Michael Bram "Leroy"
CD review by Roger-Z
Like the greatest athletes, Michael Bram makes it look easy -- no, effortless. When he sweats, the beads fall off in perfect time. Though renowned for his drumming, he chooses to showcase his impressive vocal and harmonica talents on this mostly acoustic first album, "Leroy."
A canny mix of blues and jazz chestnuts, this project includes Andy Stack on guitars and Cary Brown on organ and piano. The blues cuts feature piano, guitar, harp, and no drums while the jazz tunes comprise organ and percussion. Subtlety and taste pervade the album. Michael's vocals utterly convince. Breathing new life and creativity into an old musical form takes real talent. Michael and gang display tons of it.
The five blues tunes feature vocals and harp prominently placed in the mix. The pianist and guitarist truly grasp the concept of "accompaniment," adding tasty licks without overshadowing or stepping on Michael. Interestingly, Dust My Broom, originally an Elmore James slide guitar showcase, contains no slide. While Freddie King's Blues With A Feeling, originally cut on regular guitar, now features very tasty slide. Duke Ellington's Things Ain't What They Used To Be morphs into a stunning harmonica solo. Can't Hold Out Much Longer pertains to unrequited love -- "I'm crazy about you baby but you don't care nothing in the world about me." The album closes with a beautifully understated version of It Hurts Me Too.
The jazz tunes swing. Cherokee opens with a tasty Michael Bram drum solo and continues at full throttle. Andy Stack's guitar playing impresses with its fluidity and gracefulness. Once I Loved surprises as a samba played without percussion. Michael's vocals dominate. Finally, John Coltrane's Resolution paints with pastels using instruments as the tender brushes.
All in all, a very impressive debut from a multi-talented musician. Of course, I'm prejudiced. Michael drums on many of my rock trio gigs. He always does an outstanding job. What makes his playing special is that he is always "in the moment" -- totally relaxed, aware, and responsive to all that surrounds him. Music becomes an intimate conversation. He brings precisely that to Leroy, his first album.
Michael Bram can be seen every Tuesday night at the blues jam at Jean-Jacques in Pleasantville, N.Y. as the featured drummer, vocalist, and harp player of The Geoff Hartwell Band.