By Aaron Cohen | Published October 2019
Memphis guitarist Joe Restivo is a thoughtful historian, but he’s no mere revivalist. A member of The Bo-Keys, Restivo has collaborated with many veteran Southern soul singers as they’ve returned to concert stages, and explores his own ideas through regular gigs at Lafayette’s Music Room. As Restivo delves into the period when jump blues evolved into r&b, his incisive compositions and sharp guitar tone stand out as much as his embrace of the music’s legacy.
The title track on this new quartet disc encapsulates the bandleader’s aesthetic within a brief three and a half minutes. After saxophonist Art Edmaiston leads with a swaggering repeated riff reminiscent of the late Big Jay McNeely, Restivo responds to his bandmate’s weight with piercing single-note lines.
The bandleader distinguishes the ballad “Starlight Motel” with an astute sense of open space and uses succinct reverb to quietly let higher notes resonate before flowing into a much lower register. Restivo’s group also just has fun taking liberties with a few standards and other pop hits throughout the disc. The swinging treatment given to bop anthem “Tiny’s Tempo” is an affirmation of Tiny Grimes’ velocity as an ongoing influence. For Restivo’s arrangement of the typically mournful “House Of The Rising Sun”—in atypical 3/4 time—bassist Tim Goodwin and drummer Tom Lonardo give the piece a surprisingly upbeat groove. When Restivo uses distortion like ’50s songwriter/guitar hero Lowman Pauling on this band’s version of The Stylistics’ “People Make The World Go Round,” his own trajectory comes full circle.
Where’s Joe?: Bolivar Blues; Where’s Joe?; Starlight Motel; 633-Knock!; I Hear A Rhapsody; Tiny’s Tempo; Thelma; A Few Questions; House Of The Rising Sun; People Make The World Go ’Round. (48:49)
Personnel: Joe Restivo, guitar; Art Edmaiston, tenor saxophone; Tim Goodwin, bass; Tom Lonardo, drums.