(A version of this review was published in the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin.)
Jason Rosenblatt is well established as the leader of Shtreiml, the Montreal-based klezmer band, and Jump Babylon, a rock band whose songs centre on Jewish themes. But, on Wiseman’s Rag, Jason steps away from those projects to feature his own compositions, drawing on jazz, blues and roots music influences.
Jason is an innovative harmonica player who also plays piano and organ, sings, and offers some terrific playing as he surrounds himself with a tight quartet, including guitarist Joe Grass, bassist Joel Kerr and drummer Evan Tighe.
The album kicks off with the title track, an infectious swing tune on which Jason’s harmonica playfully interacts with Joe’ guitar. It’s one of several tunes in the 13-song set named for streets in the Mile End/Outremont area of Montreal. Others include “Fairmount Blues,” a jazzy blues tune that again has Jason and Joe delightfully trading licks; “Waltz Querbes,” a slower piece that features some nice work by Jason on harmonica and Joel on the bass; and “Hutchison,” a contemplative jazz tune on which each of the musicians gets time to stretch out.
Among the tracks that showcase Jason as a singer are “Cold Outside,” a jumping blues about the weather at this time of year; “You’ll Take the Highway,” a Chicago-style blues song; and the rollicking “You’ll Miss Me.”
The Jason Rosenblatt Quartet will launch Wiseman’s Rag in Montreal on Sunday, December 6, 8 pm, at the Segal Centre, 5170 Cote St. Catherine Road. Call 514-739-7944 for tickets. And in Ottawa on Saturday, December 12, 7:30 pm, at Gigspace Performance Studio, 953 Gladstone Avenue. Call 613-729-0693 for tickets.