Saturday, December 15, 2007

Internet Finds

It amazing what turns up on the web. I knew that Steve Ahola records his sets at some of the local blues jams. I didn't know that he was putting them on the web, too. I suppose I should feel violated, but I don't.

Here are a few songs with me blowing the harp. They are all Blues tunes, so if you don't dig non-studio quality Blues recordings this might not be your scene.

This one is from the Mojo Lounge Tuesday night jam in Fremont, CA. in February of 2007. This one features Scott Miller on vocals and guitar along with Steve Ahola. I can't remember who else we were playing with.

1. Strange Woman

This set was recorded at the Redwood City Blues Jam in Redwood City, CA. I suspect that the recording device was on the guitar amp, so the harp playing cuts in and out depending on the guitarist's volume. I've got another set of recordings from this set that sound a bit better, but they aren't on the web.

It features the vocal and talent guitar work of John Boutell. Steve Ahola plays guitar and Artie Chavez is playing drums. I forgot who is playing bass.

1. Somebody Stole My Baby From Me
2. Got My Mojo Working
3. Shake Your Boogie
4. Don't Lie To Me

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Blue Monday on a Sunday Afternoon

This past Sunday, I made the trek to the Horseman's Club in Sacramento. Big Mike Balma along with the Sacramento Heritage Festival puts on a few really awesome Blues shows each year.

This year was no exception and it was a show not to be missed. It was well worth the two hour drive from my house as we don't get to see shows like this out here very often.

The vibe is super laid back. Everyone is having a good time. The performers in the bands are relaxed and hanging out. Many of them haven't seen each other in a while. They setting is informal enough to allow each other to sit in, so the band combinations vary a bit. It makes for very spontaneous and fun performances that you aren't likely to see unless you catch these folks hanging out at each other's gigs in Chicago.

It's about as close to a south side Blue Monday party as you'll get on the West Coast on a Sunday afternoon.

Linsey Alexander

First up was Linsey Alexander. He was backup up by Sacramento's premier blues band, the Jeff Watson Band. They started off the afternoon's festivities with a big bang. Mr Alexander was using a wireless microphone system and treated the audience to an intimate performance featuring some very nice vocals and sparking guitar work.

Smoke & Big Time Sarah

After a brief intermission, the Teardrops got up and backed the fabulous Big Time Sarah. Sarah has been around the Chicago scene for more than two decades. She always puts on a fabulous show. She's an amazing singer and entertainer. If you've seen her, you know she has a great stage show. If you haven't seen her, she is well worth seeing, even if you have to go to Chicago to do it!

Magic Slim

Finally, Magic Slim came up. What can be said about Magic Slim that hasn't already been said? The head of Wolf Records in Austria called Magic Slim and the Teardrops the world's greatest band. While some may argue that point, there is no doubt that Slim puts on a tremendous show. He did just that.

The end of the evening featured an impromptu jam with the trio from Chicago. Jon McDonald opened up the set with a really nice solo tune before the rest of them got up. With Sarah and Slim up there, it was pretty damn funny. It was an awesome day!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Biscuits and Blues Review

Recently, I had the opportunity to see James Cotton at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco. What happened to me that night has made me hesitant to ever return to a place which was once a favorite of mine.

I went to see James Cotton at the late show. Tickets were $35 each. I took my wife. We each had a couple of drinks. Our bill at Biscuits was over $100. That didn't include: $15 for parking, $5 for bridge toll, plus about $15 for gas.

The guy that sold us the tickets was kind of rude after he took our money. After we bought our tickets, we were told that we had to wait outside. We went outside, stood in the light drizzle and were hassled my a more than a dozen of bums attempting to extract money from us and the other saps waiting outside. Additionally, the person selling the tickets told the tourist types that he would be their host and seating them as he placed a tip jar on the counter. It was a not-so-subtle way to extract a couple of extra bucks from the out of town clientele.

When we were let in and took our seats everything was cool. The waitresses were pleasant and friendly.

When the band took the stage, the volume was very nice. Unfortunately, several of the patrons were in the midst of conversations. Conversations that ran the entire length of the set. Ninety minutes of uninterrupted conversation. I could hear conversations at tables two rows away.

After a couple of nice mellow numbers, James Cotton came to the stage. He was barely audible and quite frustrated with the sound. He sent an audience member to talk to the sound man. It didn't matter much. The sound improved for a brief moment.

James called Kenny Neal up to do a couple of songs. He used the same microphone as Cotton. The problem was simple to fix. There was a short in the cable for the harp microphone. It's a standard XLR cable. I'm sure they had several of them lying around. The sound guy did nothing to fix it.

Cotton came back up and blew a few more tunes. They were really nice, but it was hard to hear him with the cable shorting out. He was playing almost acoustically, which sounded great.

Luckily, the volume was low enough for the other patrons to continue their conversations without interruption. I know I didn't want to miss a second learning about little Timmy struggling with his spelling. It didn't really matter much that James Cotton was in town and played two sold out shows. The volume was low enough that people could talk. Damn it! Isn't that the most important thing of all?

I know when I go out and drop $100 to see a legendary performer perform, I don't want to hear the performer. I want to hear about little Timmy's spelling woes. Timmy's parent's very should be thankful that my wife was there to restrain me. I was not pleased. Not pleased one bit.

The staff at Biscuits is more than willing to oblige those customers in the midst of an important conversation by ensuring that the performer can't really be heard with a poor sound mix and a defective microphone cable.

Dancers should also note that you can be as intoxicated and as careless as you wish while spending time at Biscuits. There was one couple that was dancing in front of the stage knocking drinks over. The staff said nothing to them.

For people that go out to hear live music as background noise while they converse, Biscuits is a great place to go. For people that wish to dance like drunken fools, Biscuits is a friendly place. If you want to be hassled by the homeless, Biscuits is a great place to go!

If you wish to go see live music by legendary performers, Biscuits is not a friendly place to visit. Fortunately, there are other venues. At this point, I would probably drive a couple hundred miles to another venue to avoid that place after my experience on Friday evening.

If you consider this whining or complaining, Biscuits pulled in a lot of money on Friday night. They pulled in more than $11K based on an average spend of $50 per person for the two shows. That's
conservative after a $35 cover charge. For that kind of money, I expect to be able to hear the band, without rude service, poor and defective sound and unruly patrons.

When I go out to hear music, I expect to hear music and not individual conversations.

I hope that this wasn't my last opportunity to see the legendary James Cotton.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monday Night @ Murphys Law

Monday night, I went down to Murphy's Law in Sunnyvale, CA. When I arrived, the Pleasure Kings (Johnny Cat, Mike Phillips and Deniss Dove) were in the midst of playing an excellent Freddy King instrumental. Chris Brown, Big John Stokes and Scott Miller were hanging out. Jimmy Dewrance showed up a bit later. There were some excellent singers and jammers that I had not seen before. It was a fun evening. Shortly before I left, Carol Fran showed up just in from Louisiana.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Steve Freund @ The Poor House Bistro

I went out Friday night. I caught Steve Freund with the fabulous Burton Winn and the Human Timepiece, Robi Bean at the Poor House Bistro. I met a couple of people from the office down there. It was a fun evening. Steve and his trio played some fabulous Blues, old school style.

One of the fun things about the Poor House is that there are always some fabulous players milling around soaking up the sounds or sitting in on a few tunes. Sid Morris was present and enjoying a fine evening out. Jimmy Dewrance hanging out with friends. Scott Miller was present and accounted for. Suzy Tyler and Eddie Mac played a couple of really nice tunes. Harp player, Aki Kumar was enjoying a fine meal. Overall, it was a really fun evening.

Here is a short video of me sitting in with Steve and his excellent trio on the Floyd Jones classic, Dark Road.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Old Days

While I was going to college, I worked in a liquor store in suburban Chicago. One of the guys there bought a pristine Gretsch Country Gentleman, an acoustic guitar and cheeseball Valco tube amp for a princely sum of $20 off of some lady that was cleaning out her attic.

He was a pretty good blues guitar player, but I'll never forget the time we went to Fitzgerald's in Berwyn to catch a Mighty Joe Young show. He was that he was married with three kids. We met up with his parents, him and his date. When I asked him if he was still married, he said, "Joe, you can't expect me to go out at night without a date. My wife is busy taking care of the kids."

