Bruce Katz Band
Mississippi Moan
Audioquest 1047

Before joining Ronnie Earl’s all-instrumental Broadcasters in 1992, pianist/organist Bruce Katz spent four years with Barrence Whitfield & the Savages and earned a master’s degree in jazz studies at the New England Conservatory of Music.

He left the Broadcasters in June of 1997 to assemble a band of his own, record Mississippi Moan and, if all goes well, pick up a gig near you. Mississippi Moan is Katz’s third CD, but it’s the first that he and his band have toured behind.

Like much of the Broadcasters’ recent product, Mississippi Moan is almost all instrumental and shares Earl’s willingness to mix moody jazz with even moodier blues. Katz’s approach, however, isn’t quite so cerebral; his jazz is more aggressive, his blues more to the point. He’s also more eclectic.

The disc, which doesn’t have much to do with Mississippi or moaning, includes a rockin’ Hammond B-3 version of Les McCann’s "Compared to What," a tribute to the boogie-woogie piano kings, Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson ("Norton’s Boogie"), a nod to Dr. John ("Night of Joy") and some unique, slow gospel funk on "Praise House" and "In the Garden."

Two of the 12 tracks, both slow burners, include vocals by Mighty Sam McClain, whose last three CDs have featured Katz; a fourth is awaiting release. Katz and McClain’s "Hanging on the Cross" is sure to remind seasoned listeners of Earl’s "A Soul That’s Been Abused" from Hubert Sumlin’s 1987 Blues Party album on Black Top.

The only thing missing on Mississippi Moan is a truly distinctive sound. Though obviously a major talent, Katz has yet to find — or, at least, record — an approach that’s all his own a la Marcia Ball or Honey Piazza. He will though. He’s too good not to.

— Dave Ranney

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Boulder, CO, USA.