The Jeff Golub Band featuring Henry Butler
" The Three Kings "
Entertainment One

Blueswax Rating 8 p> Jeff Golub may have spent eight years backing Rod Stewart on guitar, but Robert Putignano proclaims Golub's blues crossover complete on this album with blues pianist Henry Butler and guests Robben Ford and Sonny Landreth. Don Wilcock Blueswax Editor

During the 1990s, guitarist Jeff Golub was mostly known for his jazz, R&B, and pop recordings, which have earned him a reputation as one of the edgier and more tasteful players in the crossover jazz world. Golub's solos give the impression that he is essentially a soul-jazz improviser and not just a manufacturer of elevator smooth jazz music. The fifty-six-year-old Golub has worked with Tina Turner, Ashford & Simpson, the J. Geils Band, Peter Wolf, and spent eight years backing Rod Stewart.

I like the fact the Golub has chosen to follow up 2009's Blues For You with another blues album, this time a tribute to the three kings of the blues. I know it sounds a bit clichˇd, but Golub definitely puts his signature on just about each and every cover. There are new tribute tunes as well, plus the addition of Henry Butler's piano is very welcomed. Guest appearances by Robben Ford and Sonny Landreth further enhance the blues motif.

"Let the Good Times Roll" sets the bar high as the band soars through a powerful rendition of one of B.B. King's staples. Butler sings but really shines on keyboards, the horn section is dead-on, and Golub blares away!

Booker T. Jones and William Bell's "Born Under a Bad Sign," written for and made famous by Albert King, is another fine example of how well this recording works. "In Plain Sight," authored by Golub, is a perky instrumental that also features the smart fretwork of Louisiana's Sonny Landreth. Another instrumental, "Side Tracked," was written by the entire band (Golub, Butler, bassist Andy Hess, and drummer/vocalist Josh Dion) and easily could have been covered on one of Freddie King's 1960s instrumental albums; it's also aided with the appearance of special guest Robben Ford.

More high-speed antics ensue on the short (2:31) "Everyday I Have the Blues," where the horn section is back onboard, Josh Dion sings, and the entire band is lit. "Freddie's Midnight Dream" is a solid chestnut instrumental taken from Freddie King's 1965 collection Freddie King Gives You a Bonanza of Instrumentals, which was reissued in its entirety in 2003 on the Japanese P-Vine label. "Stumbin' Home," another instrumental authored by Golub, also feels retro and retains those early Freddie instrumental 1960_s grooves.

The album closes with what I anticipated would be anticlimactic. "The Thrill is Gone" is performed instrumentally, complete with Mitchell Forman's smart synth strings and string arrangements; it's gorgeous, starts out slowly and sweetly builds in intensity, so much so, I think B.B. would be impressed. Unfortunately, the title track "Three Kings," while a bit cute, did not work for me,

Golub also employs some of his smooth jazz friends, most notably Euge Groove on tenor and Rick Braun on trumpet. Chris Palmaro also fills in on B3. High marks are deserved for co-producers Golub and Bud Harner who have crafted a fine and fiery blues recording. The Three Kings should be a contender for one of the best blues albums of 2011; it's also arguably more to the blues point than Golub's previous blues outing. Here is to more blues from the energetic and tasteful Golub, keep on playing the blues.

Note: Golub's blues band does tour from time to time and has appeared with Butler at New York City's Iridium club. I missed them last year, but won't make that mistake again!

Bob Putignano: