Online Coffee Break Interview w/Chuck Fields
Back Home Again: Episode #2
Ricky Nye – Gettin’ Loose !
by Mark Thompson @ Blues Blast Magazine
If you aren’t familiar with the name Ricky Nye, it certainly isn’t due to a lack of effort on his part. His smooth vocals and splendid keyboard efforts have been featured on fourteen previous recordings under his name in addition to cuts on several piano compilations. His latest has him backed by his Paris Blues band for the fourth time. Based in the Cincinnati, OH area, Nye has received numerous local blues awards, including CEA award, Blues Artist Of The Year, for two consecutive years. The band is comprised of Anthony Stelmaszack on guitar, Simon “Shuffle” Boyer on drums, and Chris Douglas, Nye’s regular upright bass player.
The disc opens with a Furry Lewis tune, “I Will Turn Your Money Green”. The band cruises along at a sprightly pace with Nye laying down a litany of woes until Stelmaszack tries to reverse his fortunes with some striking guitar picking. Nye’s fingers give his piano a workout on Memphis Slim’s “Miss Ida Bea,” then he turns “San Antonio Rose” into a magnificent boogie-woogie romp. Dipping into the Nat King Cole songbook, the band sets a swinging pace on “For You My Love,” with Stelmaszack once again creating a strong impression. He follows that up with a blazing solo on an instrumental take of the Chuck Berry classic, ‘Memphis”.
Highlights from the second half of the disc include the good-time instrumental, “Shaggy Rag,” an original performed acoustically, and a showcase for Nye on the instrumental, “Shave ‘Em Dry,” composed by the legendary piano man, Jimmy Yancey. Nye’s fingers roll across the keyboard, spinning out three minutes of piano magic. On another original, “I Miss Your Love,” he switches over to the Hammond organ, giving the contemporary blues track a full, rich sound. Little Willie Littlefield’s classic, “K.C. Lovin’,” gets a rollicking treatment with plenty of piano and a fat guitar tone. “How Long Blues” from Leroy Carr is a standard that every blues pianist has to know how to play. Nye’s version focuses on his vocals with Stelmaszack on acoustic guitar. The title, “Radiate Them 88’s,” tells you all need to know about rousing finale.
This is one of those discs that sneaks up on you, impressing track after track with lively performances and solid musical interplay that makes every song a delight. The players are quite comfortable working together, and with Ricky Nye setting the pace, the disc never wavers from generating an enthusiastic affirmation of the blues that will have you pushing the Repeat button on your CD player. Well worth a listen!
Ricky Nye – Swingin’ Some Blues
by Rhys Williams @ Blues Blast Magazine
The cover of Swingin’ Some Blues features a brightly-colored retro image of a young lady from the early 1950s, dressed in a bikini and energetically working out on a child’s swing, her hair blowing and with a huge grin on her face. In many ways, it is the perfect cover shot for Cincinnati-native Ricky Nye’s new album. There is a retro vibe to the whole release, from the warm-but-not-in-your-face production, to the emphasis on piano rather than guitar and the heavy jazz influence on many of songs. Perhaps more importantly, however, this is music that really swings with controlled abandon and there is a sense that all the musicians were playing with huge grins on their faces throughout the session. This is old-fashioned, good-time dancing music, played with no little vim and wit.
Nye plays piano and organ as well as singing, and he is backed by the seriously good rhythm section of Chris Douglas on upright bass and Paul Ellis on drums (Ellis’s musical swing on “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone” is simply outstanding). Guest musicians include Brian “Boss” Hogg on tenor sax, Sylvain Acher on guitar, Tom Moore on harmonica and Dan Dorff on percussion.
Nye’s keyboard skills are to the forefront of every song, but he resists the urge to overplay his hand, always giving the other musicians plenty of space in which to express themselves (check out Moore’s funky, staccato harmonica on “Low & Slow”). His piano playing however is top drawer, in particular when he pulls out an old classic like Jimmy Yancey’s “The Rocks”. The rhythmic thump of his left hand on a boogie is a joy to behold.
The 11 songs on Swingin’ Some Blues comprise a neat selection of standards (“Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone”, “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” are the first three songs on the album); four songs written or co-written by Nye himself, a rollicking cover of NYC boogie woogie maestro Dona Oxford’s “Let’s Have A Ball”, plus a few piano classics such as Albert Ammons’ “Monday Struggle” and Charlie Booty’s “Davenport Stomp”.
This is uptown, swinging music that is reminiscent of the likes of Big Joe Turner, Charles Brown or maybe Jimmie Witherspoon, where blues meets jazz and the result is good old-fashioned party music.
One of the many highlights of the album is the jungle rumble of “It’s Wrong”, which features more excellent harmonica from Moore and another demonstration from Douglas and Ellis of how a rhythm section should operate.
The closing track, “Epididymitis Boogie”, is a fine way to finish the album. It’s a barreling instrumental, led by Nye’s pounding boogie woogie piano but also featuring short but entertaining instrumental breaks by Hogg, Ellis and Douglas. In contrast to its name, this song will have people up and dancing rather than wincing at the mere thought of it.
Swingin’ Some Blues is a short but highly enjoyable slab of good-time, piano-led, upbeat and fun music and is warmly recommended, especially if you like your blues to include a hefty dose of melodic jazz.
Ricky Nye & The Paris Blues Band - Jump Steady
by Rex Bartholomew @ Blues Blast Magazine
When Ricky Nye and the Paris Blues Band’s latest CD arrived, I noticed that it was recorded in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I was reminded of all of the great bands that have come out of that city. In fact, one of my favorite bands from the 1980s, The Raisins, is from there, and it turns out that Ricky Nye is actually Rick Neiheisel, their keyboardist. What a small world!
Whatever name he goes by, Ricky is a fabulous keyboard player and singer, having done quite a bit of work over the years with various artists and leading his own bands, including Ricky Nye and the Red Hots, and Ricky Nye Inc. Ricky Nye & the Paris Blues Band is his latest group, and Jump Steady is their third studio release. Collaborating with Mr. Nye on this album are three Frenchmen: Anthony Stelmaszack on guitars, Thibaut Chopin on upright bass and harmonica, and Simon "Shuffle" Boyer on drums; they have been working with Ricky for over five years. Special guest Brian "Boss" Hogg from Kentucky also joins in on the saxophone.
Nye self-produced Jump Steady, which was recorded in just two sessions; Bill Gwynne engineered the album and it was mixed by Ashley Shepherd. It has twelve short tracks (all of them under four minutes each), and they can be lumped into a two different categories: classic boogie woogie and more straight-up piano driven blues. This should not be a shock to anyone, as the group’s name does say that this is a blues band…
Ricky chose some heavy-hitting cover tunes and also wrote four of the songs on this album, including the opener, “Rockin’ Roller Coaster.” This song sets the tone for the rest of the CD, letting the listener know that they are in for a good time. Ricky hammers out a piano line that is lively but technically better than anything you will hear in a bar room. Hogg’s saxophone is a nice counterpoint to the whole Jerry Lee Lewis vibe, and at a mere 2 ½ minutes in length this one made me sorry it ended so soon.
Big Boy Crudup’s “Mean Ol’ Frisco” is next up, and you are probably familiar with the cover version that was done by Eric Clapton. Nye and the guys sped this tune up quite a bit and did an admirable job, despite the big shoes they had to fill. Then the tempo throttles back for the straight-up blues of “But I Forgive You,” which is a true song of love and forgiveness, considering all the terrible things the subject of this song is accused of doing.
“New Orleans Is Murder” does indeed have a Crescent City feel, with a funereal pace and a spooky sounding tape delay guitar sound. Stelmaszack does a very smooth and tasteful job on the guitars, and this original tune is a real winner. Another Ricky Nye original, “I Ain’t Crazy” follows this one up, and we are treated to some lovely syncopated piano work with a little harmonica flavor on top. This two-minute instrumental is really neat, and I will surely be using it to set the mood for one of my upcoming parties.
Nye and the boys then proceed to lay down some rocking boogie woogie for the next four tracks. Bassist Thibaut Chopin brings some neat harmonica parts to the Delmore Brothers’ “Pan American Boogie” and Nye gets a workout for both hands in Pinetop Smith’s instrumental “Jump Steady Blues.”
“Buggy Ride” is the last Ricky Nye original (and another instrumental), and it truly sounds like it is from another age. As with the rest of the album, Shuffle Boyer does a rock steady job on the drums for this track. We also get a great version of Big Joe Turner’s “Boogie Woogie Country Girl,” and I am glad that Nye did not feel compelled to copy the original version of this song (or any of the covers), but rather played it in his own style.
To finish up the CD, the band serves up three classic blues songs: Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Eyesight to the Blind,” the classic (and very dirty) “Honey Dripper Blues,” and Mississippi Sheiks’ “Sittin’ On Top of the World.” And these wisely chosen covers cement the fate of Jump Steady – this is a fabulous album! Ricky Nye put together a collection of twelve unique songs, and each one is short enough to leave the listener wanting more. I highly recommend that you check it out when you get a chance!
Ricky Nye - Ville du Bois
by Lee Howland @ STLBlues.net
Ricky Nye (Rick Neiheisel) is an incredible Cincinnati-based, blues-based piano player. He’s been actively playing blues, boogie, jazz and other styles since the late 1980s. Ricky has a wonderful touch on the keys, being able to impart much emotion to his playing. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, because unlike guitar or harp or horn, you can’t “bend” notes on a piano. It all has to come from a player’s technical ability and “feel”. Well, Ricky has feel, and vast amounts of technical ability.
Ville du Bois was recorded in Paris, France, basically in the home of the bass player heard on this CD, Thibaut Chopin. All of the band members heard here, with whom Ricky has been playing during his European trips for the past three years, are incredibly sympathetic players. They aren’t Europeans trying to play blues; they are blues-loving players who happen to be European. These cats can play – pay special attention to guitarist Anthony Stelmaszack. You will likely grow to enjoy his playing as much as I did.
1. Walk That Walk: -- This tune is a fun mid-tempo boogie with killer West Coast-style guitar thrown in for good measure. There are lyrics to the tune, but the focus is really Ricky’s piano playing.
2. Ville du Bois: -- This is the title track from the album. If the internet French-to-English translator I used worked correctly, Ville du Bois translates to City of Wood. I thought Paris was the City of Light, but maybe the title refers to the construction material of most of the instruments used on this CD. Or maybe not… Anywho, this instrumental is very nice, another mid-tempo tune (more in a West Coast vibe heard in the late 1940s with Lloyd Glenn or someone) with Ricky playing some sweet runs and with some more of that nice guitar sound heard in the 1st track.
3. Cherry Red: -- This is Nye’s take on an old Big Joe Turner/Pete Johnson tune, done-up very faithfully in the Kansas City jazz/blues style Turner and Johnson played back in the day. It’s a slower song with lots of “feel”, with none of the players being in a hurry. It’s got a laid-back late-night vibe.
4. Going To Cincinnati: -- This tune (credited to “Estes”, although I’ve not been able to confirm if it was Sleepy John Estes or not) is a fitting cover for Ricky, as he is based in Cincinnati. This mid-tempo song has a much more down-home, early electric Chicago blues feel (Rollin’ & Tumblin’?) than any of the previous tracks. It sounds great.
5. Lord Lord Lord: -- This song is one of Nye’s own compositions, and it also has a Chicago blues feel. It’s an up-tempo track, one I can hear someone like Sunnyland Slim knocking out. Once again there’s some fine guitar work here, played in a faithful 1950s style – playing to the song and to the ensemble.
6. If The Rabbit Had A Gun: -- Here’s the 3rd track in a row played in the Chicago blues style. It’s a slow, low-down tune with some nice harmonica backing (played in a Snooky Pryor fashion.) Ricky peels off some very nice runs here. He’s got a great touch and a real feel for this type of material.
7. Little Village: -- Yes, this is the old Sonny Boy 2 song from his Chess records days. There is some harp present, but the focus is really on the ensemble sound. The more I hear from the guitar player the more I like him - very classy and tasteful. The big chords of this song are probably more out-front than any other instrumentation, although the drummer’s brush work sounds mighty fine, too.
