Review: Donny Nichilo – Long Way From Chicago

Posted on: Saturday, Mar 3, 2012

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Donny Nichilo – Long Way From Chicago (Chico Blues Records)

Chicago-born pianist Donny Nichilo discovered the blues at 17 after hearing a Little Walter song on the radio, further enhanced his ‘education’ by working at the famous Maxwell Street market, before listening and learning in the city’s many clubs, and sometimes sitting in with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Big Walton Horton, Buddy Guy and more.

He eventually discovered swing and jazz music, though still blues-based, and that is evident by the fine choice of covers here on his excellent “Long Way From Chicago” . . . the title stemming from the fact he divides his time now between his home city and Brazil, where the album was recorded, in the company of the excellent Igor Prado Band, and featured guest, the in-demand Gordon Beadle – ‘Sax Gordon’. The sessions were recorded in Sao Paulo, and also at the Prado’s Studio in Sao Caetano do Sul.

The 12 cuts are all covers bar one original, but are carefully chosen, and they highlight Nichilo’s fine piano playing and smooth vocal delivery . . and the tight unit behind him . . . Igor Prado (guitar), Yuri Prado (drums) and Rodrigo Mantovani (bass), and the afore-mentioned Beadle . . . who are the perfect sympathetic companions, and given their fair share of the spotlight.

Proceedings get off to a rousing, jazzy start with a fine take on Jay McShann’s oft-covered “Confessin’ The Blues”, with Nichilo’s rolling piano and some fine saxophone; the following “Lately” – the sole original – keeps the mood in a jazzy groove, a lovely late-night chill feel to this! Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son” is delivered with panache . . . Igor Prado’s whammy-bar guitar solo a treat.

The great Percy Mayfield’s songs feature twice here – the smooth soulful “Baby Please”, with lovely saxophone from Beadle and another lovely guitar solo from Igor Prado; the second, “Never No More” swings in fine style, the rhythm section of Yuri Prado and Rodrigo Mantovani pushing things along in an unfussy way . . . a standout track here. Nichilo changes pace again on the smoky jazz of “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You”, another chance to show off his fine piano style; before the band swing again on the chestnut “Flip, Flop & Fly”.

The Fats Domino / Dave Bartholomew New Orleans favourite, “I’m Walkin’” is reinterpreted here as an uptempo jazzy swing, and is none the worse for it; with Prado’s tough slide guitar kicking off a romp through Don Robey’s “Mother-In-Law Blues”. This most enjoyable collection ends with a tribute to blues piano legend Otis Spann on the copper-bottomed classic “Worried Life Blues” . . . a fine way to finish indeed!

GRAHAME RHODES

www.myspace.com/donnynichiloband

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