‘Among Friends’ (Sensation 2002)

By 2002, The Jeff Healey Band had been put to rest and Jeff was spending more and more time with other pursuits… his nightclub (which opened in 2001) and his other musical passion, traditional Jazz from the 1920’s and 1930’s.

With the support and urging of a number of friends (including JHB bassist Joe Rockman and Jeff’s long time jazz bassist and friend, Colin Bray), Jeff set out to realize a lifelong dream and record an album of the material that had been a centre for him for so long.  With some jazz session work under his belt and having produced and performed on several albums for the fledgling Sensation label, Jeff had all the tools in place to take on his own project full tilt.  The time as they say, was right for him to release his first jazz album.

Jeff set about gathering up a group of musicians that he felt were the best in their field.  Many of the players on ‘Among Friends’ would go on to regular rotation in ‘Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards’, touring, recording and hosting Saturday afternoon sessions at Jeff’s club in Toronto, appropriately called, ‘Healey’s’.  (…where, in addition to a Saturday jazz matinee, Jeff would appear most Thursdays  performing with the ‘Healey’s House Band’ – aka ‘Jeff Healey’s Blues Band’-  and a litany of special guests… but that’s another story.)

“As the title of this album suggests, these sessions truly represent some of my best and most loved and admired friends gathered around me to create (breathtakingly, at times) music that I love with all my heart.” –Jeff Healey

The result is a wonderful album of hand-picked tunes showcasing Jeff in fine form, on guitar, vocals and trumpet.  It flows with an unrestrained joy.  From the foot-stomping opener, ‘I Would Do Anything For You’, to the mid-tempo beauty of ‘Stardust’, Jeff’s favourite composition of all time.  There are so many great moments;  the popping controlled frenzy of ‘I Wish I Were Twins’, the relentless guitar solo in ‘Limehouse Blues’, musicians feeding off each other’s boundless energy.   Stunning performances from Christopher Plock, Ross Wooldridge, Danny Douglas, Jessie Barksdale, Reide Kaiser, Colin Bray and Gary Scriven – all once and future Jazz Wizards – Jim Shepherd, Dick Sudhalter, Tomaz Jardim, Roberto Rosenman, Inder Marwah and Jeff’s very dear friend, the late John R.T. Davies on alto sax…  Jeff’s own words say it best, “If it weren’t for the brilliant performance and participation of all the musicians on this project, I would have nothing.”

Among Friends’ was a labour of love and a powerful affirmation for Jeff.

It showed him that he could do it.  That making a living out of primarily performing and recording jazz wasn’t a pipe dream.  Although he never turned his back on the world of rock and blues, he was happier knowing he could successfully navigate between the two whenever he felt the urge.

Jeff’s first jazz record is exceptional and it helped to solidify Jeff’s perception that he had indeed made the correct leap of faith.  ‘Among Friends‘ is definitely ‘essential’ Jeff Healey.  ~Rog

Among Friends – Track Listing:
1. I Would Do Anything For You
2. Bright Eyes
3. Pardon My Southern Accent
4. Out Of Nowhere
5. Lost
6. Star Dust
7. Where Are You
8. A Cup Of Coffee, A Sandwich , And You
9. Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams
10. I Wish I Were Twins
11. My Buddy
12. Save Your Sorrow For Tomorrow
13. Midnight Blue
14. Limehouse Blues
15. I’ll See You In My Dreams
16. Blues In Thirds

Every Monday we present a new installment in our series of entries outlining some of what we feel is ‘essential ‘ Jeff Healey, be it a particular performance on a television show, album, song or guest session…