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Tony Z
Get Down With The Blues,  Tone-Cool CD TC 1153, 1995 (57:54)

Hot licks, scrunchy sound

Well, send your congratulations to Tony Zamagni, care of Tone Cool records. This is one fine debut record from an outstanding blues musician.

Apparently, Tony Z’s been hiding out on the road with the likes of the Platters and Ronnie Earl just waiting for his chance to spring. And man, has he sprung. Tony says his main influences are "the two Jimmies," Smith and McGriff. When you feel comfortable pulling those names out of the hat, you’d better have something to show for it. He does–in spades.

The first thing you notice is that there’s some real life in these boys. Sounds like somebody wanted to make a record real bad. The excellent liner notes will fill you in on Tony’s whole story–piano lessons in the convent to seasoned road warrior. They don’t say where he picked up his ear for writing. Nine of the ten tunes were penned by Tony, and they’re not all just your father’s I IV V. He manages to toss in some pretty tasty, pretty subtle little twists, particularly on the title track.

That’s not to say they don’t get down and shuffle. How could you not get down with Bernard Purdie, Duke Robillard and Houston Person in tow? Purdie’s as pretty as ever–he kicks the band through the changes and knocks a huge hole in it in the process (will he never quit?). And it goes without saying that Robillard and Person deliver according to their respective legendary statures.

The recording is very fine. Very crisp, very tart and very dynamic. The kind that makes your face scrunch up when the guitar bends into a blue note or the organ slides into home. And slide it does. Forget the solo chops. Tony Z can cut it with the best of them, but those years on the road have whittled his comping sensibilities to a razor edge. He can chop offbeats and swirl shimmering backing textures behind a soloist like nobody’s business.

If there’s one nit to pick with this record, it’s the vocals. To my ears, Tony has plenty to say on the organ–you’d think that writing, playing and producing would be just about enough for anybody. There’s just no keeping some people down. If there are two nits to pick, it’s the choice of fadeouts over real endings on several tunes. I know these guys can end a tune, and I want to hear the whole thing. Give it to me, Tony. Don’t keep it in the can.

You know, a friend of mine once called Jimmy McGriff the Carlos Santana of the Hammond organ. Today, I declare Tony Z the Stevie Ray Vaughan of the B-3. If you’re not hollerin’ "Yeah!" along with the record, I’m coming over to check your pulse. Tune in, turn it up, and get down.–  Jason Staczek


Tony Zamagni, Hammond B-3 organ, vocals; Duke Robillard, guitar; Bernard Purdie, drums; Houston Person, saxophone; Johnny B. Gayden, bass; Sugar Blue, harmonica on one song.


Produced by Tony Zamagni; engineered by David Axelbaum; mastered by Dr. Toby Mountain.

of related interest

Melvin Rhyne Quartet

 Boss Organ, Criss Cross Jazz CD 1080, 1994.

Copyright © 1997 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.