It was also the last time that I saw Little Brother Montgomery perform. He was escorted to the stage. He tore it up on a couple of tunes, including one excellent version of Vicksburg Blues and then he split.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Jimmy Reed Highway

I saw it. Some of it I liked, some of it I didn't care for. I don't know, if I'll watch it again.

I didn't care much for Omar Dykes. I found myself wishing he would disappear. Lou Ann Barton looked like she would have preferred to be anywhere else, but where she was. I've never been a huge Delbert McClinton fan. I thought James Cotton and Kim Wilson sounded good. It would have been nice to see more of Gary Clark Jr. He sounded okay. I thought the rhythm section was good and they should have been introduced.

The show covered Jimmy Reed's material quite nicely. I thought the short interviews were very complementary toward his contribution and impact on American music.

Overall, it was good TV, but something was missing. Like many performers of his time period, Jimmy Reed was really good at delivering the emotion of the song. This was what I found lacking on the TV show. Some of the performers sounded like they were reading the lyrics off a teleprompter, which didn't seem much like a fitting tribute to a monumental contributor to American music. Some of the performances felt forced.

Given the caliber of talent on this show, I was expecting the delivery of the material to be off the charts great. It wasn't horrible or bad. It wasn't knock your socks off great, which was what I was expecting.

However, I think I made a huge mistake watching one of the American
Folk Blues Festival DVD's immediately afterward, which reinforced that Lonnie Johnson is probably one of the most under-recognized talents in American music history.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jon Lawton @ The Mojo Lounge Jam

It was a really cool night at the Mojo Lounge. Jon Lawton was the master of ceremonies. He sounded great. He doesn't get around as much as he used to, so it was good to see him.

There were some faces in attendance that we don't normally see on a Tuesday night. Ron Thompson played a few tunes and sounded great.

A fantastic singer from Fresno named Baby Bee sang a few tunes with Ron. She is also a very good drummer. She runs a Sunday evening blues jam at a club in Fresno called Crossroads.

Linda Martinez dropped in a sang a couple of songs. She sounded really good, too.

Other guests included: Gino Baronelli (gtr), Don (harp), Double G (harp/vocals), Scott Duncan (gtr/vocals), E-Rock (drums), East Bay Wes (gtr), Manabu (gtr/vocals), Mike (gtr), Jim (bass) and a few others.

I didn't get a couple of names.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An Evening @ Bobby G's Pizzeria

I made the trek up to Berkeley to catch the inaugural performance at Bobby Gs Pizzeria.

Originally, I wasn't planning on making it that show. It was my daughter's homecoming dance and I was expecting to play chauffeur for the evening. I got a last minute reprieve at about 7:45pm, so I decided to high tail it up to Bobby G's.

I arrived at the tail end of the first set. The food is great. The vibe is really nice. There were a lot of familiar and friendly faces that I hadn't seen in a long time.

The musical entertsinment was excellent. Steve Freund and Tim Wagar sounded great. It was an evening filled with some really nice and deep Blues in an old school style demonstrating the raw emotional power of this genre of music.

In addition to Robert and his curteous staff, there were several fine folks in attendance including: BJ, John Graham, Jeannie, Don Yonders and his lovely spouse, Double G and his lovely spouse, Dave Workman, Robin Oveton and Jerry Haussler.

There were a few guests. Mz Dee got up during the second set. She sounded excellent! Bad Bobby G joined Steve and Tim for a couple of tunes. He blew some very nice harp. He said he hadn't played in months, but it didn't show. He sounded strong. Steve invited me to sit in for a couple of songs.

Formerly from Oakland, but now one of the leading blues men in Amsterdam, Lamar Chase played a couple of very cool tunes.

Overall, it was a fine evening.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mojo Lounge Jam Last Night

Great music. It started promptly at 8:30pm.

House band was: Steve Freund, Marc Carino and June Core.

People who dropped in included: the fabulous Birdlegg, Russell Barber, Gino Baronelli, Johnny Cat, Scott Duncan, E-Rock, East Bay Wes, Double G, Robert Leroy Jones, Manabu, James "Loose" Reed, Don Yonders, Nick, Mike, Jim and a few other new faces.

Birdlegg joined the house band during the opening set and tore it up in his own inimitable style. It was good to see him again. The Shotgun Shack boys sounded really good. The last set with Steve, Johnny Cat, Marc and June was great.

It was a lot of fun.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Last Week's Report

Last week was action packed.

Tuesday night, I hit the jam at the Mojo Lounge. Steve Freund put on a really cool show during the first set, which started promptly @ 8:30pm. The second set which featured Chris Brown and James Reed was also very nice.

Wednesday night, I went down to the Little Fox to wish Wendy Dewitt a very happy birthday. She sounded great. I had seen Rene Solis several times in the past with Nitecry, but his performance with Wendy impressed me. I jammed with John Boutell, Steve Ahola and the Artie Chavez.

I caught a great set by Don Yonders, East Bay Wes, Robert Leroy Jones, Ray Figueroa and James Reed.

Friday night, I went down to the Mojo Lounge and caught a fantastic show by Terry Hanck.

Saturday night, I went to JJ's to catch Steve Freund in action for three killer sets in a very Chicago-like setting. The lovely Suzy Tyler did a couple of very cool tunes. The not-quite-as-lovely, but still good looking Barrelhouse Solly also contributed a couple of nice old school tunes. Solly is one of the few singers that can do justice to the pre-war sounds and Steve does an awesome job of providing perfect and sympathetic backing.

I learned a couple of things this week. First and most important, I don't bounce back as well as I did when I was younger.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Saturday Night @ the Saloon

Saturday night at the Saloon with Steve Freund was an absolute blast. The stars were lining up to be a good night when I found a parking spot less than a half a block away.

The joint was jumping and people were having fun. Steve, Robi and Burt sounded great! They starting off the evening with a couple of nice, mellow instrumentals before launching into some really deep stuff.

Steve Kaufman sat in during the first set. Ron Hacker was milling around the place, as was Stan Erhart, who had performed earlier in the evening.

Kid Andersen joined Steve on the second set. John Nemeth did a couple of tunes with them. The highlight of the night was an absolutely intense and jaw dropping version of the BB King classic, "Sweet Sixteen." Steve was on fire from the first note and played some absolutely amazing stuff. I thought Steve was going to spontaneously combust and the Kid delivered some really nice Earl Hooker influenced guitar work, too.

Apparently, it was also a Girl's Night Out, as I saw Shauna, the Nuclear Blonde and members of her female entourage in attendance. Shauna also got up and sang a couple of tunes.

It was really fun night.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Good Ole Days

Tonight, I spent some time trolling youtube and found some cool videos that took me back to the good old days of Chicago Blues in the mid 1980's.

This video captures the great Lefty Dizz in action with members of the Rolling Stones and the Muddy Waters Blues Band.

The next video I had never seen before. It has the fabulous Valerie Wellington and Billy Branch. Valerie was a monstrously talented vocalist that was taken way too early. One can only imagine the degree of success she would have achieved.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Society for the Advancement and Preservation of the Harmonica

Recently, I read a blog entry written by a Chicago-based harp player named Mr G. (His fine blog can be found here.)

Mr G recently attended the convention hosted by the Socoety fro the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica (SPAH). He mused,

"The one really strange aspect of the SPAH convention was the lack of African American harmonica players. Some of the best players around are black, particularly blues players like James Cotton, Billy Branch, Sugar Blue and the rest of the "real deal" guys. It would be great if they would join the geeky world of SPAH - we need them."

In the past several years, some of my harmonica playing friends have asked me why I am not a member of SPAH. They answer is quite simple.

The organization only promotes the music they consider worthy of promotion and blues isn't really a part of what they are about.

I'm not really surprised by the lack of black players that are invited to perform and speak at SPAH. A good portion of SPAH's membership isn't really interested in blues, I wouldn't expect much blues content.

However, Billy Branch is also a premier blues educator. He has introduced and taught thousands of children to play the harmonica in the past 25 years. SPAH could learn a lot from Billy about how he reaches youngsters. If it's truly about preservation and advancement of the harmonica, education and exposure should be a significant part of the task. Teaming up with an educator with hands-on experience for over two decades might be a worthwhile endeavor.

Additionally, most of the SPAH attendees that I meet that are blues players only scratch the surface of education about blues. They know about players like Kim Wilson, Rick Estrin and Charlie Musselwhite. They may be aware of people like Cotton, Branch, Billy Boy Arnold and Sugar Blue, but there is no first hand exposure to these artists. They don't listen to these artists. They don't go to see them perform. They form their opinion on what they read from the other members of the group that have little influence on blues music made on a harmonica.

There is no effort to go out, book these guys and expose them. We are losing that generation of players everyday. The focus to introduce these influential players to a new audience isn't there.

In the past several years, we've lost harmonica players with a rich musical history like Snooky Pryor, Junior Wells, Carey Bell and several others. These influential artists have not been recognized or honored by the organization, although they have been highly influential. The population of harmonica players that were directly and personally influenced by John Lee Williamson, Rice Miller and Little Walter Jacobs are dwindling each day.

SPAH does very little to recognize these artists that have been very influential to modern American music. This is why I am not a member of SPAH, nor will I attend their conferences. The genre of music I enjoy and play is almost completely ignored. It's history is also completely whitewashed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Steve Freund's World Famous Blues Jam @ The Mojo Lounge

Tuesday night - I had been out five nights in a row. I was dragging. Big time. However , I had to hit Steve Freund's World Famous Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. Steve, Randy Bermudes and June Core really ripped it up on the opening set.

It was a quiet evening, but there were some cool performances by: Russell Barber, Gino Baronelli, Ryan Cohen, Scott Duncan, East Bay Wes, E-Rock, Robert Leroy Jones, Scott Miller and Don Yonders. There were also several new people that I hadn't seen before. I should have lifted the sign up sheet.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Murphy's Law Jam

Johnny Cat & Me

Monday night - I got the call that it was going to be an evening to remember down at Murphy's Law in Sunnyvale. Blue Monday jam hosts, Johnny Cat and Mike Phillips were heading on the road with Terry Hanck and John Nemeth, respectively. It was going to be a party like atmosphere and a good time was almost guaranteed.

There was a ton of good music played by some very accomplished players including:

Eddie B, Chris Brown, Johnny Cat, Ryan Cohen, June Core, Frank De Rose, Aki Kumar, Scott Miller, Mike Phillips, Kedar Roy, Matt Stubbs, plus many other performers that I had never seen previously.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dave Walker Jam @ The Bistro in Hayward

Sunday afternoon - I had a few hours to kill so I met Double G and East Bay Wes at The Bistro in beautiful downtown Hayward to soak up some sounds and play a few songs at Dave Walker's Blues Jam. It had been a while, since I visited that jam. The last time that I was there, Dave Walker was in absentia. He must have known that I was heading there, because he was absent and the jam was being hosted by Andrew. He's a funky singer with an unique spin on some classic songs.

I don't know many of the people that hang out at this jam, but I did see some familiar faces. Harp players Mark Irwin, Chuck Yolland (of the Blues Bottle Band) and Double G got up and played some. East Bay Wes contributed some fine sounding guitar work.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Steve Freund @ JJ's Blues Lounge

Saturday night, I dropped into JJ's Blues Lounge in San Jose to see Steve Freund and his trio.

For a long time, I hated going to JJ's. Since, the ownership change a few years ago, JJ's Blues Lounge is a really pleasant club to visit and hang out. Johnny has done a really nice job with the place. He and his staff provide a friendly atmosphere. They've got a good sound man that manages the sound quite nicely.

JJ's has a real funky vibe to it. Every former Chicago area resident that has ever been there says that it reminds them of bars on South Western Avenue on Chicago South Side. Steve must have been feeling it, too. He, Burton Winn and Robi Bean delivered three powerhouse sets that were straight from Chicago old school style.

He asked Kevin Coggins and me to join him for a few tunes. That was a lot of fun playing some old school classic Blues. Chris Brown, Steve Welch of Blues Cadillac and Gino Bambino of the Rhythm Doctors were hanging out in the packed house and enjoying the music.

Friday, August 10, 2007

John Nemeth and Junior Watson @ The Poor House Bistro

Jr Watson, June Core, Mike Phillips, Kid Andersen & Jay Meduri

Friday afternoon, I was having lunch at Jonathan's Fish & Chips in Menlo Park and ran into Eddie B. He told me that something very cool was going to go down at the Poor House Bistro. So I got in the car and rolled down to San Jose to see John Nemeth and his special guest, Junior Watson. It was a very cool evening of music by John Nemeth, Junior Watson and Kedar Roy. I can't remember the name of the drummer.

The music was excellent. There was a party like atmosphere. There were guest performances by Gary Smith and Kid Andersen. There were a lot of musicians and friends in attendance including: Kid Andersen, Eddie B, Chris Brown, Johnny Cat, June Core, Jimmy Dewrance, Double G, East Bay Wes, Mark Irwin, Amy Lou, Scott Miller, Robin Overton, Mike Phillips, Lara Price, Gary Smith and Don Yonders

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Redwood City Blues Festival Photos

The Fantastic Jackie Payne

18 new photos!

Caught in the act were: Bill Singletary, Carl Green, Daniel Castro, Henry Oden, Jackie Payne, Joe Louis Walker, Juce Garcia, Nick Otis, Robi Bean, Sid Morris, Steve Edmonson, Steve Freund, Suzy Tyler and Tim Wagar

Photos in the usual place: 2007: Bay Area Blues: A Year In Progress.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival Photos

There are about 40 new photos from Saturday's performances at the Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival. People caught in the act are:

Ariyo, Big Time Sarah, Billy Branch, Carl Weathersby, Craig Horton, Don Yonders, Double G, Henry Oden, Joe Louis Walker, John Primer, Kenny Neal, Lou Holscher, Lurrie Bell, Nick Charles, Oakland Sam, Pinetop Perkins, Steve Gannon, Tail Dragger, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and others.

There are also about 40 new photos from Sunday's performances at the Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival including:

Big Bob Deance, Billy Branch, Bobbie Webb, Carl Green, Carl Weathersby, Doug Logan, Eddie Shaw, Eldridge "Big Cat" Tolefree, Ella Pennewell, Gino Landry, Henry Oden, Jan Hagge, JC Smith, Lil' Wolf, Nellie "Tiger" Travis, Ronnie Stewart, Sahar Miller, Sid Morris, Teddy "Bluesmaster" Watson, Terrible Tom, Vaan Shaw, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Xymphoni.

The URL is: 2007: Bay Area Blues: A Year In Progress.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival - Sunday

The Legendary Eddie Shaw

I arrived a bit late. The Howlin Wolf Tribute was already underway. Lil' Wolf was already onstage and sounding excellent. This was a good set. Good tunes. Good vocalist. Tight band. It was good stuff.

The Caravan of All Stars was up next with a variety of vocalists. Some of the vocalists included: Xmphoni, Eldridge "Big Cat" Tolefree and Teddy "Bluesmaster" Watson. Terrible Tom performed several R&B classics and was anything, but terrible.

The Russell City Memorial Band consisted of a great horn section including Gino Landry, Carl Green and Bobby Webb. Gobs and gobs of great saxophone music was delivered during this set.

JC Smith followed with his band. It was the first time I saw JC Smith with his band. They were very good. Sid Morris joined them on a few songs. Willie "Big Eyes" Smith came on stage and blew some great 50s style harp.

After a nice long set, they were joined by Vann Shaw and Nellie "Tiger" Travis. Nellie Travis is a bad ass singer from the Mississippi. She relocated to Chicago, where she has rapdiy established herself as a fine singer. She put on a really nice set where she led the audience in a huge version of the Electric Slide.

She was followed by the fabulous Eddie Shaw. The first time I saw Eddie Shaw was over twenty years ago in a little neighborhood bar near the West Side of Chicago. He was great then; he is still fanstastic and shows no signs of slowing down. He sounded fantastic and concluded the day with his own tribute to Howlin' Wolf. For the last several songs, he was joined by Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues with Carl Weathersby. This was a fabulous set.

People made the trek from as far away as Reno, Phoenix and Anahiem to attend this festival. It was a fabulous weekend. It was like being in Chicago without the four hour plane flight. Ronnie Stewart assembled a killer lineup for this festival. He wanted to do a Chicago thing and he put together a great show.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Hayward/Russell City After Party - Saturday Night

Gino Baronelli jamming with the Sons of Blues

It was back to the Bistro for more post-festival fun.

For a while, it didn't look like anything was going to happen.

Last year, Don Yonders and I ended up playing with some of the members of the Caravan of All Stars and KC Kelsey.

This year, things weren't looking good. A member of the Bay Area Blues Society was playing the keyboards and guitar to a backing track through the PA.

