To the layman like myself, Jeff Healey was known primarily as a blues guitarist. He grew up in Toronto and was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, and had his eyes surgically removed before his first birthday. Despite this, he managed to carve out a niche for himself in blues, and even helped parlay the praise of his debut album "See the Light" into a speaking role in the 1989 cult classic Road House. But there was far more substance to Healey's music and passion for it than many of us realize.
First and foremost, while he was primarily a blues musician, he was not exclusively one. A little more than a decade after reaching the peak of his success, he had switched over to making jazz records, playing guitar and trumpet on many of the songs and the type of jazz he was playing had a lot of Dixieland elements in it, with a tinge of ragtime tossed in here and there.
He'd gotten so comfortable playing the music that he would tour frequently as a jazz act and sit in on local jazz gigs in the Toronto area where he was born and spent his time off the road. This particular concert was recorded in January 2006 at Toronto's Berkeley Church and the hour-long set includes the following numbers:
"I Would Do Anything For You"
"Bugle Call Rag"
"If I Had You"
"Darktown Strutter's Ball"
"I'm Gonna Lock My Heart And Throw Away The Key"
"Sing You Sinners"
"Sweet Georgia Brown"
Seeing Healey and his band get the chance to let it loose on these jazz numbers is fun to watch, and as difficult as playing blues guitar blind would seem to be, the challenge looks like it doubles when it comes to "hot jazz," when the tempo picks up. But the music was Healey's passion, and he handles this change of pace rather well. During the set, he allows his supporting musicians each get a chance to have their moment in the sun during a song or two. In between the songs, there are brief interview segments with Healey as he shares his thoughts about the music.
Before he succumbed to his lifelong battle with cancer at age 41, it was nice to see that Jeff Healey got a chance to perform the music he loved for audiences in his hometown, and with the help of his band the Jazz Wizards, this performance, titled "Beautiful Noise," instantly transports the viewer back to the turn of the century in a convincing manner. With a mix of familiar classics and lesser-known songs, Healey turns what would appear on the surface to be an experimental evening into an entertaining evening. It's nice to revisit the joys of this talented artist.The Disc:
1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Honestly, don't expect to be blown away technically here, there's no edge enhancement or distortion issues, the image is replicated accurately and without concern.Audio:
Your choice of two and six-channel Dolby tracks, with the 5.1 surround track getting the slight nod because if nothing else, the bass tends to poke its head out during the more active numbers.Extras:
Two bonus tracks for "You Go To My Head" and "Long John Blues" are included and they're decent performances.Final Thoughts:
It's not too often that the title of a disc or a performance is self-explanatory, but Beautiful Noise is just that, a quick and pleasant stroll through jazz by someone who enjoyed playing it. It looks and sounds fine and is worth revisiting from time to time for those who yearn for the musical change of pace that Healey successfully pursued.