It makes sense that if David Vest decided to release two live recordings at the same time one of them would be recorded at his home base in Victoria B.C.  Hermann’s Jazz Club has been part of the Canadian live music landscape since 1981.  David Vest and his band have been performing there regularly since 2012.   The room has the right piano and the right vibe. 

Hailing from Alabama the 77 year old blues man has said on many occasions that he wasn’t born in Canada but got here as soon as he heard about it. This country has welcomed him with multiple Maple Blues Awards, six stellar recordings, coast to coast tours and a growing fan base.  

The Live At Hermann’s set features the pianist’s long time band, Tim Bowler acoustic guitar/back up vocals, Ryan Tandy upright acoustic bass and Damian Graham drums.  This recording was gleaned from two sessions, the first on his birthday show back in November 2020 (77 On 88) and the balance spread over two nights in the late spring and early summer of 2021.  The audience room sound has been minimized so the listener is given the impression that they’re on stage with the band.  

Live At Hermann’s opens with a rocking cover of the Junior Parker chestnut, Mystery Train followed by the classic C.C.Rider.  Infirmaratin is actually a brilliant reworking of St. James Infirmary, turning it into an instrumental with an island feel.  Woo-Ee jumps with a Memphis beat paying homage to Piano Red, one of  David Vest’s many influences.  Mr. Pinetop’s Boogie shows Vest at his best with the band falling in along with him to tip their collective hats to Pinetop Perkins, another eighty-eight great.  B.C Rider, the only original in the collection moves through a perfect medium tempo groove with the group providing excellent accompaniment behind first class piano work.  Wade In The Water is an updated instrumental version of the spiritual first recorded in 1925 by The Sunset Four Jubilee Singers.  David and his trio turn it into a down home funky jam that opens up and lets all the band members shine.  Since I Fell For You leans back to Piano Red, taking his arrangement of this classic piece.  Cow Cow Boogie is classic jump blues piano playing with just the right blend of guitar, bass and drums to make it real.   Just when you think you’ve heard every version possible of When The Saints Go Marching In, here comes Mr. Vest with a smoking rendition that would make Jerry Lee Lewis stand up and take notice.  The show closer is a surprise treatment of The Melodians reggae classic Rivers of Babylon.  The piano intro with Tim Bowler’s harmony singing behind David’s lead vocal makes the song their own.  

This is an outstanding live recording, the technique of mixing it so the listener feels like they’re on stage with the band works extremely well.  David Vest continues to show the world that his creative output is limitless. (Gary Kendall)