Wednesday, March 29, 2006

RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam - 03/28 Edition

RJ Mischo was in absentia, but the Tuesday night party continued down at the Mojo Lounge. Johnny Cat, Kedar Roy and Dennis Dove hosted the festivities and did a superb job. They opened the show with a fine version of the Watermelon Man followed by an impressive version of Freddy King's The Stumble. Dennis did a great job on Tyrone Davis' Turning Point and a couple of other tunes before inviting Chris Brown and myself to start the jam. A couple of songs later, Johnny invited a female singer to sing a couple of tunes. I can't remember her name, Kate Garcia.

I can't remember who was up next. I think I missed a whole group here and I'm not sure why. Old age?

I think it was Stan Erhart, Jerome Engelberts, Greg Heumann, Wild Bill Pruitt and the amazing E-Rock. Wild Bill and E-Rock set a really nice groove. Jerome sang a couple of tunes including Big Leg Woman before turning the microphone over to Stan. He did a couple of great tunes including the Albert King classic, Oh Pretty Woman. Greg demonstrated his fine harp playing to full effect.

Next up was Jeff and Tom from the Buzzy Dupree Orchestra. They were joined by the prolific Don Yonders. Greg Heumann switched to his saxophone. Don sounded fastastic as always and he and Tom were trading off some very nice guitar soloes. After a few songs, Jeff departed and was replaced by a harp player named Benny. He sang a few tunes. A Billy Boy Arnold tune and the Muddy Water's classic, Mannish Boy. Chris Brown and Dennis Dove contributed some very nice bass playing.

Scott Duncan came up and did a couple of songs with Johnny Cat, Kedar Roy and a very good female drummer. I've seen her before at Murphy's Law and at Brandon's, but I cant remember her name. After Scott and the drummer stepped down, Dennis Dove got back up on stage. He did a great version of Tyrone Davis tune, Can I Change My Mind before the evening's festivities concluded with a killer surf medley.

With that, the evening was in the book. Damn, it was fun

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Willie Kent

Willie Kent

This past Thursday March 2, 2006, legendary bluesman Willie Kent passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Willie Kent was one of my favorite performers. The first time that I saw him was at B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted in the mid 80's. He was working with Eddie Taylor. Since that time, I had seen him perform countless times in and out of Chicago.

1991 saw the release of his first record on a major label. Delmark Records released Ain't It Nice to a great deal of critical acclaim. The album won the Library of Congress Award for the Best Folk/Blues Album of 1991. It featured a cast of great Chicago-area musicians. It's an awesome recording that demonstrated that the deep Chicago Blues was still live and flourishing.

I always felt that he was one of the few practitioners of a trade that seems to be disappearing. Willie Kent was a real deal bluesman. He wrote excellent songs and he was a fabulous old school singer in the tradition of Muddy Waters. His blues were deep and they told a story.

Willie made the trek from Chicago to the Bay Area a few times in the mid 1990's. He performed at the now defunct, Blues on B in San Mateo. His bands were schooled in the classic Chicago Blues mold dipping into material from the kings of the South and West Side styles. Those performances were like finding a rare jewel. I think that I attended every one of them.

While he was out here, he did an interview which appeared on public television in San Mateo. He spoke a great deal about his life and the struggles that he faced as a very dark skinned black man. In a
magazine interview, he spoke felt that people steered clear of him because of his skin tone. It was their loss. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with him on more than one occasion. He was one of the nicest guys that you would ever meet.

When I made annual trips back to Chicago, seeing Willie Kent perform was always at the top of the list. He was simply that good.

One time, I was visiting my family in suburban Chicago in 1999. There was a small festival going on called the Taste of Westmont. Westmont is a nothing happening town. It's claim to fame was that Muddy Waters, Eddy Clearwater and Larry "Big Twist" Nolan lived there.

The festival had a day dedicated to Blues and the memory of Muddy Waters. The lineup was: Johnnie B Moore, James Wheeler, Lester "Mad Dog" Davenport, Little Smokey Smothers, Bonnie Lee, Pat Scott and Pinetop Perkins. Willie Kent and his band backed all of these guys with a short break which was filled by the Lonnie Brooks Blues Band. It was a free, small, little unadvertised Blues Festival that put most festivals to shame. Willie Kent and Baldhead Pete were the ironmen of the day. They played almost continuously for four hours in the street on a hot, humid and sunny summer day.

