MAKING A SCENE
by Jim Hynes
Last time out singer/songwriter saxophonist Scott Ramminger was playing with top shelf New Orleans musicians and vocalists Bekka Bramblett and Francine Reed with The McCrary Sisters as well for his 2017 Do What Your Heart Says To. Since 2011, over the course of four previous albums, Ramminger has been in a groove of plenty of horns and background vocalists, so he changed it up for Rise Up, his fifth album, delivered with a conventional jazz quintet with Ramminger as the sole vocalist. The witty Ramminger says, I“I set out trying to make a record that had a slightly different sonic footprint, sort of a stripped down, more acoustic vibe. I hired a fine jazz drummer and upright bass player. And at one point, with my producer hat on, I asked them to play less like we were at Blues Alley (a famous DC jazz club) and more like we were playing in a Brooklyn strip club in about 1960.”
As you may glean from that quote, Ramminger’s songs carry a sense of humor and offbeat reflections not unlike Al Basile. The ebullient, mostly joyous, and downright funky tunes on this album lie somewhere between vintage Delbert McClinton, early Dr. John, and folks like Eric Lindell. While Ramminger’s voice may not be quite the same caliber as those artists, he’s brings a similar musical feel. Joining Ramminger(tenor sax), are Wes Lanich (keys), Shane Theriot (guitar), Paul Langosch (Upright bass), and Emre Kartari (drums). Theriot played on the aforementioned previous album and is generally considered one of New Orleans’ best guitarists.
With eight songs, this the shortest of any of Ramminger’s albums, purposely as he wants listeners to fully digest these songs, rendered in a simpler, less heavily produced framework, He begins with the shuffle “Thinking About Your” into the sardonically witty, piano-driven “88 Reasons” with Theriot on slide. “Lemonade Blues” is straight ahead blues. The title track, though, puts Ramminger in an unusual spot as he’s never been socially or politically motivated before. He admits to being more than self-conscious about all those great tunes from Dylan, Nina Simone, Randy Newman and others but delivers his scathing lyrics and call to action in organ-driven funk, with one of his best sax solos on the disc.
Ramminger and his quintet deliver old school R&B in “Daisy,” saying that you don’t hear an upright bass very often in funk or old R&B tunes. “The Feeling When I’m Falling” is swing,
Ramminger comments, “The whole record is pretty woody and natural sounding – a great sounding Yamaha Grand Piano, a real Hammond B3 & Leslie, killer upright bass, drums, my tenor sax, and a bunch of Shane Theriot’s cool old guitars and funky old tube amps. And we tracked the grand piano and the drums in the same room, so there’s some bleed, which adds to the vibe of the whole thing.”