Just as I was finishing up my beer, Billy Branch, Nick Charles and Mose Rutues walked in. There was no bass, so I offered to run Nick back to the hotel to pick up his bass. When we returned, Tail Dragger and Big Time Sarah were in the house.

Shortly afterward, the music started. Billy kicked off the festivities with a really nice boogie that was reminiscent of Big Walter's Boogie. He did a few more tunes. Lurrie Bell sang a few. Tail Dragger did a couple great tunes and Big Time Sarah followed him with a less than G-Rated performance that was highly entertaining! For the final tune of the evening, Billy called me up with a vocalist that I had never seen before.

Two hours flew by quickly. It was a fun evening of music.

Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival - Saturday

Nick Charles, Billy Branch, Me & Carl Weathersby

Aside from my trip to Chicago, this festival is going to be hard to beat in 2007. Each year, the festival opens up with some really nice gospel music. This year was no exception.

There was way too much good stuff too list, but I will try.

Craig Horton kicked off the blues segment of the show. He lead an excellent band featuring Steve Gannon (guitar) and Henry Oden (bass). He performed some classic tunes and several of his own songs.

Tail Dragger was up next. He tore the cover off the ball. He's a really good singer with some excellent material and incredible stage presence. For the last third of his set, he left the stage and performed in the audience. He was backed by Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues featuring Carl Weathersby (guitar), Lurrie Bell (guitar), Nick Charles (bass), Mose Rutues (drums) and Ariyo (piano).

Big Time Sarah followed Tail Dragger and delivered a fantastic performance. She toned things down and deliver a G-rated show which was a bit different than the previous evening's performance at The Bistro. During one song, she had a little girl join her onstage. She was backed by the Sons of Blues, who would go on to pull a Blues Marathon.

John Primer put on a great show. He was backed by Henry Oden, Funky Rob Gordon and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. Mid-way through the set, Ronnie Stewart joined him on stage. This was a really nice set featuring nothing but old fashioned down home Blues.

Next up was Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Pinetop Perkins backed by the Sons of Blues. Carl Weathersby opened up this set displaying some fantastic vocals before introducing Pinetop Perkins to the state. Pinetop was celebrating his 94th birthday. He was in fine form and sounded good.

After their set, the City of Hayward, the State of California and the Bay Area Blues Society had a really nice ceremony commemorating his birth and contribution to American music. It was very moving.

The final set of the evening was an extended two hour set by Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues. Billy kicked it off with a very high energy version of Juke. He sang a few tunes before turning the vocal microphone over to Lurrie Bell. In addition to being an excellent guitarist, Lurrie Bell is also a fabulous vocal talent. He performed a few songs before turning the microphone over to Nick Charles.

Billy began calling up guests from the backstage area. He asked Kenny Neal and Joe Louis Walker on stage. They each sang a couple of tunes before Billy asked Big Time Sarah and Tail Dragger to return to the stage for one final number. It was a very cool show.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Pre-Hayward/Russell City Fest Bash @ The Bistro

Pre-Hayward/Russell City Fest Bash @ The Bistro|CONTENT|

Lurrie Bell, Carl Weathersby & Big Time Sarah

Friday night before the Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival, the Bay Area Blues Society's Caravan of All Stars performed at the Bistro in Hayward to give the patrons of this fine establishment a free taste of what the festival was to offer.

When I walked in Teddy "Bluesmaster" Watson was performing. He did a couple of excellent songs. He was followed up by a very good female singer called Xmphoni. After she did about four or five songs, the band took a break.

During the break the Chicago contingent walked into the bar. The group consisted of Lurrie Bell, Carl Weathersby, Big Time Sarah and Tail Dragger. It was sort of surreal seeing these people walk into a bar in downtown Hayward.

Ronnie started up the next set and began calling up guests. Tail Dragger put on an excellent show. Big Time Sarah was phenomenal. Carl Weathersby did a really nice version of The Town I Live In.

As quickly as the evening began, it was over.

Terry Hanck @ The Alameda County Fair

This is only a test! I caught Terry Hanck and his band at the Alameda County Fair. I decided to shoot some video and screw aroudn with iMovie.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Mid-week Briefs

Monday - I went to Bay Area's forgotten jam at Murphy's Law. Caught Mighty Mike Schermer, Kedar Roy and June Core in action. June Core had just returned from a European tour with Charlie Musselwhite. These guys sounded great and put on a really good show. They had some high quality people dropping in to jam like Big John Stokes and Chris Brown. Mike, Kedar and June were kind enough to let me sit in with them on a couple of songs. That was a good time.

Tuesday - The Mojo jam was really cool. The place was packed. Steve Freund, Marc Carino and Robi Bean sounded fantastic. The opening set was really excellent! About a third of the way through the first seet, Steve invited Jimmy Mulleniux and me to join him on a couple of tunes. It was off the hook.

There were a lot of excellent performers in the house including: Jimmy Mulleniux, Screamin' Iain, Spencer Jarrett, Barrelhouse Solly, Freddie Roulette, Don Yonders, Double G, Steve Ahola, Tumbleweed and several other people. It was a really fun evening.

Wednesday - I dragged the family to the Poor House Bistro. We arrived a bit early to catch some of the fine music by the Poor House Bistro All Stars. The identity of the players was unknown until we arrived. Bob Welsh, Marvin Greene, Dave Chavez, Jimmy Dewrance, Hans Bosse, Gary Smith, Frank Derose, Sid Morris and Jay Meduri. The music was top notch. The food was excellent and the view of the fireworks was fantastic.

Vacation Slide Show

JW Williams

I shot a lot of photos at the Chicago Blues Festival. Wading through them took a lot long than I have expected.

For anyone interested, here is the vacation slide from the Chicago Blues Festival.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Steve Freund @ The Mojo Lounge

Tuesday night, I stopped into the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues jam at the Mojo Lounge in Fremont. The fabulous Steve Freund was the host. I forgot about the new 8:30pm start time and I arrived shortly after the music started. Steve was onstage with Robi Bean, Marc Carino and Jon Lawton playing nothing but traditional, old school Blues. It was really cool music and a very cool, relaxed vibe that continued on throughout the course of the evening. Jon Lawton sounded excellent as usual.

During the break, I was surprised to learn that Jon had broken his hand and the possibility of him never playing again was discussed. He is planning on returning to the Mojo Lounge next Tuesday night and he will be appearing at Biscuits & Blues with his All Star band next week.

It was a really good night jam-wise. There were some really good performances by: Phil Berkowitz, Barrelhouse Solly, East Bay Wes, LD (from LD and Blues Redemption) and Double G. There were some new people in attendance including a harp player with a killer sound named Charlie and a couple of horn players.

Many people in the crowd also became misty at the tearful and triumphant return of Don Yonders after his recent triple bypass surgery. Despite some problems with his fretting hand, he sounded really good and it was great to see him back on the scene.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday Night @ Artis's

Billy Branch & Eddie Shaw

My flight out of Chicago was scheduled to depart at 06:00am Oon Tuesday morning. Instead of going to bed and waking up at an un-Godly hour of the morning, I decided to stay out all night long and go straight to the airport. I decided to go head down to the South Side of Chicago to experience a Monday night institution.

Artis's near 87th and Stoney Island is a nice neighborhood bar that features one of the longest running regular shows in the city. Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues have appearing there on Monday evenings since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Well, maybe it isn't that long, but it's close.

When I walked in, Billy, Nick, Mose, Giles and Ariyo were in full swing. Billy always puts on a great show, but there is something very special about seeing him at his home base. He really cranks it up for the hometown crowd and the place was packed to the rafters.

Half the place was filled with musicians from around the world. There were people from Italy, Spain, Mexico, England and Japan.

Billy opened up the stage and let several of the people in the audience perform. I can't remember the order of people that appear, but I do remember that Eddie Shaw, Vaan Shaw, Tommy McCracken, Steve Arvey and Vivian Kelly all got up to do some numbers.

Billy was nice enough to ask me up, but I didn't have harmonicas with me. I thought I was taught that lesson last July. I guess I don't learn too well. Doh!

There were several other killer artists hanging out like: Reginald Cooper, Johnny Drummer and LC Roby.

Time flew by and before I knew it, it was time to head for the airport to head back home.

