Alex Belhaj’s Crescent City Quartet: Sugar Blues

The wondrous grit and feel of all things New Orleans are presented here with the heartfelt team of Ray Heitger/cl, Dave Kowmyna/ct, Jordan Schug/b and Alex Belhaj/g as the team delivers a fun mix of nostalgia and classic earth tones. Without a drummer, the pulse depends on Belhaj’s feel on the guitar, and he strums it like he’s Atlas holding up a swinging world on fun pieces like “Weary Blues” and the jumpy “Tiger Rag.” The easy paced “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It” has him doing some nice soloing, while Kosmyna’s horn growls out the melody. Kosmyna has a bag of tricks for his horn, making it growl, purr, wah wah and cry, with and without various mutes, as on the cozy “ Four or Five Times” (with vocals) and the aching “You Don’t Love Me” (ditto vocals again). Heitger uses his vibrato to jam open doors on the weary “Sugar Blues” and drools like a baby on the laconic “Sitting On Top of the World.” As with all things Crescent City, the church is never far away, and the horns moan like it’s testifying time on “ His Eye is On the Sparrow” and bring you back home from the funeral service on a buoyant “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.” Only the Deep South can mix the sacred and profane without dropping a stitch, and this band weaves it well.

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