing the trumpet. Last Call, a studio recording drawn from sessions held in February 2007, returns to the jazz format of previous albums Among Friends, Adventures in Jazzland, and It's Tight Like That. But instead of playing with his band the Jazz Wizards, Healey is accompanied by only two fellow musicians, pianist/clarinetist Ross Wooldridge of that group, and violinist Drew Jurecka. That is, they accompany him when he has any accompaniment at all. Sometimes, Healey is alone, or rather, he is the only musician, even if there are multiple instruments. The closing track, "Some of These Days," features two guitars, trumpet, and vocals, but they're all Healey, overdubbing himself. Annotator Colin Bray, another member of the Jazz Wizards, attests to Healey's love of early jazz, as demonstrated by his extensive collection of 78 rpm records, and, like its predecessors in this vein, Last Call clearly is a labor of love by an aficionado intent on replicating the sound of a musical style he reveres. Nor is it without accomplishment. When Healey and Jurecka dig into the guitar/violin duet "The Wildcat," they sound for all the world like Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, which is exactly what they are aiming for. Healey is a less impressive trumpet player, although he manages to approximate the ‘20s style he's after. He is also an adequate vocalist, but not really a stylist capable of putting his own stamp on the songs of, say, Hoagy Carmichael ("Hong Kong Blues"), or Bing Crosby ("Pennies from Heaven"). So, like Healey's other jazz albums, Last Call is something more than a busman's holiday, but something less than a major artistic statement.

Biography

Born: 25 March 1966 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Jazz

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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Last Call, Jeff Healey
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