If you're a Blues fan visiting Chicago, it's worth extending your visit to hang out at Artis's to see Billy Branch.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chicago Blues Festival - Day 3

When Saturday morning rolled around, I was dead tired, but I got up and made the trek back downtown. I arrived to catch the last half of Elmore James Jr's set with the infamous Cadillac Zack. It was nice to see the legendary Willie Young playing the saxophone. It was a very enjoyable set filled with traditional Blues that took the audience on a trip back to the 50's. Very raw. Very powerful.

I styled and profiled down Jackson Blvd to catch Wanda Johnson with Shrimp City Slim. I hung out for about three songs. This set did nothing for me, so I hit the road.

I ended up seeing the Homemade Jamz Blues Band. These kids were great! Way better than a lot of music that passes for Blues in this crazy mixed up world. These kids were phenomenal. Ryan Perry, 15 (guitar and vocals), Kyle Perry, 12 (bass), Taya Perry, 8 (drums) play with skill and soul. They are capable of delivering pure emotion that many performers way older can't seem to muster.

A bit later, I took a stroll and checked out David Dee and the Hot Tracks. I wasn't expecting much, because the name of the band sounded kind of 80's-ish. I was surprised. This group was really impressive. Strong soulful vocals. Excellent musicianship. Very tight performance.

After a few songs, I realized that I was going to miss Drink Small's set. I raced down the street and saw one of the most powerful solo performances that I've seen at the Chicago Blues Festival, since John Lee Hooker appeared solo at the Front Porch Stage about two decades ago. Nothing, but deeply powerful Blues.

After three days of walking, my feet were starting to hurt, so I decided to hang out near the State of Mississippi Juke Joint Stage and the Front Porch Stage fro the rest of the day. I was rewarded by some excellent music and another great solo performance by Alvin "Youngblood" Hart.

The Chicago Harmonica Project - Part II sounded sort of intriguing. I wasn't sure what to expect, since some of the names were unknown to me. I knew the band backing them up would be good with Rick Kreher, Illinois Slim, E.G. McDaniel, Mark Brumbach and Twist Turner. Plus, Harmonica Hinds and Little Arthur are always worth seeing.

Harmonica HInds started off the festivities. He sounded really good sporting some really nice post-war style tone. Harmonica Hinds reminds me of the guy that got into a time machine in the early 1950's and showed up here 55 years later.

Next up was Big D. Mr D ripped through some uptempo Little Walter tunes. This guy sounded fantastic playing through an old Super Reverb. He sort of resembled the Jake Blues or the Blues Brothers, but you cant judge a book by looking at the cover. This is quite talented, showcasing some monstrous tone.

Next up was Charlie Love. He played some Sonny Boy Williamson-style harp which differentiated him from the previous harp players. Charlie Love is a good harmonica player. He was one fo the better singers during this set and he has years of experience leading an excellent band which frequently appears at the Kingston Mines. He brought up a guest who has been very influential and an inspirational teacher. Jeff Stone joined him on the stage for a song.

Jeffrey Taylor followed these guys. He wasn't the best harp player on stage, but he used the instrument to good effect to punctuate his tremendous singing.

Last up was Reginald Cooper. This guy is a good harmonica player and an excellent singer. He's the type of guy that makes you wonder, where the hell has he been hiding and why hasn't he been discovered before. His voice was as smooth as silk and he delivered his set expertly. I would have liked to hear from him.

They finished up the set with a multi-player jam, which I expected to be a disaster, but it sounded good with each player taking a turn.

It was a very nice set.

From there I caught a portion of the set by Khalif Wailin' Walter. I hadn't seen Walter in ten years when he would sit in around town. He relocated to Germany and I hadn't heard anything from him in a while.

He sounded really good. His guitar playing is very modern sounding. Backing him was Roosevelt Purifoy. That dude really gets around.

Finally, I dropped in at the Chicago Jam Station to catch a little bit of Guy King, Kenny Smith and Calvin Jones. This was a nice mellow way to end the day concluding my visit to the 2007 Chicago Blues Festival.

But I wasn't through hanging out in Chicago just yet.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Chicago Blues Festival - Day 2

This was a really awesome day. The theme of the day was the 30th anniversary of the appearance of the Son oF Blues at the Berlin Jazz Festival. Appearances from numerous different acts that appeared in Berlin back in 1977 were featured. Also featured throughout the course of the day were members of the Sons of Blues and there own bands.

Needless to say, it was an awesome day of music which concluded with a two hour performance led by Billy Branch and featured over two dozen guests.

I started out the day by catching the Blues In The Schools set on the Front Porch stage which was led by Billy Branch and featured children from the Delta Blues Museum. This was a really cool set. It featured some performances by some really talented kids that possess skills and soul that surpass people many years their senior. They were supported by the Reverend Larry Blades and Super Chikan alumnus, Daddy Rich who also appeared later in the day during the Clarksdale Delta Blues Museum set.

Next up, I made my way down the street to catch Carl Weathersby. He's one of the few people that can make a performance in front of an audience of thousands seem intimate. Carl was in fine form. He sounded really strong as he worked his way through several original tunes and some not often heard Albert King numbers. His band was super tight featuring young Corey Dennison (guitar/vocals), Calvin "Skip" Gaskin (bass) and Leon Smith (drums). They put on an excellent show including dancing in unison which didn't appear to be an easy feat considering none of them was wireless.

I walked back down Jackson Blvd to catch the last part of a fine set by JW Williams & the Chi-Town Hustlers. Along the way, I made a quick detour to catch part of Ken Saydak's solo set. He was sounding really good.

It had been a long time, since I had seen JW Williams. He's a strong singer and always has a good band working with him. This was no exception. He was backed by Shun Kikuta and a number of other solid players many of whom have been aroudn the Chicago scene for years.

I walked back down Jackson Blvd for the millionth time (or so) to catch the next set which included Mighty Joe Young, Jr and Mighty Joe Young's grand daughter Chontella Rose. This was a really cool set. Chontella Rose has a tremendous voice. I really enjoyed her singing and she has fantastic stage presence.

Mighty Joe Young Jr was excellent. His set was pretty freaky. He sounded a lot like his father who I had seen a few times over twenty years ago. Sometimes, the sons of legendary performers appear to forcing themselves to sound like their famous predecessors. Mighty Joe Young Jr came across as himself and in no one's shadow.

I hightailed it down Jackson Blvd to catch most of the Harrington's set. Vernon (bass) and Joe (guitar) Harrington were an unexpected treasure. I knew that they go back a long way and are members of the infamous Harrington family, which include such legendary figures as the Reverend HH Harrington (founder of the Atomic H label), Eddy Clearwater and Carey Bell. I had never seen them before, but they delivered some very old school, traditional raw Blues from the West Side of Chicago. This was a very excellent set. These guys need to be recorded!

They were backed by a very solid drummer named Sambo who also was a good singer. Additionally, he imitated a amplified harmonica quite well. Well enough to be humourous and entertaining. They were joined by a fantastic vocalist named James Kinds and by Larry Taylor. They attempted to coax Johnnie B Moore to the stage, but were unsuccessful. I saw him walking around behind the stage. He was a little stiff walking around, but it was really good to seem him.

Next up. The quandry of the day. Carlos Johnson or Lurrie Bell. I decided to do both.

I made my way quickly down Jackson Blvd to catch the first part of Carlos Johnson's excellent set. Backing him was one of the Ironmen of the Chicago Blues Festival, Roosevelt Purifoy. He was everywhere. He backed Mighty Joe Young Jr, Carlos Johnson and several others during my three day excursion.

Carlos sounded excellent as he always does. He's a bad ass guitar player and singer. He's also one of the most under-recognized guys on the Blues scene anywhere. His music is rough and tough. He's always worth seeing.

I went and caught Lurrie Bell's set. I hadn't seen him perform in a long, long time. He sounded great. He's a fabulous singer and guitar player. He played a great set of really traditional Blues. He was supposed to appear with his legendary father, Carey Bell, who had recently passsed away. On this night, he was joined by Matthew Skoller and his harp playing brother, Steve Bell.

When Lurrie Bell is on, he's nothing short of great. Legendary. His set was great. It was filled with traditional Blues and some excellent original tunes written by Matthew Skoller.

Skoller is an excellent harp player. He's superior to many of the current crop of people considered to be among the best. on the instrument.

After this set, I got into the queue to get into the seating area at the band shell to catch the shows on the historic stage that has featured some of the finest Blues talent to have ever walked the Earth.

That was the past. This evening was about the past, present and the future of the music.

