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BREAKOUT

The Baddest Blues Band (Ever!)

Reviews

Blues In Britain - November 2007

Breakout features fourteen titles, swinging from the off, for over seventy minutes. There are four well-placed covers for those who need something familiar to anchor them, in spite of the fact that all of the original titles are well with whatever limits there might be of the chosen idiom. These are two Willie Dixon standards, and two less obvious picks, one each for Mose Allison and Nina Simone, whose 'Do I Move You?' is a notable rendition.

The core band consists of Rob Koral on electric guitar, Zoe Schwarz on vocals and Malcolm Creese on double bass. Hammond organ duties are split 50:50 by Mike Gorman and Stephen Darrell Smith; likewise Dave Wallace plays drums on the same titles as Gorman and Paul Beavis plays drums on the same titles as Smith. Si Genaro features on harmonica. His evasive bio-details' most illustrious point seems to be that he can burp the alphabet. Thankfully he managed to discipline himself to keep this skill quite separate from his harpistry during the times the tapes were running. In fact his musical intelligence and skill belie his baser celebrated party-piece; it's certainly a good job he refrains from this exploit on his excellent break during 'It's Alright To Be Blue' (Hawker/Koral).

The band members' pedigrees include performing credits with an impressive galaxy of jazz, rock, and pop artists including: Mullen, Bruford, Tippett, Weller, Wellins, Atzmon, Fame, Witherspoon, Daltrey, Lake, Laine, Shearing, Benson, Tormé, Allison, Sting, Williams, Essex, Fripp, and Fairweather-Low; the list could go on ... and on ...

The Baddest Blues Band (Ever!) is an accomplished group of sophisticates playing jazzy blues. Zoe's diction is a fraction too perfect to be in the 'dirty blues' camp (some have said the same of Paul Jones, to little effect). You're more likely to see these guys performing in Dean Street than Kingly Street.

'The Waitress' (Schwarz/Koral) is a good example of the writing quality and interpretation of the songs in this collection. Hammond and guitar both display measured talent, and there's little to choose between who's playing drums and Hammond, with the band's sound remaining consistent throughout the set.

Rating: 7

Frank Franklin

Blues Matters - October 2007

The Baddest Blues Band (Ever!) are certainly not, as the name might suggest, the worst blues band (ever); in fact they are superb, a thoroughly modern mix of jazz and Blues, combining a sense of history with their own contemporary influences. The band is based around the considerable talents of guitarist Rob Koral who has a rock and blues background. The second main person is smooth vocalist Zoe Schwarz who is a young classically trained singer with a BA (hons.) from the Royal Academy. To avoid any allegations of chick singer with others, producer and bassist Malcolm Creese suggested an ensemble approach and they recruited engineer / Hammond C3 / all round studio guy Stephen Darrell Smith, whose delightful organ licks are layered all over this project. The final touch was to add harmonica player Si Genaro, whose flourishes give Blues authenticity to so many of these tunes. Talking of tunes, 9 of the 14 have band input, from the autobiographical 'The Waitress' based on making ends meet table waiting in Covent Garden, to the poignant 'Nothing Seems To Matter', with just a whiff of Elkie Brooks at her Bluesy best. The covers are not only wisely chosen, but are indicative of their tastes and influences, for example a laid back version of Ray Charles' 'Someday Baby', a near perfect interpretation of Nina Simone's 'Do I Move You?' and an aching take on Willie Dixon's 'I Can't Quit You Babe'. What is astonishing is that this recording took place in just two days in a Hampshire studio, mostly first take, and with the ace-in-the-hole of Schwarz pitch perfect vocals. To all fans of quality Blues / jazz this will really appeal.

Noggin

Wessex Muse - October 2007

A Dorset dwelling 'super-group' of sorts The Baddest Blues Band Ever is made up of no less than eight musicians whose individual musical resumés include playing with some of the finest and best-known recording artists in the music industry. Spearheaded by the persistently productive and increasingly renowned duo Rob Koral and Zoë Schwarz, the aptly titled group's debut is a colossal fourteen track recording of mainly original compositions with the addition of impressive covers by artists such as Nina Simone, Ray Charles and Willie Dixon.

Recorded in just two days, the amalgamation of the various influences and styles that each musician brings to the affray, including roots, blues, jazz and rock, means that 'Breakout' does not simply head in one direction, but neither is it a one trick pony.

There are plenty of sensual and soulful numbers such as 'Nothing Seems to Matter' and tracks like 'Sugar and Spice' move into a funkier leg shaking affair, with Rob Koral supplying one of his subtle and flowing guitar solos as he later gently makes room for the organ to take centre stage. The smooth vocal talents of Zoë Schwarz are unmistakeable and she seems more than comfortable with any arrangement be it a duo or in this case seven other musicians.

The Baddest Blues Band Ever has had a busy live schedule already this year with performances at many prestigious events. Details of forthcoming gigs can be found on www.myspace.com.thebaddestbluesbandever and you can purchase the album by visiting www.audio-b.com

Alex Hobbis

The Marshwood Vale - September 2007

Fans of Zoë Schwarz and Rob Koral are unlikely to be disappointed with the new CD from new band The Baddest Blues Band (Ever!). By now local jazz legends Zoë and Rob have worked together on three previous albums: Where Did We Begin, Devil or Dove and Dancing for Miles. Although their unique sound is augmented here by a selection of excellent new musicians, their original style is unmistakable, especially since nine of the fourteen songs are either written or co-written by one or both of them.

The CD, entitled Breakout, rolls into life with the Rob Koral-penned Pebble in My Pond featuring Rob's now signature guitar sound and introducing Stephen Darrell Smith on Hammond organ. The song takes Rob and Zoë from their traditional jazz/blues sound straight to mainstream blues and defies any listener to avoid the temptation to get into the aisles and dance. Both Rob and Stephen trade off solo work over a tight rhythm section from Malcolm Creese on double bass and Paul Beavis on drums. The following song, Wiseman, written by Rob and Zoë introduces Mike Gorman on Hammond organ, Dave Wallace on drums and Si Genaro on harmonica. While the CD showcases the versatility of both Zoë Schwarz and Rob Koral, re-workings of songs such as Nothing Seems to Matter and The Waitress from the Dancing for Miles CD offer a depth and power that can only come from a robust blues backing.

Si Genaro's emotive harmonica playing adds a majestic dimension to the Mose Allison cover Stop this World and bounds along with Mike Gorman's Hammond organ on the Sue Hawker and Rob Koral tune, It's Alright to be Blue. Powerful stuff that leaves you begging for more. And more there is, with the hip-swaying Gimme a Break also written by Hawker and Koral - a chance for Si Genaro to trade off with Stephen Darrell Smith's solid organ playing. Who are You to Judge Me highlights Zoë's sultry and sassy delivery while Si Genaro's soulful harp sets the tone for a rootsy end to an elegant musical ride. The CD ends with a cover from the inspirational bluesman Willie Dixon. Rob Koral cites the song Spoonful as influential. He says the 16 minute version by Cream was "virtually responsible for me playing the guitar". It's a haunting end to a powerful first CD from a bunch of musicians that obviously had a good time making it. May they make many more. Breakout from The Baddest Blues Band (ever) is on the Audio-B label and was produced by Malcolm Creese.

Fergus Byrne

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An earthy, modern blues band in which the funkiest musicians from the parallel worlds of blues, jazz and rock return to their roots. This band is guaranteed to get you rocking in the aisles.

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