I’ve known pianist/composer/singer-songwriter Chris Nole for several years and have been working with him on sheet music all that time. As a reviewer, I don’t often have listening time for music that I’m not reviewing, so until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t heard any of Chris’ nine albums. Now that I have, I’m kicking myself for not taking the time before this! In addition to his own recordings, Chris has recorded and toured with the late John Denver, Faith Hill, Travis Tritt and many others. Based in Nashville since 1987, Chris is one of those artists who doesn’t have a “household name,” but really deserves one. Incredibly versatile and a master of many piano and keyboard styles, my best description of Chris’ music is “WOW!!!” He released Piano Blues
in 2019, and it’s one of the best piano blues albums I’ve ever heard. Chris composed all twelve of the instrumental pieces and is backed by a stellar band on all but one. The band members are Randy Leago on tenor and baritone sax, Pat Bergeson on harmonica, Jon Conley on electric, acoustic, and slide guitar, T.R. Ilian on bass, and Chris Brown on drums. Chris also produced the project.
In Chris Nole’s own words: “The challenge for me was showcasing the piano as a blues instrument with as many varied feels, tempos, and styles as I could convincingly perform …all without straying from traditional blues. I was able to include my renditions of New Orleans blues, Chicago blues, Boogie, Slow 12/8 blues, along with other blues styles and grooves on this project. Some of the tunes started out as just noodling around with tempos and feels – but as a ‘song man’ I am a stickler for form and symmetry, so eventually I had to shape them into arrangements that made sense to me.”
I can’t really say I have a favorite on Piano Blues
- I love ‘em all! The album begins with “Bird Doggin’,” a sultry piece with an easy-going groove that will get your toes (all ten of them!) tapping in no time. In addition to piano, Chris added some great organ licks. “Past Midnight” is piano, bass and percussion keeping it cool, relaxed and sexy! “Pine Barren Boogie” picks up the tempo considerably to a beat that is pure fun. I defy anyone to listen to this one all the way through without cracking a smile! Harmonica takes the lead in several places, adding to carefree mood of the piece. “Blue For You” is stellar! Dark, slow and heartfelt, this is what a broken heart sounds like! String washes enhance the emotional quality of the piece, which is otherwise the trio of piano, bass and percussion. Love it! “It Was What It Was” swings the mood back up with another lively toe-tapper. “Low Brow Blues” is the only piano solo and it’s slow and slinky! “C Street Shuffle” is feel-good blues with a danceable rhythm and plenty of swing - great stuff! The album comes to a bittersweet close with “Farewell Sweet Rosie,” a delightful send-off under any circumstances!
So, even though I’m late to the party that is Chris Nole’s recorded music, I’m so glad I didn’t miss it altogether! Give your ears and your soul a real treat, and check out Piano Blues
! It is available from ChrisNole.com
, Amazon and iTunes as well as Spotify and many of the other streaming sites.