Johnnie Mae Dunson was joined by her son, Jimi "Prime Time" Smith and a big band . She has been performing since the 1940's and she sounded fantastic. She was brought out on the stage on a wheelchair and delivered a very powerful set singing some of her tunes that went on the be big hits for artists like Jimmy Reed.

Next up was a two hour extravaganza show marking the 30th Anniversary Reunion of the Sons Of Blues led by Billy Branch. This group, originally featuring the sons of famous blues musicians, formed at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1977 and has since gone through many lineups and traveled throughout the world.

Performing during the course of this set were:

Ariyo, Lurrie Bell, James Bell, Steve Bell, Billy Branch, Nick Charles, Giles Corey, Freddie Dixon, Joe Harrington, Vernon Harrington, Carlos Johnson, Minoru, Mose Rutues, Carl Weathersby, JW Williams, the Heritage Horn Section including Gene Barge and some excellent backup singers. (I can't remember their names at the moment.)

Billy kicked off the set with the recitation of a poem by Langston Hughes anf then immediately kicked things into high gear by demonstrating his world class prowess on the harp. He tore through Little Walter's Juke and several of his own songs. He demonstrated fabulous teechnique and showcased his phenomenal tone. He began a process of going introducing each former member of the SOB's before they did one of more of their own tunes.

This show ran for over two hours. It was solid. With more than a dozen musicians on stage at once, there could have easily been a disaster looming on the horizon. It was tight. It was right.

Two hours flew by. I shout about 1500 pictures.

I was dead tired, but not tired enough to not do it all over again in less than 14 hours.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Chicago Blues Festival - Day 1

I arrived at Grant Park shortly after the start of the festival. It was in the mid 90's on the lake front. As I walked down Jackson Blvd, I could hear the solo sounds of some fantastic old school blues piano from the Front Porch Stage.

Nearly twenty one years earlier, I was in the same sport to hear John Lee Hooker perform solo. This time, it was pianist Aaron Moore. Aaron Moore is one of the last of the great Blues piano players. I was really glad to have the opportunity to see him perform. It was a feeling that I would have several times during the next few days.

After the conclusion of Aaron Moore's set, I strolled down to the Crossroads Stage and caught a portion of a fine set being laid down by Osee Anderson and Da Blooze Folks.

I hung out there for a while before heading down to the Juke Joint Stage to catch John Primer and Matthew Skoller. This was a really enjoyable set featuring some excellent guitar work by John Primer and some fantastic harp playing by Matthew Skoller.

After this I walked back to the Crossroads Stage to catch the Hoochie Coochie Boys. This was an All Star lineup featuring several of the sidemen from the last Muddy Waters Band including: Mojo Buford, John Primer, Rick Kreher, Ray "Killer" Allison, Calvin Jones and Barrelhouse Chuck. This was a very high energey set considering that several of the artists were well into their 70's.

During the last several numbers, these guys were joined by Larry Williams aka Muddy Waters, Jr. Larry Williams is one of the sons of Muddy Waters. He's a good singer and showman.

After this set finshed up, I headed west and caught the last portion of the Phil Guy set.

By this time, I was dead tired and needed some rest before it all started the next day.

There was a lot more that could be said about the performances of the day, but it's time to go...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Carol Fran Benefit

Sid Morris, Norm Decarlo and Barrelhouse Solly opened the show with some killer old school style Blues. Just a piano, drums and singer. It was really great stuff. Russell Barber and Eddie B joined them for a bit. Jimmy Dewrance got up with them (replacing BS 1) and did several tunes.

Steve Freund got up with Jon Lawton, Sid Morris, Eddie B, Norm and me for a few tunes. It was good to hear Jon Lawton again. He was in fine form. The exchange between him and Steve was excellent. These guys work really well together. It was a real treat to share the stage with them.

Next up was Double G, East Bay Wes, Russell, Mike Phillips and Norm. They did a really nice set featuring an obscure classic, "Potato Diggin' Man." Wes really tore it up on the slide guitar.

James Reed got up. He was joined by Mighty Mike Schermer, Jon Lawton, Andrew Griffin and Mike Phillips. After a couple of tunes, Mike Schermer left. Marvin Greene got up for a few tunes. James stepped down and Phil Berkowitz got up. Jon Lawton picked up the bass.

The evening closed with some excellent tunes by the big voice of Barrelhouse Solly featuring Jimmy Dewrance, Marvin Greene, Scott Miller (playing bass) and Andrew Griffin.

It was a very fun night. Lots of great music was played during the five hours of nearly continuous music. I was dead tired by the end of it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fountain Blues Festival

Buddy Guy

Mother's Day weekend marked the beginning of Blues Festival season in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Fountain Blues Festival at the San Jose State University campus has been running for around 27 years.

I've been to this festival many times. The first year that I went was 1991 when the legendary Johnny Shines appeared. Johnny was in town for several shows that weekend. I think I hit all of them. He was a fantastic talent and a great bluesman. His story is sad and somewhat stereotypic. He was instrumental in shaping the post war electric Blues sound in 1950's Chicago. He made some fabulous recordings for Chess and JOB records. He worked for years and never really achieved commercial success.

I skipped a few years and returned to the festival grounds in 1995 to see Mark Hummel, Johnnie Johnson and Jimmy Rogers. The weather that day was sort of cold and foggy. I think it was drizzling a little bit, but it didn't stop a fabulous show by Johnnie Johnson and Jimmy Rogers. Come to think of it, I've seen Jimmy Rogers several times and he never put on a bad show. Never. Ever.

Jimmy Rogers is one of the guys that I miss the most. His style was really laid back, while remaining incredibly deep. He was one of the first guys that I ever saw in Chicago. He had Nick Moss and Scott Bradbury working with him back them.

I skipped a few more years. In 1998, I saw Deborah Coleman, Eddie King, Tommy Castro and R. L. Burnside. I really enjoyed the RL Burnside set, but the group that really sounded great that year was Eddie King and the Swamptones. He spent time in Chicago working with Little Mac Simmons and Koko Taylor. I had never seen him before and I've never seen him since, but he put on a great show.

In 1999, I went to see Son Seals, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Howard & The White Boys. Also on the bill was Rusty Zinn and Chris Cain. This was the last time that I ever saw Son Seals before his health problems began. The man was a fantastic singer and a unique guitar stylist.

In 2000, I went to photograph Bo Diddley and Jimmy D Lane. Unfortunately, I missed Jimmy D Lane's set, but I did get to see Sista Monica for the first time. Looking back on it, that is odd, because she always seems to be performing at this festival. I sat through a set of Tommy Castro. Some of his fans were rather obnoxious, but sometimes you have to put up with some shit to see a fabulous performer like Bo Diddley. Seeing Bo Diddley was well worth the wait.

I skipped 2001. My twin daughters were due any day and killing time at a Blues Festival didn't seem like a great idea even if Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown was performing.

I did attend in 2002. I arrived late so I wouldn't have to sit through another Corby Yates performance. My main objective was to see Magic Slim & the Teardrops for the zillionth time in my life. I try to never miss Slim. He's great. There is no one else like him. Seeing EC Scott and Smoke was a very nice side benefit. I left early, so I wouldn't subject myself to another Tommy Castro performance.

I skipped several years before attending this year.

I arrived during Jason Ricci's set. The guy is talented. There is huge buzz about him among harmonica players as being "the next big thing." I just don't get it. After seeing him play, my first thought was that he isn't doing anything that Sugar Blue wasn't doing 20 years earlier and better. In fact, it sort of ticks me off that Sugar Blue receives very little recognition for his contributions. Maybe that's why he moved to Europe.

Jimmy Thackery's set was a real guitar fest. Sista Monica put on an excellent show. The real reason I was there is was to see Buddy Guy.

Buddy Guy absolutely tore it up for over an hour with his four peive band. He was the highlight of this year's festival. He gave the people of San Jose a much needed blues lesson. He played with more energy and emotion than anyone I saw before him. He's rare in this day and age. He's a true innovator.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Carey Bell

Carey Bell

The legendary Carey Bell passed away from heart failure this past Sunday in Chicago, IL.

Carey Bell was one of the finest practitioners of the Blues harmonica. He had toured through the Bay Area many times during the past 20 years. He was an influence on an entire generation of harmonica players. His incredible tone, his ease at witty and inventive phrases and personal idiosynracies made him one of Chicago's finest, and the world's greatest harp players. His impact on Blues will likely remain immeasurable. He was an amazingly talented and innovative artist.

