Sanders plays cornet and trumpet, is an excellent singer, and a superb songwriter. His vocals put you in mind of Dr. John and his composing puts you in mind of any soulful singer-songwriter you can think of. In other words, he composes like the best of the best.
Lined up with Saunders is drummer Michael Aragon, bassist Bob Fordyce, and percussionist Luis Carbo. And these fellas can cook. Ken Cook is the pianist/organist who co-founded the band.
The album contains both originals, co-written with pianist Ken Cook, and a good mix of covers. The covers are not all hits or standards but are perfectly chosen to suit Saunders’ vocals and the band's artistry. In fact, he opens with Percy Mayfield’s River’s Invitation. What a perfect opening. You get to hear everyone of the band at their job and they bring the listener and anticipation of what is to follow. And they do not disappoint.
From ballads like Cecil Gant’s I Wonder to the deep bluesy Am I Blue by Akst and Clarke—written in 1929 and used in four movies that year, 42 total movies since—to the early Rock of Chris Kenner’s Life is a Struggle, Saunders just owns them all. And through it all, his horn playing is stunning and soulful. Think of Louis Armstrong.
Ken Cook is a brilliant pianist and co-composer with Saunders and the rhythm section of Fordyce, Aragon, and Carbo is top-flight. If you’re looking for the white soul of Michael Bolton, thank God, this ain’t it. Think of all the great music from New Orleans and Chicago and you’ve got the right idea.
Dancing with the Widow St. James, the title track, is worth the price of admission on its own merits. But the other originals like Butterflies and Chicken Wings, Lighting and a Feather, and Low Tide Rising on a Devil Wind are just spectacular.
There isn’t a weak moment on the album. Being a huge fan of Dr. John, I felt right at home from the beginning. I mean, I loved every moment of it.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl