Jeff Golub--Blues For You

Here’s Jeff Golub as I’ve wanted to hear him for so long… tearing up the blues as only a blues man can. If you’re a big blues buff, as I am, this one’s for you! If not, you’ll still find something appealing about this colorful artist who can shed the trappings and appeal of what’s shoved him into the spotlight—smooth jazz—to pursue a huge love of his-- even if only for this project, Blues For You. He takes the risk here of raising the eyebrows of smooth jazzers who see him otherwise, and I find that immensely satisfying. Of course, as I’ve stated, it’s a transformation that I can easily embrace, being a big 12-bar blues fan. 

Blues For You is a strong combination of covers and originals, including a really nice take on “Everybody Wants You,” the rock jam originally performed by his buddy and former rock bandmate, Billy Squier (who provides the vocals here, as well). There are sizzling and mellow pieces alike here, and they all beg the tuned ear to pay attention. There’s an up-tempo Golub original ditty, with Kirk Whalum chiming in with his smooth sax, called “Goin’ On,” “Lost My Mind” with rocker/vocalist John Waite, and the smokin’ title cut (check out Golub’s trademark steamy riffs here!) with vocals by Marc Cohn.  

Since blues has always been at the core of rock and certainly has had a huge influence on jazz, it’s not such a reach that Golub is so at home with this age-old genre. The rock classics of the 60s and 70s wore the 12-bar blues proudly, as did New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century. So, those who may not particularly care for the blues or those who must be in the proper mood for the blues (and that doesn’t necessarily mean a sad mood) still must respect its tenacity and influence on practically all music, including country. As Golub puts it, “I think there are many people who feel like I do. That even though we love a more sophisticated jazz approach, we can still appreciate the emotion of a bent guitar string.”  Whether or not you play guitar is irrelevant to your getting his point. Bend the string, Jeff.  I—and throngs of others like me—hear you loud and clear. I’m sure you’ve made the souls of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Stevie Ray Vaughan so very proud.  -- Ronald Jackson