I grew up in Chicago. In 1980, I started listening to the Blues. I didn't know much about the music. Some people might say that I still do not. For me, it started when I was a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Circle Campus.

Muddy Waters was one of the first Blues artists that I had ever seen. He was performing at Chicagofest. I also caught Luther Allison there, too.

During my freshman year, the university had a weekly Blues series that lasted for several weeks. Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues kicked off the series. A few weeks later, it was the first time that I ever saw Eddy Clearwater.

Shortly after the passing of Big Walter Horton, I came across his Alligator release with Carey Bell. It was Alligator release #4702. It was amazing stuff. I was hooked.

It was about a year later that I first saw Carey Bell at B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted. He was playing with his son Lurrie. It was a jaw dropping experience. The man had killer tone and a really unique sound that was indescribable. He was one of those rare artists that took what he had heard and propelled in into a new direction. He was truly inventive.

I've spent a number of years attempting to accumulate his recorded works:

- his early recordings with Earl Hooker,
- his rare appearances with Muddy Waters in the early 70's,
- and the super obscure recordings with guys like Willie Williams
- not to mention recordings under his own name.

After moving to California, I didn't go to Blues shows very often, but I always made it a point to see him when he came to town. I remember one of Mark Hummel's first harmonica blowouts that I attended. It was at Kimball's. There were four or five well known harp players that came up before Carey.

I was just about all harmonica'ed out, when he stepped onto the stage. He said more in about 30 seconds and with fewer notes, than all of the preceding players that are considered the creme of the crop of today's players. For the next 45 minutes, he put on a fabulous show that just exhibited a tremendous amount of soul.

I caught him several more times during his travels through the Bay Area. He could always be counted on to deliver a top notch show. He was a really friendly and approachable guy.

He was the anti-thesis of the current crop of harp players out there today that are focused on techniques, lessons, masterclasses and equipment. He used whatever crappy equipment was on stage and he sounded phenomenal through it. He learned from the true masters of the instrument. He was a harp player's, harp player.

I remember the last time he came through town. He was part of Mark Hummel's Harp Blowout that produced the Blues Harp Meltdown, Volume 3 recording. I had photographed him many times, but I never really thought that I captured an image that captured his essence. Half the photos, I shot that night were of him. While I got some great shots, nothing really seemed to capture his intensity at I saw and heard it.

It's almost become a cliche to say that the recently deceased artist didn't receive the critical acclaim and financial recognition that was due to him, but I don't believe that he did. His degree of talent was unparallelled. He was a unique and talented stylist that was true to the tradition while bringing something new to the music.

He will be missed.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Steve Freund @ The Mojo Lounge

Man! Last night, we had a ball at the Mojo Lounge! Steve Freund, Tim Wagar and Robi Bean showed up and playing nothing but the natural, down-in-the-alley kind of Blues. Spencer Jarrett was in the house. He played a few tunes and sounded fantastic.

I've been seeing Steve for a long time, much longer than I care to admit. He always manages to throw in one or two tunes that I hadn't heard him do before. Last night, he played a bunch of stuff that I had never heard him do before. He turned several of us on to some seriously deep music.

If you were there, you saw a great show. If not, you're gonna have to wait until next time. However, in this case procrastination will not guarantee high quality entertainment by one of the finest Blues bands the West Coast has to offer.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Andy Mazilli

When I first moved to California, I didn't venture out to many Blues clubs. Andy Mazzilli was one of the first local guys that I had seen in the Bay Area. He was a really talented player. During the next twenty years, I would see him sporadically around the area.

One of the last times that I saw him was at Christmas in the Park in downtown San Jose a few years back. He was playing Christmas tunes on the violin or harmonica. He was playing for tips on the street. I talked to him briefly.

It's sad to see someone so young pass away. I hope he rests in peace.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Steve Freund & Pete Crawford

I left work a bit early today, My wife and eldest daughter were going to the Cow Palace to see Montgomery Gentry.

My phone had been ringing quite a bit throughout the course of the day. The questions were similar. "Where are you going tonight?" With Steve Freund at the Poor House, John Nemeth at JJ's and Mark Hummel at the Mojo Lounge, the choices within a short drive from the house were plentiful.

Since, I had a pair of five year olds with me, I was planning on setting down roots at home and catch a flick with my younger daughters.

Then something cool happened...

The phone rang again...

To quote the great Lefty Dizz, "it was Chicago Calling!"

The fantastic Pete Crawford was in town and was going to be appearing at the Poor House Bistro with Steve Freund. Pete's a fantastic old school guitar player that is well versed in the traditional Blues going way back to the 1930's. Joining them would be former Chicagoan, Willie Riser and Robi Bean. It was going to be an old time Chicago Blues jam and that I should get down there.

Dizz also said, "Don't Send For Me Because I Might Show Up..."

Who am I to argue with Lefty Dizz, so I took his advice. I packed up the kids and went down there.

It was a righteous evening of down home Chicago Blues. I hadn't seen Pete Crawford in almost 20 years. I think the last time that I saw him, he was playing with the Bad Boys Blues Band led by a fantastic harp player, Scott Bradbury.

Steve and Pete dug deep. They played a bunch of material that I hadn't heard in years. It was clear that they had worked together a zillion times. They played all sorts of Blues. It was stuff that you don't hear often and songs you certainly don't hear on the West Coast. Floyd Jones. Eddie Taylor. Robert Jr. Nat King Cole. Elmore James. Sunnyland Slim.

Willie Riser and I killed a break talking about the real deal Blues. For those of you not in the know, that's the history of Chicago Cubs baseball.

Steve called me up to play a few tunes, but the girls were starting to crash out and it just seemed wise not to rock the boat, since the were acting peacefully.

It was a fun night filed with fantastic music played old school style. If you were there, you most likely had a great time. If not, you missed some really good shit. It was blast!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Redwood City Blues Jam Report

Wednesday night was a lot of fun. The night started out with a great first set featuring some very laid back, but pretty intense music by Steve Freund and Charles Wheal.

I got up with some very talented players including John Boutell (guitar/vocals), Greg Heumann (saxophone), Alan Oehler (guitar), Scott Malcolm (bass) and a female drummer that I didn't recognize.

Lots of good music was played. I had to split a bit earlier than I had planned. The last person I saw perform was Barrelhouse Solly. He sounded excellent. The only downside to the whole evening was that Barrelhouse Solly did not sing "Texas Flood."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Plan For The Big Time

A few weeks ago, I was running errands around town. I pulled into a parking lot at Safeway in Fremont. I had the windows open and one of those live Magic Slim CD's with the big booming bass was blasting from the stereo.

A young guy came up to me and asked, "What are you listening to?"

I replied, "Magic Slim and the Teardrops."

He asked, "Are they a rap group?"

My response, "No. They are a blues band from Chicago."

He said, "I never heard of them. I'm going to be a rap star, would you like to buy one of my CDs. All I need to do is get this CD into the hands of someone at a major record label and I'm going to be a big star."

I asked him, "Is it a struggle for you being a rapper in Fremont? Do you work a day job?"

He replied, "No. I don't work a day job. I don't need one, because all I need to do is get this CD into the hands of someone at a major record label and I'm going to be a big star."

I asked, "It sounds like you've got a plan, but I know people that have struggled their whole lives in the entertainment business, how are you going to be different."

He replied, "The difference is I'm going to be a big star."

As I walked away shaking my head, I couldn't help but think about his plan. Here is a kid selling CD's in the parking lot at Safeway in small town America looking for his big break.

It's so simple and yet so elegant.

It amazed me that no one had thought of this earlier. I haven't seen him since. He could be on MTV for all I know. For people that might be interested, it's the Safeway in downtown Fremont.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Steve Freund's World Famous Blues Jam Report

Last night, the moon was nearly full and brightly illuminated the evening sky. There was an Indian kid sporting a fake mohawk singing horribly on America's most watched television show that used to be talent competition. It was sort of a strange evening.

I arrived a bit during the middle of Steve Freund's opening set. He was in the middle of some tough blues in the West Side Chicago Blues tradition. Joining Steve onstage was East Bay Wes. After another tune, Wes stepped down and handed his guitar to Johnny Cat. Steve and Johnny played a couple more great songs before taking a short break. Nothing strange about this set. The music was great.

There were a number of musicians at the Mojo last night. There must have been a big guitar player convention last night because there were very few in attendance.

Here's the strange part.

