Label: Blue Heart Records
Release Date: May 21, 2021
The harmonica is one of the few instruments you can literally put in your pocket and carry with you wherever you go. This portability has allowed Rob Stone to travel the world playing the music he grew up with in Boston and to learn from the masters of Chicago Blues like Jerry Portnoy, Sleepy LaBeef and the legendary Sam Lay, before forming his own band and eventually relocating to Los Angeles. His globetrotting led him to Japan many times where he found an eager audience for his style of post-war electric blues and a community of like-minded musicians. Encouraged by his mentor, the late great Big Jay McNeely, Stone recorded his first all acoustic album with pianist Elena Kato and bassist Hiroshi Eguchi, tagging the record with the title, Trio In Tokyo, as a reflection of the project’ s intimacy with an international flair and universal appeal. The unplugged sound is a departure from his five previous albums with The C Notes and other big electric collaborations including those with Joe Bonamassa, Benny Turner, Bob Margolin and Slash.
The ten tracks are a throwback to the 1930’ s and 40’ s sound of vocal stylists like Big Joe Turner, Nat King Cole, and Fats Waller, who blended comedy and innovation in their music and laid the groundwork for modern jazz and blues. The small combo setting leaves room for these three talented musicians to easily communicate and interact with one another and flush out the nuances of each composition. Finding new avenues of expression and common inspiration in songs made famous generations ago by Louis Jordan, Solomon Burke, Lead Belly, and other heroes of The Great American Songbook.
From the opening salvo of the swinging, “No Money,” the trio easily gets into sync with Stone’ s harmonica falling in with Kato’ s piano on the T-Bone styled riff, while Eguchi confidently lays down the walking baseline for the classic 12-bar blues. You quickly realize they bring musical pedigree to the project, as Kato leads her own Tokyo-based band, and Eguchi spent years playing bass on the Chicago scene, backing Mavis Staples, Sugar Blue, and Carlos Johnson. Solomon Burke’ s 1965 soul single “Got To Get You Off My Mind,“ included a full horn section and background vocals from The Sweet Inspirations. Here Stone focuses on the lyrics giving their sad tale more weight without the big production trappings.
Stone digs deep into his dramatic side on “ Come Back Baby,” while Kato pays tribute to Ray Charles, who first made this slow blues piano ballad famous in 1954. She continues to stretch out on ” Poison Ivy,” another fabulous jump blues from legendary Memphis crooner and piano man, Johnny Ace. The gospel fueled “There Is Something On Your Mind” was originally planned as a duet with Big Jay McNeely, who sadly passed before its completion. Stone finished recording this classic and the mournful blues “What Am I Living For?“ dedicating them to Big Jay leaving us only to imagine how splendid his vocals and saxophone would have sounded on the tracks. “Money Hustlin’ Woman” is another long-lost gem from Texas boogie woogie piano man, Amos Milburn, given a new shine by the trio. Stone shows off his lung power, both singing the tongue twisting lyrics and playing the horn lines, on Louis Jordan’ s jivey classic “Jack You’ re Dead.” He draws inspiration from all his harmonica heroes with the original instrumental “ Blow Fish Blow!” Stone and Kato close the set with a sentimental reading of the transcendent folk standard “ Goodnight Irene,” imbibing the tome of love and loss, first recorded by Lead Belly in 1933 at Angola prison, with the care and sensitivity it is due.
This fine inaugural recording from Stone, Kato & Eguchi should prove to be a gateway to discover treasures from the past and new friendships for the future. – Rick J Bowen
01 No Money
02 Got To Get You Off My Mind
03 Come Back Baby
04 Poison Ivy
05 There Is Something On Your Mind
06 Money Hustlin’ Woman
07 Jack You’re Dead
08 What Am I Living For
09 Blow Fish Blow!
10 Goodnight Irene
Website Rob Stone