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Album Review for Chameleon from Producer at ‘Blues Corner’ Blues @ Rock Radio UK, Feb 2020

'Chameleon’ is a vibrant album. It bristles with energy, sparkling musicianship, real artistic endeavour and proves that blues can still be an innovative musical force.

Chameleon’ is Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion’s 6th and best release so far. It’s a superbly crafted contemporary blues album with a dozen self-penned track and a hidden bonus, full of musical diversity, imaginative arrangements, stellar playing and Zoe’s expressive vocals.

As the album title suggests it’s full of subtle changing musical colours. There’s also the significant presence of the Ian Ellis (tenor sax) and Patrick Hayes (trombone) horn section, which doesn’t just fatten the sound and add occasional stabs, but is an integral part of some of Rob Koral’s best arrangements. And it’s those arrangements that are the building blocks for a hugely enjoyable album built on bluesy grooves, occasional riff-driven rock, boogie, blues ballads, Latino grooves, fusion, shuffles and funk.

While the aim is always to support the vocal and the primacy of the song, Koral consistently illuminates the album’s rhythmic qualities, but also knows when to hold back and emphasize space and re-focus on the voice, as on the gentle organ-led ‘Hello My Old Friend’. It all makes for a bright and uplifting album rather than the dull homogeneity that blights so many current contemporary blues related albums.

The album provides a template for the drummer Paul Robinson’s relentless drive, as he lays down the perfect foundation for a band that revels in Koral’s adventurous spirit and Schwarz’s vocal versatility. Robinson’s power and precision reminds me of the late John Hiseman, though his ability to groove and swing – which is evident throughout this album – suggest a more versatile player.

Then there’s the pivotal role of Zoe Schwarz’s vocal, as she becomes the musical personification of the album title, with versatile phrasing and passionate performances, albeit she just steps back from over-singing on the animated ‘Amazon Woman’.

Trevor Hazel,  Producer at ‘Blues Corner’, Blues @ Rock Radio UK, (DJ Tony Corner) 23rdFeb 2020

  • Words by: Trevor Hazel