Their fifth and latest recording "Hold On To Me" follows almost three years behind their last, "One More Day." In that time we can hear the band continue to mature and broaden their focus a bit, while staying right in their wheelhouse: swinging, bluesy 'party' jazz. Their original material (such as Night is For Lovers) stands solidly besides jazz classics (Exactly Like You) and forgotten gems (The World Is Waiting For the Sunrise). Sultry songs (Sway) bump into low down blues (St James Infirmary Blues) and Dixieland stomps (Milenberg Joys). This is definitely a recording to hold on to for years to come.
On their fifth and latest release, "Hold On To Me," the Grand Marquis show no signs of tiring with what they do best. Their infectious rhythm 'n' roll injects a timeless, good-time vibe into the tried-and-true traditions of hot jazz and jump blues. It's relevant music for old souls and trend-setters alike, shimmy-shakers, and hipsters who don't dance. Their sound is so widely appealing it'd make Wynton Marsalis cut a rug with Lady Gaga.
Killer originals, including the razor-sharp "Night Is For Lovers" and the exotic grinder "Sway," stand tall among standards like “Dinah” and "Exactly Like You." “The Spider And The Fly,” a cover of singer Myra Taylor’s 1940s hit, and the fiery take on Count Basie’s classic “Topsy” leave no doubt of the band's prowess and appreciation for jazz Kansas City-style. The rollicking "Milenberg Joys" demonstrates their mastery of Dixieland stomp and the histrionics of “St. James Infirmary Blues” makes for a gratifying send-up to vintage Louis Armstrong andCab Calloway. In fact, all the songs here are excellent and executed with such precision and fun, you’d have to be dead not to enjoy them.
Boydston's soaring trumpet complements the cool swing of Redmond ’s sax, while the one-two punch of McKenzie's deft percussion and Ruth's driving bass (sousaphone on a couple numbers!) coax the band to new heights. Belying his debut as the band’s fourth guitarist, Wurtz puts down solid fretwork throughout, including the gypsy-esque “Sway” and the opening flourishes of “The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise.” The early R&B anthem “Good Rockin’ Tonight” concludes the album – that is, until you realize the party’s jumping, nobody wants to go home and there’s no desire but to hear the whole dang album again.
Arguably their best studio effort to date, the Grand Marquis are a well-greased time machine from future’s past, here to save you from the monotony of your musical life. Take heed the fevered title track and hold on to this one.
-Kelly McEniry (UMKC Marr Sound Archives, Special Collections)
The Grand Marquis' new album, "Hold on to Me," is exactly what we all hoped for: straight from the heart. It is real, swinging, jumping, bluesing, wailing music with a brassy shimmer. Their last CD, "One More Day," was so fantastic that it was bound to be difficult to live up to, much less to surpass; however, there's not a nit in the whole “Hold on to Me” works to pick. This album delivers just what Grand Marquis fanscrave more of.
From the get-go, the Grand Marquis launch into “Night is for Lovers,” a hot original tune with enough sizzling style to raise Cab Calloway from the dead. It swings with a spicy speakeasy feel. Like the rest of the album, “Night is for Lovers” borrows the ambiance of the great underground music of the early twentieth century coupled with a modern energetic delivery. One gets the sense that this is what the roaring twenties and the swinging thirties would have sounded like if every musician could have really cut loose and shaken off the societal bondage of their times.
The timeless sounds continue with the second track "The Spider and the Fly," originally recorded by Kansas City blues and jazz legend Myra Taylor. It's a defining tune of any live Grand Marquis show, a deep bow of gratitude to the band's musical roots. Another Myra Taylor tune "Still Blue Water" is combined with the classic "St. James Infirmary Blues" later in the album. It is a seamless and classy combination of great swing-era tunes.
In every genre an album comes along about once in a decade that could turn on a whole new generation of fans; an album that shows people whom have never even given much thought to that style of music before what makes that style “work,” what makes that style beloved by its fans. The last time a group captured anything close to what the Grand Marquis do for their jazzy genre, the band Squirrel Nut Zippersbrought a similar style to anachronistic national acclaim. The Grand Marquis have original music that is well enough written and soulfully enough performed to do the same thing, if only they get the notice they deserve. By qualifying for the International Blues Challenge finals (IBC, held annually in Memphis, Tennessee), they have earned a chance to perhaps earn the attention they deserve. The Grand Marquis will represent Topeka at the IBC in 2011.
Other originals on the album include the title track, “Hold on to Me,” which has a rocking, driven rhythm coupled with speakeasy-swing-style vocals and lead lines. As each instrument takes over the melody, from the angrily whispered secret of Chad Boydston's expressive trumpet solo to the smooth, expertly melodic rasp of Bryan Redmond's saxophone, the music of the Grand Marquis is an irresistible presence. If you can listen to these tracks without tapping your feet, consult a physician immediately. While the cover tunes on this album are performed with the highest professional zeal, without a doubt the greatest performances that the album offers are the Grand Marquis' fantastic originals. Their song “Ain't No Good to Me” is worthy of the same level of praise given to the previously mentioned “Night is for Lovers” and “Hold on to Me.”
Every musician in this group is an inspired instrumentalist. Lisa McKenzie on drums provides both nuanced flair and heavy beats with equal adroitness, and every tune is ably manhandled by Ben Ruth's threatening, pumping bass. Ruth's sense of rhythm and rich, melodic, counterpoint style is entertaining enough to be a show all its own. Finally, guitarist Ryan Wurtz, a recent addition to the group and a Topeka, Kansas native, plays with a melodic, laid back and tasty jazz style that rounds the Grand Marquis' sound out nicely.
-Scott Patterson, Kansas City Blues & Jazz writer for the Blue Springs Examiner (Blue Springs, MO)