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Among Friends

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Album Review

With 2002's Among Friends, Jeff Healey brought his passion for traditional jazz — the driving dance band blues-based jazz of the 1920s and early '30s — into the studio. The album was issued in Canada only and was followed by Adventures in Jazzland in 2004 and the live It's Tight Like That with Chris Barber in 2006. Healey, known widely for his burning, lap style brand of electric blues does play electric guitar here, but he plays far differently than on any of his previous recordings. He also plays his second instrument of choice, the trumpet. And while he may not win any Down Beat polls, it hardly matters to him. His passion for this music is lifelong, and one can hear in his delivery as a singer the influences of everyone from Louis Armstrong to Jack Teagarden, though he is way more raggedy and doesn't have his phrasing down at all. But again, that's just fine for what this is. Among Friends also features trumpeter Dick Sudhalter, trombonists Danny Douglas and Jim Shepherd, saxophonist Chris Plock on both soprano and tenor, and John R.T. Davies on alto, Reide Kaiser on piano, and upright bassist Colin Bray. There are differing ensembles here depending on the material, which ranges from the wild and woolly "Bright Eyes," to Frank Loesser's "I Wish I Were Twins," to Gus Kahn and Isham Jones' "I'll See You in My Dreams," to "Limehouse Blues," to Earl Hines' "Blues in Thirds." Healey's not looking for anything but the feel of the music he loves. It's raw, raucous, fun and there's plenty of soul in his delivery as a vocalist. The jazz snobs would decry this, but Healey's not aiming to please; he's enjoying himself and that's obvious here. That said, his intention is made plain to the listener, and one cannot help but feel the infectious joy that comes from these grooves.


Born: March 25, 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,...
Full Bio