There were more drummers present than guitar players. June Core, Luke Piro, Norm Decarlo, the majestic E-Rock and a couple more were present.

Back to normal things.

For me, the highlight of the jam was when Pat Wilder took the stage with Norm Decarlo and Ray Figueroa. She played some very intense Blues. I had seen her several times in Redwood City. She was always grouped with some horn players. Her participation in a smaller group made her music a bit more personal and intimate. She did a fantastic job.

Back to some strange stuff.

There was a very non-traditional female singer in the house that sang one of the most ethereal versions of "Got My Mojo Working" that I've ever heard while dancing rather suggestively. She followed that up with a free form number which included suggestive dancing and moaning. Her singing and dancing brought something new to the Blues.

Back to normal things.

At this point, it was difficult to ascertain whether things had returned to normal or not. Steve finished up the evening and asked Don Yonders and me to join him.

Overall, it was an odd, but fun evening at the World Famous Blues Jam.

People that performed during the course of the evening included: Steve Freund, June Core, Marcus Carino, East Bay Wes, Johnny Cat, Scott Duncan, Eric (the keyboard guy), Dawon (phonetic spelling), a new bass player, Double G, Don Yonders, Pat Wilder, Ray Figueroa, Norm Decarlo and (a singer named) Faith.

Robin O dropped in for a bit. Celia made the trek and brought Francis Clay down. It was nice to see him.

It was a crazy, but fun evening.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Redwood City Blues Jam Report

It's been almost three months since my last trip to the Little Fox. It was the final Kenny "Blue" Ray performance in the Bay Area for a while. He recently relocated to Portland, Oregon. I got with two songs to spare in the first set. Mr Blue Ray was onstage with Steve Edmonson, Wendy Dewitt, Greg, Ray Ray and Norm. As one would expect, the music was excellent.

I grabbed a beer. I stopped to shoot the breeze with Dave Workman for a bit. I ran into Don Yonders and Barrelhouse Solly (who appears to be working his way through the Roosevelt Sykes songbook, which sort of hacks me off. I was hoping to hear him sing Texas Flood or Mustang Sally in his own inimitable style.)

Vince got one annoying jerk off of his back right away. He called me up almost instantly along with the Pastor of the Telecaster, Jerome Engelberts, Ira, Norm and two other guys that I had never seen before.

Barrelhouse Solly and Don Yonders got up with some other guys that I've seen before, but I can't remember their names. Must be the latent effects from partaking of too many 40's of Mickey's Malt Liquor as a youth. Don and Solly sounded really good together. Don Yonders is strong guitar player that flies below the radar screen. He's not flashy or in your face, but he always sounds good.

Next up was a lady with a huge voice that sang a really nice version of Stormy Monday. I have no clue who the heck she was, but she was really good. She sang two songs and split. She was joined by a really energetic bass player and a flashy, but quite good guitar player.

Amy Lou, Johnny Cat, Greg Heumann and Vince really tore it up. I don't remember who was the rhythm section, but the drummer was very good, so it was probably Norm Decarlo. I suspect that Scott was playing the bass. As is customary, they tore it up.

KBR, Wendy, Ray Ray, Norm and Dave Workman were up next. They sounded fantastic. It was nice to see and hear Dave. It's been far too long, since I had seen him play.

I had gotten about four hours of sleep and I don't bounce back as well as I did in my younger days, so I had to split during the middle of their set.

It was a really good night. I had some interesting conversations. I saw some great players and talked to some people I hadn't seen in 24 hours or longer.

Friday, February 23, 2007

First Photo Installment of 2007

Photos from the final RJ Mischo's World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. The URL is:

Although, RJ has departed the Bay Area for the deep South, the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge continues under supervision and guidance of Steve Freund and Marcus Carino.

People caught in action are:

RJ Mischo
June Core
Johnny Cat
Marcus Carino
Kid Andersen
Mark Hummel
Sid Morris
RJ Mischo & Amy Lou
Dennis & Heidi
Chris Millar
John Graham
Steve Gannon
Russell Barber & Johnny Cat
Kid, RJ & Heidi
Melissa, Greg, Heidi & Su
Scott Duncan
Norm Decarlo
Carolyn McNabb & Russell Barber
Screamin' Iain
Christine & Steve
Ruben Johnson
AC Myles
Barrelhouse Solly
Dennis Dove
Scott Miller
Johnny Cat, Double G & Don Yonder
The Lovely Dina
Jimmy Dewrance
Randy Bermudes
Dennis Briggs
Don Yonder
Mike Phillips
The Elecrtifying E-Rock

Plus some other photos:

Artie Chavez & Me
Steve Freund, Marcus Carino, Double G & Johnny Cat
Marcus Carino & Johnny Cat

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I added some photos for the my final 2006 update.

Photos added since the last installment include:

RJ Mischo
Steve Freund, Robi Bean, Tim Wagar
Robi Bean
Steve Edmonson
Rene Solis & Mitch Woods
Stan Erhart
Jimmy Dewrance
Chris Cobb
Kenny Neal
Kenny "Blue" Ray

The URL is:

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

RJ Mischo's Final World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam Report

Last night was the final installment of RJ Mischo's World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. It was announced that next week will begin the Steve Freund era. The good times should continue to roll.

I arrived early and the place was already packed with people to wish RJ a fond farewell as he embarks on the next chapter of his life in the sunny South. It was really surreal seeing people that I hadn't seen in quite a while. It's amazing how many people showed up. I wrote a list of the people that I recognized and I know I didn't catch everyone, because people were coming and going all night long.

Here is who I saw and remembered when I started writing down names:

Steve Ahola, Amy Lou, Kid Andersen and his lovely wife, Barrelhouse Solly, Russell Barber, Randy Bermudes, Birdlegg, Dennis Briggs, Marcus Carino, Johnny Cat, Christine Christian and her wonderful spouse Steve, June Core, Derek Craig, Arthur Daugherty, Norm Decarlo, Jimmy Dewrance, Dick (aka Earl Smith, the harp player), Dennis Dove, Scott Duncan, East Bay Wes, Eric (the keyboard player), E-Rock, Ray Figueroa, Steve Gannon, John Graham, Double G (Greg Greenspan), Walter Hern, Lou Holscher, Mark Hummel, Mark Irwin, Ruben Johnson, Carolyn McNabb, AC Miles, Chris Millar, Scott Miller, Sid Morris, Robin Overton, Mike Phillips, Kedar Roy, Screamin' Ian, Bart Shea, Tom (from the Buzzy Dupree Band), Kevin Walker, Su Wong and Don Yonders.

I know I missed people and there were a bunch of people that I had never met before or didn't recognize. With the number of performers in the room, it was guaranteed that the music would be good. It was obvious early on that there would be no way on Earth that even RJ with his masterful organization skills would get everyone up to play, but he came pretty damn close.

The list of people to jam was over two pages long. The look on the faces of the newcomers was pretty priceless.

The tone of the evening was sort of melancholy. It was pretty exciting to see everyone. People travelled in from Sacramento and Fresno to be there, but the reason we were all brought together was sort of sad. Tears started to flow as the evening drew to a close.

If you missed seeing RJ on last night, he will be performing with Steve Freund on Friday night at the Mojo Lounge. It will be his last Bay Area performance until the end of April, so don't miss it.

Photos will follow...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

This Week's Report

It was a very nice week. Tuesday night, I hit the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam[TM"> at the Mojo Lounge hosted by RJ Mischo featuriing Steve Freund, Marc Carino and June Core. The first set by these guys was phenomenal featuring nothing but old school Blues.

To paraphrase a good friend of mine, I like Blues the old fashioned way and they do it the old fashioned way.

The past few weeks have featured a number of great guests that have been checking in to bid a fond farewell to RJ before he departs the Bay Area. This Tuesday should also be a good time. Come on down and celebrate RJ's final Tuesday night hoedown at the Mojo Lounge.

Friday night, I headed down to the Poor House Bistro to catch the sweet guitar stylings of the fabulous Steve Freund and his excellent trio consisting of Steve, Robi Bean and Randy Bermudes.

About a half of the people in the audience were musicians or hard core blues fanatic types. Steve and the boys sounded fantastic and Steve brought a number of great guests up to perform including: Suzy Tyler, Paul Durkett and Jimmy Dewrance. There were a number of guitar players lurking in the shadows as Steve put on a free guitar clinic. It was a really fun evening and the fine staff at the Poor House Bistro make a person feel at home.