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Monday, May 17, 2010

Jeff Healey

Last Call (Stony Plain Records)

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Though the title of Jeff Healey’s third posthumous release hints at the barreling barroom boogie blues-rock that epitomized his brilliant cameo in the film Road House, Last Call actually focuses on the blind guitarist’s penchant for the 1920s Hoagy Carmichael-via-Django Reinhardt jazz he explored during the last decade of his career.

Featuring his cool-jazz lyrical stylings (and more than a bit of hotel-lounge posturing), trumpet playing and multitrack guitars, Healey runs the gamut of jazz standards (“Pennies from Heaven”) and whimsical obscurities (ha ha, Jeff, “You Can’t Pull the Wool Over My Eyes”). Often completely alone, other times backed by pianist/clarinetist Ross Wooldridge or violinist Drew Jurecka, this is the sound of virtuosity being shelved in favor of complete derivative replication. It’s far from his Stevie Ray Vaughan-accompanying, YouTube sensationalism and closer to the Healey one might find at home, chillin’ amid stacks of his expansive 78-R.P.M. collection.

In other words, if Patrick Swayze is manning the door for this session, the bar is somewhere in Count Basie-era Kansas City, or down around Basin Street, New Orleans.