Mike Bram Man of many Talents www.ameriblues.com
1. Przemek Draheim, Blues & Gospel Radio,Poland www.blues.pl
"Michael Bram is not only a very talented harp player but with this CD he also proves to be a great vocalist and should be proud of himself! His songs are enjoyable and the musicians that surround him are first class. He has released a highly recommended album!"
2. Reviewed by Tom Hyslop for Blues Revue Magazine
New York's Michael Bram and the Alternators revisit 1950's Chicago on their self titled release. Bram blows a fluttering harmonica break over the strong shuffle of "Altered States Blues" before turning solo space over to guitarist Chris Vitarello, whose note choice and phrasing bear the retro stamp of approval. "Leroy's Back In Town" continues with solid, jazzy jump before the band dips low for the slow, greasy Eddie Taylor-styled "BlackJack Blues." Bram's harp sound is tremendous on "Too Much Whiskey," a Muddy Waters- inspired slow blues; the band's groove is unstoppable on the humorous "Scared of the Man in Blue" ; and "Weed Smokin' ,Tequila Drinkin'" recalls the Hollywood Fats Band's fast shuffles, right down to the reverb-drenched guitar tone. The closer, "Gotta Get a New Job," reframes "Honest I Do" to good effect. Bram's singing is occasionally forced, but overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable recording from a very good band.
3. ROOTSTIME, BELGIUM REVIEW
After many concerts and 2 CD's Michael Bram (harmonica, vocals) now has two musicians who accompany him, the Alternators. They fully support him in the realisation of his own view of blues music: Chris Vitarello (The Bruce Katz Band, Arlen Roth, Jimmy McGriff, Debbie Davies, Bill Perry) on guitar joined the band for the recording of the last CD, and Brendan O'Grady (Lew Soloff, John Abercrombie and the Bloodsugars) on bass has given the band an extra dimension. Bram's unusual harmonica playing fits in perfectly with the various drum patterns played by Ron Nihoff.
Michael Bram himself started his career as a drummer. His drumming is still much appreciated in the New York scene. For instance, he played with bands such as The Dave Gross Band, Dennis Gruenling and JumpTime, Moose Boles and BulletProof Blues, Bill Perry, Debbie Davies and The Bruce Katz Band.
Throughout the years he has developed his own style and now mostly writes his own compositions. On top of his many concerts in 2004 he had the time to record an acoustical album, "Leroy". The music on this record makes you think of a dark bar where everyone solemnly sits in front of their bourbon but also the music fits in well with a large music festival. The one moment the music is wild and agressive, the next the music makes you blue and melancholy. The ingredients of the CD are a mix of blues and jazz played by fantastic musicians, namely Andy Stack on guitar and Cary Brown on keyboards. Especially the first three tracks are exceptional: "Dust My Broom" by Elmore James, but here without slide guitar, Freddie King's "Blues With A Feeling", but here with some very elegant slidework, and Duke Ellington's "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" with a beautiful harmonica solo by Bram. The album's classy end lets you hear a wonderful version "It Hurts Me Too".
Already the first drum beats on the new album "Michael Bram and the Alternators" show that this is not just a sequel to Bram's previous album. The first song "Watch Out!" instantly reminds you of a piece by The Allman Brothers: "Done Somebody Wrong". This track actually starts from a simple blues scheme, but it soon becomes clear that the music isn't aiming for technical virtuosity. The sounds of the shuffle "Altered States Blues" with harp solo and "Leroy's Back in Town", an old-time swing beat with jazzy guitar playing by Chris Vitarello instantly express a festival atmosphere. The CD continues with energizing sounds, an energetic voice and especially the guitar with a fat sound and of course Bram's refined harmonica playing. The swinging rhythms that we hear once in a while make the whole thing more vivid.
Occasionally Michael Bram and the Alternators play the regular blues, but it is a blues made up of beautifully coordinated guitar and harmonica improvisations. There is also room for more quiet pieces such as "Blackjack Blues" and "Too Much Whiskey" (which reminds you for a moment of Muddy Water's "Five Long Years"), so that there are enough changes in rhythm and pace.
On this CD Michael Bram shows another side of himself than on the previous one: more swinging than introvert. But it is still beautiful, with great attention to musical detail. Another strong point of this album is that all compositions are by Michael Bram himself, and that the band has not forgotten that they should play beautiful music rather than show off their technical musical skills. The texts on the other hand are not to be taken too seriously: Michael Bram and the Alternators want to play music and have fun, as in the rhumba beat "It Don't Matter Where You Get Your Appetite". Don't expect any classical blues in John Lee Hooker's way. On "Michael Bram and the Alternators" you hear more diverse influences such as swing and rock, reminding the listener of Willie Dixon's Chess Records sessions (Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf). This music certainly won't bore you: it's very diverse.
4. PACIFIC BLUES/ JERRY HALL REVIEW
Mike is part of the NY tri-state blues scene, and also an in-demand session drummer. But with his band the Alternators, he's singer/harp player and has written all the songs on this CD. Good mix of styles, and solid band backing Mike's harp and vocal intensity on every track. The songs are witty and interesting, and the playing is upbeat and no- frills blues recorded live in-studio, like real blues records oughta be.
5. THE WORKING MUSICIAN/MORE SUGAR ROGERZ REVIEW
In the year 2006, how do you make a great blues album and breathe life into a fairly restricted art form? Michael Bram and the Alternators let the beat do the talking. After all, their leader majored in jazz drums at Purchase University. The group, consisting of Michael Bram (harmonica, vocals), Chris Vitarello (guitar, vocals), Brendan O'Grady (bass, piano, vocals), and Ron Nihoff (drums), chose to record this album live in the studio. Echoes of the great Willie Dixon produced Chess Records session (Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf). They walk the tightrope without a net.
The CD features all original songs by Michael Bram -- each one spotlighting a different rhythm. A delightful sense of humor pervades the project. The album explodes with the ominous first notes of "Watch Out," reminiscent of the groove found in The Allman Brothers' "Done Somebody Wrong." Next up, the classic shuffle of "Altered States Blues" featuring a powerhouse harp solo. "I can't get up in the morning, but these good times I hate to lose." "Leroy's Back in Town," features an old-time swing beat with beautiful jazz comping by guitarist Chris Vitarello. "Blackjack Blues" showcases familiar card metaphors wrapped in a slow blues package. Once again, Mr. Bram blows some potent harp, followed by a fluid Vitarello guitar solo. Bram's sense of humor infuses the "Crosscut Saw" rhumba beat of "It Don't Matter Where You Get Your Appetite" -- the gist being I may look around, but I always bring it home to my baby. "Too Much Whiskey" follows the classic slow blues pattern of Muddy Water's "Five Long Years." The groove returns to a shuffle for "Scared of the Man in Blue," an amusing story of an encounter with a police officer. "Weed Smokin', Tequila Drinkin'" (my favorite) jumps off with a great solo guitar vamp by Vitarello before launching into a powerful flat-tire beat. The title says it all -- "I'm gonna do my thing and have a good time." The album ends with the medium tempo, r 'n b of "Gotta Get a New Job."
This record may not re-invent the blues, but it certainly blows out the cobwebs. The rhythm section of O'Grady and Nihoff provide a nurturing and fertile environment for the extended soloing of Bram and Vitarello. The latter two manage to pull great riffs right out of their back pocket with chilling ease. Next step, catch these guys live. Ôø‡ 2006 Roger-Z
6. BluesSource.com REVIEW
This CD presents nine original blues tunes penned by the young Michael Bram. It's definitely raw blues featuring Michael Bram on Harmonica and Vocals, Chris Vitarello on Guitar and Background Vocals,Brendan O'Grady on Bass, Piano, and Background Vocals, and Ron Nihoff on Drums.
Here we find a nice mix of fast and slow shuffles and even a fast swing with some great harp playing by Michael Bram. Keeping' it simple works well for the band here, and I found the CD enjoyable as compared to so much overproduced and multi-tracked out blues material being released these days. It definitely has a raw, live sound that you might hear in a smoke-filled juke joint, or a dimly lit NYC club.
This is the first CD put out by Michael and is self-produced and recorded by Michael and the other musicians on the CD. Not anything astonishingly unique about the tunes, but these guys can all definitely play!
I had the opportunity to meet Michael and speak with him in New York City a few weeks ago, and we are hoping to be able to get out to see him perform live sometime soon here in the Northeast. This is pretty damn good stuff for a first self-recorded release! You really might want to pick this CD up right away at his website -www.mikebram.com or at CDBaby. Ôø‡ 2006, Anthony Dellaria BluesSource.com
7. New York Blues and Jazz Society REVIEW
Like the greatest athletes, Michael Bram makes it look easy -- no, effortless. When he sweats, the beads fall off in perfect time. Though renowned for his drumming, he chooses to showcase his impressive vocal and harmonica talents on this mostly acoustic first album, "Leroy." A canny mix of blues and jazz chestnuts, this project includes Andy Stack on guitars and Cary Brown on organ and piano. The blues cuts feature piano, guitar, harp, and no drums while the jazz tunes comprise organ and percussion. Subtlety and taste pervade the album. Michael's vocals utterly convince. Breathing new life and creativity into an old musical form takes real talent. Michael and gang display tons of it.
The five blues tunes feature vocals and harp prominently placed in the mix. The pianist and guitarist truly grasp the concept of "accompaniment," adding tasty licks without overshadowing or stepping on Michael. Interestingly, Dust My Broom, originally an Elmore James slide guitar showcase, contains no slide. While Freddie King's Blues With A Feeling, originally cut on regular guitar, now features very tasty slide. Duke Ellington's Things Ain't What They Used To Be morphs into a stunning harmonica solo. Can't Hold Out Much Longer pertains to unrequited love -- "I'm crazy about you baby but you don't care nothing in the world about me." The album closes with a beautifully understated version of It Hurts Me Too.
The jazz tunes swing. Cherokee opens with a tasty Michael Bram drum solo and continues at full throttle. Andy Stack's guitar playing impresses with its fluidity and gracefulness. Once I Loved surprises as a samba played without percussion. Michael's vocals dominate. Finally, John Coltrane's Resolution paints with pastels using instruments as the tender brushes.
All in all, a very impressive debut from a multi-talented musician. Of course, I'm prejudiced. Michael drums on many of my rock trio gigs. He always does an outstanding job. What makes his playing special is that he is always "in the moment" -- totally relaxed, aware, and responsive to all that surrounds him. Music becomes an intimate conversation. He brings precisely that to Leroy, his first album.
Michael Bram can be seen every Tuesday night at the blues jam at Jean-Jacques in Pleasantville, N.Y. as the featured drummer, vocalist, and harp player of The Geoff Hartwell Band. Ôø‡ 2004 Roger-Z
8. MOOZIKOO RADIO REVIEW
"Somewhere between a smoke-filled bar in Memphis and a hoppin', blues joint in New Orleans lies the sound of Michael Bram and The Alternatorson their self-titled CD. Funny, given that Bram is a New Yorker, born and raised. This singer/harmonica player would be at home in any blues club in the south with his gritty but clever takes on life.
As is to be expected on an album of this genre, hard livin' is the motif du jour on many of the songs - all penned by Bram - such as "Too Much Whiskey," and "Weed Smokin,' Tequila Drinkin'."
A little more on the upbeat side, "Leroy's Back in Town" will get the joint hopping with its swing beats. "Altered States Blues" will keep you coming back with a hook that will get you from your "head down to [your] shoes."
Along with Bram, The Alternators - Chris Vitarello (guitar, background vocals), Brendan O'Grady (bass, piano, background vocals), and Ron Nihoff (drums) - recorded all the tracks live in studio, which gives the project a more authentic club feel. Whether it's the muted instruments on "Watch Out!" the wailing harmonica on "Blackjack Blues," or the working man's lament of "I Gotta Get a New Job," Bram will have you feeling the Delta groove. Even if you're in New York."
- Alathea Johnson, Moozikoo Staff Review