Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ron Hacker & Steve Freund @ The Ivy Room

It was a very cool evening of music at the Ivy Room last night. The Yahoo Bay Area Blues Group had a really good turn out. It was nice to put names to faces and to see some people that I hadn't seen in a while.

Steve Freund kicked off a great evening of music with the trio before bringing up his special guest, Ron Hacker. It was an excellent first set which kicked off a very cool evening of music. Later in the set, Artie Chavez joined the group.

During the second set, Steve introduced an additional special guest, the infamous Cadillac Zack got up a played a few tunes with the band before Ron came back up to the stage.

In the final set, Steve called Stan Erhart, Burton Winn and Donnie Kountz up to the stage along with Birdlegg. They did a few numbers together. Afterward, we called Cadillac Zack and Ron Hacker back up, along with Rontu Karr. After a few more tunes, it was a wrap and in the history books.

Overall, it was non-stop tough roadhouse style music from beginning to end and a very interesting contrast to the Freund/Specter shows of the previous weekend.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam - 05/23 Edition

RJ was still in absentia. John Nemeth was MC and bandleader for the evening and it was a fabulous evening filled with fun, frolic and great music provided by a fine house band consisting of John Nemeth (harp/vocals), Mighty Mike Schermer (guitar/vocals), Vance Ehlers (bass) and Hans Bosse (drums).

A multitude of musical guests graced the stage including:

Group #1: John Nemeth (harp/vocals), Mighty Mike Schermer (guitar/vocals), Vance Ehlers (bass) and Hans Bosse (drums). A tough, tough group.

Group #2: John, Chris Brown (guitar), Vance and Hans. One song. Short and sweet before John introduced Jimmy D.

Group #3: Jimmy Dewrance (harp/vocals), Chris, Vance and Hans. Jimmy Dewrance was sounding fantastic. He worked well with Chris Brown. A very nice extended set.

There was a break.

Group #4: John Nemeth (harp/vocals), Gino Baronelli (guitar/vocals), Ryan Eric (guitar), Ray Figueroa (bass), Eric (keys), Freddie Roulette (lap steel) and E-Rock (drums). John did a couple of nice tunes before turning the vocal microphone to Gino who snag a fine version of the classic "Look On Yonder Wall."

Group #5: Armelle (vocals), unknown (guitar), Ray, Freddie and unknown (drums). Armelle brought the guitar player and drummer to the jam. They are younger guys and quite good. I had never seen them before. Armelle is a fine vocalist. You can tell that she has been working with these guys. They sounded tight. Very nice set featuring a fine version of the Work Song.

There was a break.

Group #6: John Nemeth (vocals), Mighty Mike Schermer (guitar), Scott Miller (guitar/vocals), Double G (harp), Freddie Roulette (lap steel), Vance Ehlers (bass) and Hans Bosse (drums). John did a couple of tunes to kick off the set. The interplay between Mike Schermer and Scott Miller was really cool. The Potato Digging Man, Double G demonstrated some very good harp playing.

Group #7: Mighty Mike (guitar/vocals), Don Yonders (without an S/guitar), me (harp), Freddie, Vance and Hans. Mike sang a couple of tunes. One in an Elmore James style and exhibited some fine slide guitar playing. Freddie Roulette's playing was so cool that it was ice cold. The other song was a really nice version of Long Distance Call with Don Yonders tossing in a great guitar solo straight from the South Side of Chicago.

Group #8: John Nemeth (vocals), Mighty Mike, Don Yonders, Tom (from the Buzzy Dupree Orchestra) (guitar), Freddie, Vance and Hans. The last couple of tunes were in the classic early BB King style and I had never heard them before. The three guitar players worked well together each taking turns playing some very nice and very tasteful guitar solos.

and it was in the history books.

The thing that is great about the Mojo jam is that it's an excellent opportunity to share the stage with some great musicians. More importantly, even if one doesn't play it's a really fun place to hang out. I don't usually frequent a lot of blues jams, but this one keeps me coming back because the people are cool and the music is usually top notch.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam - 05/16 Edition

With RJ on another European and Scandinavian tour, Birdlegg was the host and MC for the evening. The house band was: Steve Gannon (guitar), Bob Welsh (bass) and Hans Bosse (drums). There was a keyboard player present, but I can remember his name. Birdlegg was in fine form. It was great to see and hear Steve Gannon.

Guest group #1: Pork Pie Phillips (vocals), Scott Miller (guitar), Ryan Eric (guitar), Eddie B (bass), E-Rock (drums) and me (harmonica). It's always a good time getting to play with Pork Pie. He's a fine singer and he's always got some cool songs.

Guest group #2: Birdlegg (harp/vocals), Chris Andersen (guitar), Steve Gannon (guitar), Bob Welsh (bass) and Artie Chavez (drums). It was a very cool set which featured some very good slide guitar playing using a slide by Steve Gannon and some very good slide guitar playing without using a slide by Chris Andersen.