8. Nancy Pants / No No: -- We’re in Chicago no more! This tune, or medley of tunes (1st part from Ricky, 2nd from Fats Domino), is from the old New Orleans style. It has a definite ragtime basis, and is heavily syncopated. Ricky does seem to be able to play most any style he wants, and to do it in a convincing, legitimate manner. Piano is the star of this show!
9. Dirty Rag: -- This is a fast moving instrumental track done in a jazzed-up ragtime-ish style. It’s a lot of fun and it gives the rhythm players a chance to stretch out a bit and have a ball.
10. Chicken a la Blues: -- This tune moves us back to more of a late night, after hours feel, similar in feel to one of Memphis Slim’s slower cuts, at least in the instrumental work. Ricky won’t ever be confused with someone like Slim in the vocal department. Ricky works well with what he has, but singing isn’t his strong-suit. However, his playing is “Grade A”! My favorite line from this song – “Saturday we ate scrambled eggs…and you know that’s chicken, too!”
11. CC Rider: -- I’m not sure the World needs another recorded version of this old chestnut, but the band here really plays a nice version of the tune. Ricky plays his piano in a Memphis Slim mode, bringing out the melancholy feel of this song. I’m sure many of us have heard this song so often that we stop listening to it, to why so many players wanted to perform it in the first place. Ricky gives us a good reminder of how good this song really can be.
12. Creole Boogie: -- A set-ending instrumental track, this is a fine way to end the CD - one last boogie woogie piano tune to send us off in style. This track roars along like a barely under control freightliner; it’s still going in a straight line but threatens to break all kind of loose any second!
I have to admit, in all fairness, that I love piano blues. Mr. Ricky Nye is a heck of a piano player, a master, really. He displays his ability to play many styles on this CD, and he plays them all remarkably well. His singing voice may take some of you awhile to get use to (it took me awhile – my own issues that I will not burden you nor influence you with.) Spend your time focusing on his playing, and on the band’s accompaniment, and you will be well rewarded.
If you like piano players, then this album is for you. If you don’t like piano players, well, we’ll have to get you into some solid blues remedial therapy and see if we can’t cure what ails you (even guitar players don’t listen to guitar players all the time!) For a start, pick up this CD and play it non-stop for 6, no…7 straight plays. Doctor’s orders! STLBluesometer rating for Ricky Nye – Ville du Bois = 4.00, Ricky Nye does play in St. Louis on occasion, usually at Brandt’s in University City if I’m not mistaken. The gigs aren’t usually well publicized, so check out Ricky’s website for upcoming playing dates.
Ricky Nye - Quick 'N' Dirty
by Mike Breen @ CityBeat Magazine
The title of Ricky Nye and the Swingin' Mudbugs' sophomore release (the follow-up to 1998's Piano is Fun!) is a play on the recording philosophy behind the album. Nye likes to record in as few takes as possible, and Quick was done with little overdubbing or other fixes (just like Fun!). But if you've seen Nye's trio perform live, you know that the local prince of boogie-woogie-styled piano probably doesn't require many "do-overs." There are certainly no holes in Quick 'N' Dirty. The energy and spontaneity exhibited makes listeners feel like they are dancing the night away in some sweaty bayou speakeasy. That intimacy translates superbly as Nye and Mudbugs Tony Franklin (drums) and Nick Lloyd (upright bass) rip effortlessly through a plethora of blues stylings on songs written by a variety of composers (save "Oh Yes," the sole Nye original). From the down-low blues of Muddy Waters' "What Is That She Got?" and the more up-tempo R&B of "Grits Ain't Groceries" (made famous by Little Milton) to the yearning, soulful balladry of "Please Send Me Someone To Love" and Nye's trademark barrelhouse rolls on "Downtown Boogie" and "Dixie Lullaby," you can take Quick 'N' Dirty as a musical history lesson or, more appropriately, as a joyous escapade through the repertoire of one of Cincinnati's most talented musicians. Nye obviously has the deepest respect for the New Orleans-spawned art form, but he doesn't treat the material too preciously, raucously banging out the tunes with skill and grace, but also with a genuine sense of glee, something that permeates from nearly every note. Between quality releases like Quick 'N' Dirty, Nye's organization of regular blues and boogie piano summits, featuring like-minded artists from around the world, and steady European touring, his place as one of the preeminent masters of the style is secure