Zen Blues Quartet

Zen Blues Quartet
Again and Yet Again

Shunyata Records

By Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
April 2008

Throughout the years, I've made no secret of my very narrow minded views when it comes to the blues. Yes, I do understand that interpretation deviates, but on the other hand, the more it does the less I usually like it. Therefore, you can just imagine what went through my mind when I saw the name “Zen Blues Quartet.”

Taking into consideration the definition of the word “Zen”, and knowing that it's also a slang street name for lysergic acid diethylamide - more commonly referred to as LSD - I couldn't help but wonder what kind of far out interpretation I was about to hear.

Then the first track, “What A Life,” began to play, and all my fears were immediately dispersed.

This was going to be a good trip after all.

The Zen Blues Quartet consists of: Mike Finnigan on the B3 organ, keyboards and vocals; John March on guitar; Tim Scott on bass and vocals; and Steve Ferrone on drums. Special guests on Again and Yet Again include: Bill Churchville, trumpet and horn arrangements; Rev. Dave Boruff, alto and tenor saxophones; Ed Wynn, tenor and baritone saxophones - collectively known as the L.A. Horns. Other guests are: Carmen Grillo, background vocals; Curtis Salgado, Harmonica; and Marty Grebb on Rhodes piano.

Again and Yet Again consists of several band originals mixed in with an interesting blend of covers that you might not necessarily hear from a blues band. The result is an outstanding merge of blues, soul, funk and R&B.

Let me tell you a bit about a few of my personal favorites.

The disc opens with one of the originals, “What A Life,” which had me saying ‘what a song!’ Of course, several listens to this one were required. During the first few, focusing on what I needed to say and typing while snapping my fingers were quite difficult. This one features everyone. The L. A. Horns are hot; ditto for Tim and Steve on rhythm, the vocals and vocal harmony are prominent and Mike’s just destroying the keyboards. It’s possibly the best cut on the disc.

Another band original is “I`ve Had Harder Times From Better Women Than You.” Listening to these lyrics has me thinking that if this dude has had harder times than this, his choice of women needs to be questioned. The feeding off of each other that March and Salgado get into on guitar and harp, along with great horn work led by fierce trumpet playing from Churchville, highlight this one.

“Same Old Blues” is an absolutely splendid version of the song that was written by Don Nix, performed by many, and made popular by Freddie King. This Ray Charles- sounding number is all about the vocals and the keyboards - especially the piano.

The band’s connections to Tower of Power and the Average White Band are very evident on “Powerful Stuff.” This is rhythm and blues precisely the way it's supposed to be done. It's this type of stuff that every music student should be made to listen to. The only way to properly compliment this track is to say it is a perfectly written, perfectly sung and perfectly performed song.....THIS is powerful stuff!

“Secrets Best Kept” is an instrumental that by rearranging the words in the title may very well describe the Zen Blues Quartet - the blues' “best kept secret.” Again and Yet Again should change that. This track, backed up by the rhythm section in a tight jam, features some of March’s best guitar work.

It took getting all the way to the closing, and title track, to finally hear what I would call “Zen” music. No further explanation necessary.

Editor’s Note: Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro, our man in Florida, is the blues editor of www.Mary4Music.com, and a contributing writer to BluesWax, a weekly blues e-zine. He generously provides blues societies with his reviews.


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