Guest group #3: Birdlegg (harp/vocals), Chris Brown (guitar), Russell Barber (guitar), Ray Figueroa (bass) and E-Rock (drums). Chris Brown and Russell Barber played off each other quite nicely. Chris Brown's guitar playing on the Guitar Slim classic, "The Things I Used To Do" was excellent.

Guest group #4: Double G (harp/vocals), Don Yonders (guitar), Tom (from the Buzzy Dupree Band) (guitar), Ray Figueroa (bass) and Dawon (drums). Double G was sounding good. Don Yonder displayed some stinging West Side Chicago-influenced guitar work. Tom played some very tasteful slide.

Final group: Birdlegg (harp/vocals), Chris Andersen (guitar), Steve Gannon (guitar), Bob Welsh (bass) and Hans Bosse (drums). This set was a great way to end the evening.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Steve Freund @ The Poor House Bistro

Friday night was a boatload of fun. I headed down to historic Watsonville to shoot photos of a band called the Nightcreepers. After filling up several memory cards, I went down to a barbecue joint called Hungerfords. Nice place. Excellent food. Friendly people working there. It was nice to see some people that I hadn't seen in a while like Marc Carino and to meet some new folks. They were kind enough to let me sit in on a few songs with their fine band along with Kid Andersen.

Afterward, I dropped the Kid off at the Fog Bank in Capitola. Swing Shift was playing there. I hung out for a set and a half. Peter Brown, Johnny Cat and Screamin' Ian sounded great. It was getting late. I had to get up relatively early, so I split. I was glad that I did. The drive through the Santa Cruz Mountains was pretty foggy and traffic was creeping along.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Blues Harp Blast @ The Mojo Lounge


If you weren't there last night, you missed one hell of a time.

Phil Berkowitz kicked off the festivities and he set the bar high. I've seen Phil numerous times. Last night, he sounded better than ever. He started off with a couple of Little Walter instrumentals and a Howlin' Wolf tune before he played a couple Louis Jordan tunes from his most recent CD. He sounded great. Not much more to say. If the night had ended after his set, it would have been a good night of music.

Next up was Gary Smith. He fought some static problems early in his set. Once he got going, his extended set featured the big fat harp tone that has made him a South Bay legend and a global cult figure among harp players. It was heavy and as thick as molasses. He burned through a very nice set of Chicago Blues featuring several Little Walter tunes.

During his set, I was talking to the infamous Double G. We were discussing Gary Smith's impact and influence on harp players. The list of harp players in the Bay Area that has not been influenced by Gary Smith would be a very short list and they are almost all transplants from other parts of the country.

The band took a break. The fine band consisted of Robert Welsh, Kedar Roy and Hans Bosse. Bob Welsh sounded great. He's a fabulous guitar player that is very skilled in backing harmonica players. Last night's event would have made a great instructional video. You could hear the stylist voicings of some great guitar players like Louis Myers, Jimmy Rogers, Robert Jr Lockwood, Buddy Guy and Freddie Robinson in his playing. Kedar and Hans kept the groove moving ahead like an old steam locomotive. Powerful, strong and kept time like the clickety-clack on the rails.

After the break, RJ played several tunes. His set consisted mostly of original tunes and he tossed in a couple of classics by guys like JB Hutto. He did one thing that really stood out during his performance. It was something separated him from almost all of the other performers in the lineup. His harp playing was very sparse, so when he played, it made a statement.

Next up was Jimmy Dewrance and there was yet another stylistic change. It's hard to describe, but his style is a bit more modern, while retaining a very classic feel to it. Like Phil Berkowitz, he digs deep and find some excellent songs that aren't heard very often. He also picks some swinging tunes by saxophone players and adapts them to fit his harmonica playing in the Little Walter tradition.

Mark Hummel followed a fine set. He sounded a lot like Mark Hummel. He sounded great. He played a couple of really old James Cotton tunes and a fabulous version of "Blue and Lonesome." Bob Welsh sounded absolutely awesome on this tune creating a high degree of tension displaying some very nice supporting guitar work much like Luther Tucker. Mark Hummel finished up his set with a couple of nice instrumentals.

The band took another break.

For the final scheduled performance of the evening, Birdlegg blew the roof off of the Mojo Lounge. That man is a pure entertainer from the old school. He really knows how to work a crowd. It was an amazing change of pace and a turn away from the Little Walter-influenced sounds of the evening. Birdlegg burned through several Sonny Boy Williamson and Jimmy Reed tunes before finishing up with a few of his own compositions and a pretty nasty version of Stoop Down Baby.

RJ did one tune with a three other harp players in the house. Arthur Daugherty, a harp instructor named Dave (not Barrett) and myself. He asked Birdlegg to do one final number, Birdlegg asked me to stick around. I felt honored, but it just didn't feel right, since people really wanted more of him.

In a nutshell, that was it.