I was saddened to learn today that Canadian blues rock and jazz musician Jeff Healey passed away yesterday after a prologued bout with cancer at the age of 41. I was oblivious to the fact that he had been fighting cancer for over a year, so this came as quite a shock. A candid, yet positive note to fans last September regarding his treatments can be read here. Blind due to a rare form of cancer since he was a baby, he learned guitar at age 3 and developed a distinct style of playing with the guitar in his lap. Known primarily as a rock guitarist in the vein of Stevie Ray Vaughan, in recent years he's pursued his true love of 20's/30's jazz with three albums distributed by Edmonton-based indie label Stony Plain Records: Among Friends, Adventures in Jazzland, and It's Tight Like That (with guest Chris Barber). When he wasn't touring, he hosted a jazz show on local Toronto station JAZZ.FM and performed as part of the house band at Jeff Healey's Roadhouse, a live music venue named after his role alongside Patrick Swayze in the cult 80's film Road House.
I saw him years ago perform alongside Ronnie Hawkins at a baseball game in Edmonton (baseball in Edmonton-- weird thought, eh?). In 2005, I brought my dad to see Jeff Healey & The Jazz Wizards at the intimate 500-seat Arden Theatre in St. Albert, a city just north of Edmonton city limits. In addition to being a phenomenal guitar player, Jeff also plays trumpet and clarinet. It was a wonderful night of joyous jazz standards with the band exchanging solos, chatting with the audience, and having as much fun on stage as we were out in the crowd. Following the show, the whole band was in the lobby to sign autographs and mingle with fans.
Over the years, he's done a bunch of covers including a great version of While My Gently Weeps and a full cover album in 1995, Cover to Cover. A new album Mess of Blues to be released next month was going to be his first rock/blues album in 8 years and looks to have some covers on there including The Weight. Here are some of his other covers with his Jeff Healey Band and jazz standards with his Jazz Wizards. He will be missed.
The Jeff Healey Band - Harvest [originally by Neil Young] The Jeff Healey Band - While My Guitar Gently Weeps [originally by The Beatles] The Jeff Healey Band - Run Through the Jungle [originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival] The Jeff Healey Band - Communication Breakdown [originally by Led Zeppelin] Jeff Healey - You're Driving Me Crazy [originally by Walter Donaldson] Jeff Healey - My Blackbirds are Bluebirds Now [originally by Irving Caesar & Cliff Friend] Terra Hazelton - Let's Do It [originally by Cole Porter] Terra Hazelton - Ain't He Sweet? [originally "Ain't She Sweet?" by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen]
That show in St. Albert featured jazz vocalist Terra Hazelton as a member of the Jazz Wizards. That year Jeff Healey produced and played on her debut album Anybody's Baby, which also featured backing by the Jazz Wizards. After visiting her website, I found out she has a new album due soon and she's trying to reach 500 pre-orders by March 15th. Some special guest include Toronto jazz vocalist Alex Pangman, Drew Jurecka (of the Jazz Wizards), and the Valleau brothers (of the Polyjesters). Listen to some of her other stuff on her myspace page.