REVIEW: The Jim Kweskin Band with Samoa Wilson “I Just Want to Be Horizontal” is Tight Flexible Arrangements of 1920s and ‘30s


The Jim Kweskin Band with Samoa Wilson – I Just Want to Be Horizontal

Dispensing with the historical significance of Jim Kweskin (you should know him by now) let’s focus on a different type of “past” he sculptured musically in 2020. This 17-cut CD showcases the vocalizing expertise of Samoa Wilson who scopes out nuggets from a bygone era.

With Jim on vocals, fingerpicking & rhythm guitar the LP opens with a fine cover of the 1918 hit for Marion Harris “After You’ve Gone,” a Turner Layton tune with lyrics by Henry Creamer.

After Marion, sixty-seven individual musicians covered it — up to & including the 66th in 2020 (Curtis Stigers) & now Kweskin & Wilson. Hot fiddling, acoustic guitars, warm Dixieland type horns & a surprising touch – accordion. Jim’s vocal adds to Samoa’s velvety smooth voice that reinvents the 100+-year-old song.

The LP (in stores June 12th on Kingswood Records) is well-recorded. It captures songs of the 20s & 30s that seem ageless with the respectability of new arrangements the songs were meant to possess. And they succeed. Yes, they do. No synths, or effects just melodies & exquisite vocalizing.

The title track is a slow stride with cornet whining over acoustic guitars — recorded better now than back in the day.

Recorded in Long Island City, NY — Ms. Wilson & Jim are joined by Titus Vollmer (lead/rhythm guitars/Hawaiian slide/uke), Paloma Ohm (alto sax), Mike Davis (trumpet/cornet), Dennis Lichtman (clarinet/fiddle/mandolin & alto sax), Sonny Barbato (piano/accordion), Matthew Berlin (bass), Jeff Brown (drums) with Sean Read & Maddie Read Clarke (backup vocals).

Samoa excels wonderfully on the upbeat Gus Arnheim & Abe Lyman with lyrics by Alan Freed “I Cried for You.” She projects her notes & sings with the suave beauty of yesteryear. Whipped cream on a sundae. This is another hit tune covered by many artists since its 1923 debut by the Arthur Lyman Orchestra. Throughout the instrumentation is stellar. Vintage atmosphere without sounding retro. The dynamics process is warm, the clarinet deep, clear & Samoa maintains a captivating, well-controlled performance. No showboating.

The composers from those decades would’ve been proud if they heard their songs rendered this way. Kweskin respects these writers who mined a rich vein of words & melody true to this day. Kweskin & Matthew Berlin produced the nostalgic LP. Knew how to dust these memorable melodies & add the essential oils.

The arrangements (Jim, Titus, Dennis & Sonny) are tight yet flexible & Frank Loesser’s classic “Inch Worm,” has instrumental & vocal interplay — quite imaginative.

Many fine vocalists lack the character & personality required to pull off songs from these eras. There’s a certain tonality, intonation, phrasing & timbre required to give lyrics their musical identity. Ms. Wilson has it perfected. Kweskin is a complimentary crooner for Ms. Wilson’s formal breadth. Songs that could’ve been insouciance emerge with vitality (“Kitchen Man,” “Lover Come Back to Me”).

I’m going back to Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Say,” for the 3rd time. I’m not from that generation but Ms. Wilson has piano bar sizzle.

The 1 hour-6-minute LP is available at Amazon &

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