Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sunny and her Joy Boys -- Introducing... Sunny and her Joy Boys

Sunny and her Joy Boys
Introducing... Sunny and her Joy Boys
Stony Plain

I’d never heard the delightful singer Sunny Crownover before I slipped this CD into the player. But I go back a long time with a couple of the Joy Boys.

I’ve been listening to bandleader, guitarist and producer Duke Robillard since he fronted the first Roomful of Blues album in 1977. I was very happy to have Duke as a guest a couple of times on Folk Roots/Folk Branches; once in the company of Kansas City legend Jay McShann, the late, great swing and blues pianist and singer. Of all of Duke’s many and varied recordings, my favourites are his swing and jazz albums. And this is one of his best swing and jazz albums.

I’ve known Billy Novick since 1978. I ran a small booking agency back then and among my clients were Billy and Guy Van Duser, a fantastic clarinet and guitar duo whose swing revival shows straddled the folk and jazz scenes. Three decades later Billy is still one of my all-time favourite clarinet and sax players – and you should hear him play jazz tunes on the pennywhistle too.

Even before I listened for the first time, I kind of knew that with Duke and Billy in the band, I was going to really like this album, that it would be good, really good. And it sure is. Joining Sunny, Duke and Billy is Paul Kolesnikow on guitar – both he and Duke are playing acoustic archtops – and Jesse Williams on acoustic bass. Sunny and her Joy Boys are a terrific, tight unit whether they’re swinging on old Ella Fitzgerald numbers like “Strictly From Dixie” and “Undecided” or stretching out on a torchy jazz ballads like Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good)” and “That’s My Desire.”

The four players – virtuosos all with great senses of swing – are fantastic. Billy’s clarinet and sax and Duke’s lead guitar weave beautifully and infectiously around the rhythms laid down by Paul and Jesse. When Sunny comes in with her captivating vocals she takes us right back to what was great about the swing era.

In his liner notes, Duke says most of these tunes are ones that he’s wanted to do for more than 35 years. If he was waiting for the right combination of singer and musicians, he sure found them in Sunny and her Joy Boys.

--Mike Regenstreif

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