10-Year Anniversary JAM! - Reviews
Jazz Ambassadors Magazine Aug/Sept 1997
(This review was taken from: http://www.jazzkc.org/issues/1997-08/fortherecord.html)
Diane "Mama" Ray/
Rich VanSant Band
JAM! KANSAS CITY STYLE
Prime Cut Productions CD-010
Personnel: Diane "Mama" Ray, vocals; Rich VanSant, Hammond B3; Jay Eudaly, guitar; Marc Caplan, drums; Larry Van Loon, piano, vocals; Tom "Trashmouth" Baker, blues harp, vocals; George Robinson, trumpet, vocals; Rick Hendricks, guitar; Phil Brenner, saxophone; Stan Kessler, trumpet; Jim LaForte, vocals; Kent Raine, Hammond B3
Tracks: Save Your Love For Me, Blue Monday Blues, Change Gonna Come, Mama's Mood, Down Home Blues, A Song For You, Let the Good Times Roll, The Comeback/Going To Chicago, Taint Nobody's Bizness If I Do, I Wish, When A Man Loves A Woman
Recorded live July 27, 1996 at Harlings Upstairs, Kansas City, MO by Audio Vision, Kansas City, KS.
Diane "Mama" Ray and Rich VanSant need no introduction to music-loving Kansas Citians who have been out to hear live music in the past decade. Their blues jam on Saturday afternoons at Harlings is the longest consecutively running club jam in the city. This CD celebrates that ten (now eleven) year history, and the joyful sound and scene for which it stands.
About ten years ago, during a visit to my boyhood stomping grounds, I was wandering around Westport and heard some wonderful sounds wafting (along with a cloud of smoke) from an upper window at Westport and Main. I travel a lot and try to hear live music wherever I go, but when I passed through those heavy metal doors and trundled up the stairs to Harlings, I found a music scene that was as much fun as any I've experienced. There were city people and country people, old people and young people, people of all shades and stripes, all sipping cold beer on a hot Saturday afternoon, and all having a great time listening to Rich and "Mama" Ray and their regular band (plus the several sitters in that joined in the jam). To this day, whenever I am fortunate enough to be in Kansas City on a Saturday, it's a good bet you will find me at Harlings. Other visitors and musicians from all over the world have made the same discovery and many make regular pilgrimages to listen, sit in, hear Rich and Mama crack wise with each other, and enjoy some of the happiest and most unpretentious music anywhere.
Live albums are suspect. Rarely do they deliver the sound and capture the excitement of a live performance. This one does, and it does so in a big way. From the opening bars of "Save Your Love For Me" to the closing thank you from Rich and Mama, any listener who has ever been to Harlings will feel the energy that attends this live jam. After ten years, Mama Ray's voice is as strong as ever (is that her on "When A Man Loves A Woman?" or did Janis Joplin return to this earth for one more encore?), and Rich VanSant can kick in that explosive Hammond B3 sound like few others.
The other members of the regular band on this recording are Jay ("Doctor J") Eudaly (guitar) and Marc Caplan (drums). Both their rhythm work and their soloing are top notch. The guest appearances, all of which are strong and sincere, are by some of the usual suspects that are rounded up on a Harlings Saturday, with the exception of Larry Van Loon, late of Kansas City and the K.C. Bottoms Band, and on loan for this appearance from his current digs in Nashville. His gravelly voice and gospel-influenced piano add an uplifting dimension to the blues atmosphere of the recording.
If you have been to Harlings to enjoy a Saturday afternoon, I don't need to recommend this CD to you. If you haven't, then you should, and this coming Saturday would not be too soon. I can unconditionally guarantee a great time (and, as there is no cover charge, I can safely make it a money-back guarantee) and many happy returns.
Once you have been to Harlings to hear Mama Ray and friends, this CD will sell itself as a reminder of one of the most enjoyable music scenes around today.
Congratulations, and Happy Anniversary Rich and "Mama" Ray!
-- Gregg Ottinger
(Gregg Ottinger is JAM's Washington D.C correspondent. -- Ed.)