The Lead Belly Project
Adam Nussbaum is a journeyman jazz drummer who has worked with the likes of John Scofield, Michael Brecker, Paul Bley and John Abercrombie. He’s a class act – one of those safe sets of hands (like Peter Erskine). Here he does something a little different – as a leader he celebrates the influence of Lead Belly, the folk/blues guitarist and singer/songwriter. Lead Belly’s music had a huge impact on the young Nussbaum and this passion-project has been a long-held dream.
It’s a dream-team that addresses it too with two guitarists (Nate Radley and Steve Cardenas) and tenor saxophonist Ohad Talmor joining Nussbaum to hoof through clever arrangments of folk-blues standards such as Where Did You Sleep Last Night, Black Betty and of course Goodnight Irene.
If you’re a fan of the many different covers that exist of Lead Belly songs then you can add a bunch more with this. If you’re a fan of any of the players involved you’ll want to hear this regardless of the Lead Belly starting point.
Black Betty is reminiscent of the rev-ups Marc Ribot fuel-injects, where Bottle Up And Go and Where Did You Sleep Last Night have the more country-jazz tinge of Bill Frisell projects. In fact I think most, when listening to this, of the Ginger Baker records in the late 1990s that featured Frisell and Charlie Haden.
It’s not all full-hurtle though with Insight, Enlight a gentle spiritual that wouldn’t be out of place opening a Santana record; that has shades of Ghost-Note and Snarky Puppy even.
There are some great grooves that sit in behind the supply, lyrical playing of Talmor (Sure Would Baby), plenty of opportunities for the two guitars and saxophone to “dance” (Green Corn, Grey Goose) and then – yes – the inevitable album-closing Goodnight Irene. Here Nussbaum sets it up with a tympani and toms solo that is pure Brilliant Corners-era Thelonious Monk and then the Frisell-isms of the guitars cannot be denied; the perfect rendering. Sleepy wafts of saxophone take the place of any lead vocal and send this brilliant album off in the perfect way.
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