Blues Say Goodbye by Dean & Ewbank
Review by: Heath Andrews
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)
The musical duo of T. Wesley Dean and Michael Ewbank has been actively making music together since 2006 but they’ve been performing and perfecting their craft long before that rendezvous. Dean is a vocalist and bassist while Ewbank is a pianist and both of them are exceptionally talented on their respective instruments. Together they form two thirds of a standard jazz trio, but they take their music to places that are anything but standard. On their 2012 album, Blues Say Goodbye, Dean & Ewbank rip their way through an assortment of songs that range from original pieces and jazz standards, to covers of rock songs that they stamp with their own brand of jazz.
Dean & Ewbank are joined by Colin Agnew on drums, completing the jazz trio line-up. They immediately put themselves through their paces by covering The White Stripes piece, “Seven Nation Army.” While at first, the cover seems like a gimmicky novelty akin to something like the band, Lounge Against The Machine, it quickly becomes apparent that the musicianship here is something stellar. Granted, Meg White has never been regarded as a very technical drummer, but Agnew’s light, jazzy flair is delightful to listen to. Dean’s vocals are as impassioned as one could imagine even with the words not being his own. His stellar bass playing moves the song forward while Ewbank has the job of trying to take Jack White’s guitar riffing and translate that to the piano. Ultimately, the cover works very well and shows off the talents of everyone involved.
The best of the covers, and perhaps the best song on the album, is their version of Led Zeppelin’s, “Going to California.” Saxophonist Karen Greene joins the group for this one song, and Green’s addition is vital to making this song sound as amazing as it is. As the song progresses along, Dean’s singing becomes more and more soulful; he never tries to emulate Plant, he just sings the song in the way it speaks to him. The extended instrumental passage allows for plenty of room for the sax, bass, and piano to play amongst each other and establish a beautiful soundscape that not only conveys the original song’s sense of restless longing, but adds some extra emotional weight to it…
Blues Say Goodbye by Dean & Ewbank
Review by: Nick DiRiso
…Dean and Ewbank continue to delight with their offbeat choices for cover material. Would anybody else – heck, could anybody else? – stack a Led Zeppelin song next to an Ellington favorite? Dean and Ewbank do, with “Going to California” (featuring a moving solo by saxophonist Karen Greene, who’s worked with Natalie Cole, Neena Freelon and Melva Houston) leading right into “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues.” In their capable hands, though, it makes all makes perfect sense. The Atlanta-based Keith Runfola and Tommy Sauter sit in on drums and bass for that Ellington track, which then leads into a well-conceived closing sequence featuring Sammy Cahn’s “Teach Me Tonight” and the always-fun Louis Jordan barn-burner “Let the Good Times Roll.”
On the first, Dean and Ewbank indulge in a moment of crystalline reverie – something that would have strengthened “It Was a Very Good Year” immeasurably, by the way – while on the last, they simply let it all hang down. Is there any more appropriate way to end things on the endlessly entertaining, just as endlessly varied Blues Say Goodbye?