The last time that I saw him was in the winter of 1999. It was freezing cold in Chicago. I had been searching for a copy of his CD entitled Everybody Needs Somebody. I asked him if he had a copy for sale. He said that he was out. A few minutes later, he mentioned that he might have one in his van. We walked a couple of blocks in the freezing cold night and he sold me his last copy of the CD. I was pretty impressed that he was willing to go to that trouble for a fan and a $15 CD sale. The next day, I returned to California.

Throughout his career, he appeared on over 45 recordings as a featured artist or as a sideman. He was a great performer, an excellent musician and a really nice person.

This Week In Blues

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Steve Freund & Ken Saydak

Thursday evening, I caught Steve Freund and Ken Saydak at JJ's Blues Lounge in San Jose.

When I arrived at JJ's, I ran into Steve and Ken unloading their stuff. I talked to Steve and Ken briefly. During our brief conversation, I found out that Ken and I grew up about four miles from each other on Chicago's South West side. Thick Chicago accents were on display much to the surprise of long time friends.

Once we got inside, the show began. This show set the bar for the remainder of the year. Steve and Ken played two extended sets of almost all original tunes. They really worked well together which is what you would expect considering that they've known each other for close to 30 years.

Ken is an excellent song writer and piano player. He is skilled in the old school styles, but comes off sounding totally fresh and modern. For the final tune of the evening, he switched over to the house organ and they played a great Jimmy Smith style number to conclude a very entertaining evening. It was a really fantastic show.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

RJ Mischo

It was an action packed night at Fat Tuesday edition of RJ Mischo's World Famous All Day Blues Jam Night at the Mojo Lounge.

As always, RJ kicked off the festivities for the evening with a fabulous house band consisting of Little Jonny Lawton, Randy Bermudes and June Core. RJ's playing last night with this group of guys was nothing short of awe inpiring.

Jaw dropping, simply, jaw dropping. If you were there, you know what I mean. If you weren't your missed out on a great free show.

The evening featured several guest artists including the prolific, enigmatic and charismatic Double G, the electrifying E-Rock, a good harp player from Southern California named Ryan, Lisa and myself.

Most importantly, yesterday marked the return of the great Little Junior Crudup to the big stage at the Mojo Lounge. Little Junior being the ultra-bad ass showman that he really lit up the stage and captivated the audience.

This Week In Blues

Last week was a very busy week and I need to take a break. Here's the dealio.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Charlie Musselwhite Blues Band

I went to Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz to see the Charlie Musselwhite Band. It was a really great show. Not much more to say about it, other than it was fantastic. Great band in a great venue with great sound.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I stopped off at Brandon's for a bit to check out The Pleasure Kings.

It had been several years since my last excursion to Brandon's. I had forgotten what a nice place it is. The bar has a number of tables with nicely upholstered chairs. The bar staff and waitresses were really friendly and attentive. Dinner service from the finest restaurant in Milpitas is available in the bar. One sentence: It's a really nice and comfortable room.

The band was excellent. Johnny Cat, Mike Phillips, Dennis Dove and Robert Welsh have worked together for years. They were tight. They played a variety of nicely selected material covering Tyrone Davis, The Meters, BB King, Freddie King, Snooks Eaglin and many more. It was all blues with a little of R&B mixed in. They had few guests perform.

The sound was very good. The volume was very good. It was loud enough to be a good listening volume, but not enough to cause hearing damage.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

It was a fun night at the Little Fox Theater. Kenny "Blue" Ray and his band of merry men provided an evening filled with fun and excitement. The evening was filled with great music performed by a group of familiar faces like:

Phil Berkowitz, Scott Miller, Don Yonders (who informed me that there is no "s" in Don Yonders), Vince Caminiti, Ray Figeroa, Artie Chavez and Kenny "Blue" Ray. There were also a bunch of faces that were new to me. One guy that really impressed me was a harp player and singer named Ron Lowes.

It was a good time, once again and it's always a treat to perform with Kenny "Blue" Ray and his Orchestra.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

It was a stellar night at RJ Mischo's World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. The place was packed with performers and people just hanging out having a good time.

RJ, Kid Andersen, Kadar Roy and June Core started the evening with a number of tunes from the Junior Wells, Snooky Pryor and Hound Dog Taylor songbooks before RJ dipped into the local talent pool.

Performing on the newly remodeled stage during the course of the evening was the infamous Harmonica Hutch, Don Yonders, Artie Chavez, Phil Berkowitz, Chris Brown, Russell Barber, Johnny Cat, Eddie B, Matt Lawley and me.