Anna Rizzo - lead vocals; John Dunstan - bass; Jay David - drums; Austin DeLone- piano; Phil Greenberg - guitar, vocals; Carl Natt - saxophone; Tucki Bailey - saxophone, flute, vocals
Anna Rizzo should have been a superstar. Although she is still out there doing it the hard way (most recently on the road with the reformed Kingfish and with her own project), she had a good run in the early and mid-1970s, but fame eluded her outside her home-base of San Francisco.
This recording, taken from the audio archives of the late Bill Graham, was from a November 1974 show held at the Winterland Ballroom. On the bill were the best regional female-led music acts, and included headliners Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite (fresh from their stint in Joy of Cooking), Marin County faves Yazoo, and Rizzo, who was backed by a band called A-Train.
Rizzo, who was second on the bill, took control of the show the minute the opening instrumental ends. Launching into "Love Makes A Woman," Rizzo and the band perform with a cool, calculated style, fusing blues, rock, and jazz into a delectable brew. Not unlike their contemporaries, Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, Anna Rizzo & the A-Train take a much more soulful approach to the music, one that relied less on the horn acrobatics that Pense's group used.
Vocally, Rizzo is astounding. She sounds like Aretha more often than not, but never loses her own sense of direction and distinct bluesy style. On "Pistol On The Shelf," a saucy ballad written by band member Austin DeLone, it's as if it were recorded in a smoky, back alley jazz room in an after-hours session. The other ballad in the set, "All the Time," written by band guitarist Phil Greenberg, will remind listeners of the Billie Holiday classic, "God Bless The Child," but still Rizzo gives it her own distinct flavor. It is the upbeat tracks that make this show so memorable: "Telling The World Good-Bye (Try To Find Yourself)" and "What Else Can I Say," in particular are highlights.
Rizzo formed the Bay Area band Grootna in 1971, and landed a deal with Columbia Records based largely on an affiliation with Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin, who produced and sang on the record. Grootna split up in 1972, and Rizzo formed A-Train. While gigging around the Bay Area with A-Train, Rizzo found time to sing on stage with a number of notable artists: Hot Tuna, Mike Bloomfield, Jelly Roll Troy, Dino Valenti, Rick Danko, Bob Weir, and Jesse Colin Young.
When rumors began circulating that famed Atlantic Records/Aretha Franklin producer Jerry Wexler was planning on signing Rizzo but not her band, the A-Train dissolved. In the end, she never released a disc on Atlantic. Rizzo has continued to perform in the Bay Area, and in the late-1990s became a member of the re-formed Kingfish.