People call Chicago The Home Of The Blues. It may not be where the blues came from but it s where the blues came to live. It’s the place where Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy Reed laid down the songs that inspired the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds. The blues was the bedrock on which Jimmy Page created Led Zeppelin, the band that helped to change pop music forever. Chicago was the mecca for Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Elmore James and a host of others who arrived in the city to make their fortune. The process had begun decades earlier, when record companies first came to town.
I’m honored to discuss this CD. I found Fred Ho’s Monkey: Part One a glorious surprise, and this second section of his musical setting for the trickster tale is no disappointment. The ensemble’s personnel has few changes, notably Francis Wong as tenorist; but its spirit remains dramatic, flexible and visionary as Ho achieves tremendous range from trombone, three saxophones (including his own baritone), bass and drums, and several performers on Chinese traditional instruments.