Last night, I went down to the Mojo Lounge to catch the special Christmas concert featuring the one and only Carol Fran. The band had just started playing when I walked in.
I met up with a bunch of friends sitting at a table including: Robin Overton, Chris Brown, James Reed, Byrd Hale and Wendy Dewitt. Robin introduced me to Carol. She is a very sweet and very down to Earth lady.
The guitar player had recently relocated back to the Bay Area from New Orleans. He was playing a big hollow body Gibson guitar. He was great. His playing had a nice blues/jazz feel to it. It was very mellow and it really set the tone for the evening. His name was Larry Scala.
Rounding out the band was the majestic Kedar Roy thumping the big upright bass. He's one of the few guys like Willie Dixon that makes a huge bass look like a violin next to him. Andrew Griffin on drums. I had never seen him before. He was very good. These guys set a very nice rhythm and kept time better than a Stratum 1 clock. James "Loose" Reed playing added some very nice and mellow harp playing to the opening songs.
After a couple of tunes, Carol Fran stepped on stage. This was the first time that I had seen her. She put on a great show. The first couple of songs had a really funky feel to it. Her piano was amplified to the hilt and its sound was reminiscent of the Howlin' Wolf classic, "How Many More Years." It had a very cool sound to it, but it wasn't the right mood for the evening and it certainly didn't capture the Christmas spirit. Once that got fixed, she began an American music history lesson that won't soon be forgotten.
During the course of the evening, she played several Christmas tunes and a multitude of blues and jazz songs from the 1940's and 1950's. If someone shouted out the name of the song, she played it. It sort of didn't matter what it was. When some guy in the audience shouted out, "Sweet Home Chicago." A bunch of people grumbled and she began a Professor Longhair style tune.
When she began singing, "Come on, baby don't you wanna go..."
She blew several minds. That was the most non-standard, but very cool version of "Sweet Home Chicago" that I had heard in several years. She played and sang several Ray Charles songs.
I am really glad that I didn't miss this show. It was a very intimate performance.