In the guitar-centric blues, tenor saxist Bobby “Hurricane” Spencer earned props as a “force of nature” in the tough Bay Area chitlin’ circuit playing doo wop, Latin jazz and blues. Credits backing the greats, as well as his songwriter skills, led to his solo release I Got the Blues (2003). The title of his latest, Hurricane Unleashed, is no hype as the man with the big horn and robust voice will both overwhelm and seduce listeners with his warm-hearted sound.
Ten originals, including four tracks from his debut album,feature Andrea Balestra and Lester Lands (guitar), Matias Alvear Fall (bass), Dario Benzoni (drums), Mo Beeks (keyboards), Albert Trepagnier, Jr (congas), Tyler Combs (vibes), Josh Agular (trumpet), Wesley Smith (alto sax) and Kelly Chappue, Bosa Mora and Dominique Toney (background vocals). The funky “Gotta Get Back to Chicago” highlights Spencer singing and soloing mellifluously. Sweet soul music informs “You’re All I Need” with Spencer confessing. A swinging, witty “Camarillo” about a California mental institution has Spencer referencing, “Check me into Camarillo, baby, put me in Charlie Parker’s old room. I’ll lay my head on the pillow and I’ll hum an old bebop tune.” The classic instrumental “Honky Tonk” shows Lands and Spencer displaying their roots.
Gospel colors “Lover’s Hill” has Spencer pleading while imploring with a passionate solo. Then there’s the booty-twitching funk of “Little Mama” followed by “You Make Me Crazy,” a tender ballad exposing Spencer’s romantic side. Grover Washington, Jr’s easy listening jazz instrumental “Magic” has Spencer exuberantly “putting some dirt on it.”
On the low down, “I Got the Blues” has Spencer lamenting before popping funk energizes “Big Maybelle.” The rocking, riff-driven “Holler’n and Wallow’n” has Spencer bemoaning “You cold, cold kitty, I’m in the nitty gritty, holler’n and wallow’n in the mud” as blue notes pour from his horn. The toe-tapping New Orleans shuffle “Call Your Dogs Off” ends the set with a wink as Spencer regales “I drove up to your house in my Buick 88, can’t get past them hounds, hollerin’ at your gate. Call your dogs off, baby. Ain’t nothing I’d do to ever hurt you…,” his sax barking back.
Deserving mention with King Curtis and Hank Crawford, Bobby Spencer lifts the spirits and moves the body with his deep blues. Like a powerful musical storm, he will blow you away.