Monday night, I headed up to the Ivy Room in Albany. Steve Freund was hosting a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I arrived fashionably late.
When I arrived, I noticed that the place was packed to capacity. There were a lot of familiar faces in attendence. Mark Hummel was on stage. It was so crowded that I couldn't make my way to that side of the bar, so I hung out where I was. I talked with some people that I hadn't seen in a while.
After Mark Hummel finished up a crowd pleasing set, Jackie Payne & Steve Edmonson Band stepped on stage. I had seen these guys when they were a part of the the Dynatones, but was my first time seeing this band. They were very impressive and had a excellent horn section. The horn section was what really caught my attention before Jackie Payne started singing. It was a really nice change of pace as most of the bands that I've seen recently have been four or five piece ensembles.
Next up: Craig Horton, Rick Estrin and Rusty Zinn. This set was pure Blues straight from Chicago. These three guys traded off singing. Craig Horton is a throwback to a time almost gone. His guitar work and singing sounds like it's straight out of a bar on the South Side of Chicago. Rick Estrin played some great Sonny Boy Williamson-influenced harmonica and demonstrated excellent chromatic playing. He led a couple of mid-tempo tunes that were fantastic. It had been a while since I had last seen Rusty Zinn. The last few times that I've seen him, he has changing his look so much that I wouldn't have recognized him. When he started playing, it was pretty obvious who was playing.
Next up: Applejack Walroth, Steve Freund, and Kenny "Blue" Ray. Applejack sang three or four tunes. He performs every Sunday afternoon with Blues Power at The Saloon in San Francisco. He's a very good singer and harmonica player. He dates back to 1960's Chicago and worked with Elvin Bishop.
Next up: Birdlegg and the Tight Fit Blues Band featuring John Graham, Patty Hammond and a drummer that I didn't recognize. They were joined by Kid Andersen. They played several songs and Birdlegg worked his ass off. There isn't much more that I can write about him, that I haven't already written. He's a great entertainer and very cool.
Next up: Daniel Castro and Kenny "Blue" Ray. I headed outside for a bit. It was pretty hot in the bar with all of the people present. These guys were really good, but very loud. Loud enough to be heard outside, so I hung out until they were done.
Next up: RJ Mischo, Kid Andersen, Jon Lawton and Bob Welsh. RJ, Kid and Jon each did a song or two. Kid Andersen played an Otis Rush-style number that knocked the ball out of the park.
Next up: The lovely Misty Browning sang a few numbers. I had seen her at the Mojo Lounge a few times. She played acoustic guitar and displayed her magnificent singing voice.
At this point, it was about 1:00am and I had to get up early the next day for work. I headed out as Steve Freund and his band were getting back on stage with Rontu Karr.
One last thing: Robi Bean and Randy Bermudes backed almost every band. They were onstage most of the night and were rock solid as usual. They were probably the performers of the evening.
It was a really long night, but I've been to Blues Festivals with lineups no where near as good as what was presented at the Ivy Room. It will certainly be a memorable night and it was for a worthy cause.