BAY AREA BLUES NEWS
BY MARIA BAINER
October through December, 2009 sped by. Here is a summary of some of the blues events that happened in the extended San Francisco Bay Area during that time. There were some special shows and happy and sad news occurrences. Musicians visited and some new music appeared. Let’s check these things out.
The popular Sacramento Heritage Festival had another monthly afternoon event in November. This time it featured some very talented Chicago musicians: James Cotton, Hubert Sumlin, Ronnie Baker Brooks, and Carl Weathersby. They always give back to the music community and proceeds from this show were used to buy instruments for a music education program in the Sacramento area public schools. Check out upcoming events on their website: www.sacheritagefest.com.
After touring Spain, France, and Denmark in October, Mitch Woods had two shows of his Boogie Woogie Blowout in November. It celebrated the generations of boogie woogie and the blues with a living legend and his disciples. Each of the four pianists played a thirty minute solo set. Woods started the evening out on the Steinway grand piano with his own rock-a-boogie sound. Caroline Dahl had a rollicking explosion of finger dexterity. Jump pianist, Steve Lucky was next and kept things swinging, Then came the true living 95-year-old legend, Pinetop Perkins. This is how Dorothy Hill described his performance that night:
“Perkins’ deft piano playing was strong and assured and his vocals were sturdy as he skillfully worked his way through his repertoire….” Then at the rousing finale, all four pianists jammed together on two pianos. It was a hot, energized night!
It was a treat to have Buddy Guy and Elvin Bishop perform in Marin County, just north of San Francisco in November. Elvin opened with his bluesy stew of slide guitar and groovin’ rhythms. Then Buddy played for an hour and a half. At age 73, Buddy still plays a dramatic guitar and sings the blues. He has received a bundle of awards, including five Grammy Awards and the Presidential National Medal of Arts. He encouraged someone to play with him, and this kid about nine came up and played an unbelievable guitar like a pro. It may have been Quinn Sullivan who has a solo on Buddy’s last CD. It was a good, entertaining show.
An unusal twosome were booked as part of the San Francisco Jazz Festival in November. That was Keb’ Mo,’ a living link to the Delta blues, and Solomon Burke, a charismatic entertainer, and one of the original legends of soul music.
There was a Winter Blues Event also in November in Fremont in the East Bay. It featured: Coco Montoya, Ron Thompson, Roy Rogers, and Daniel Castro.
The music world has lost two more talented musicians. Norton Buffalo, 58, passed on in October from cancer. He was an accomplished singer and one of the most versatile and amazing harp players in the music business, and played almost every style of music. He recorded his own albums, played on over 180 albums, was in movies and television, toured with his own band, The Knockouts, and with blue guitarist, Roy Rogers, and was a member of the Steve Miller Band for over 30 years, just to name a few things. Steve Miller wrote: “There are some people who pass through this world who are so unique and special they defy description and Norton Buffalo was one of those people. He gave more than he took and brightened the world whenever he played his harmonica or sang a song.” There have been several benefits for him. There will be two all-star benefits for him on January 22 & 23, 2010 in Oakland, California. Check out details on Google.
Another long-time Bay Area resident, Big John Evans, passed away in early November from a heart attack. He was one of the Bay Area’s best drummers. He was best known for many years of work with Johnny Heartsman. He also worked with Little Junior Parker and many others. He recorded with Heartsman, Tiny Powell, Charllie Musselwhite. Both musicians will be deeply missed.
On the happier side, Monica Dupont’s original song, “Peace In The World,” sung and recorded by her with the help of Ron Thompson on guitar and Gary Novak as bass and drum player and producer, received a big honor. It was chosen as the official Christmas song of the National Heritage Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame. It can be downloaded for free from www.myspace.com/monicadupont. Her song is being played on radio stations around the world and is included in the Armed Forces radio playlist. It’s great that she is spreading her message of peace, especially to our troops.
Another Bay Area vocalist, E.C. Scott, after taking over Koko Taylor’s tour of Spain and then touring Europe for six weeks, debuted her Jook Joint Show on commercial television in November.
She packs in six to eight musicians performing live within a half hour show which includes two commercials. Each musician plays one song. Her musical genre is quite varied and entertaining. She began these programs in 2005 and is now on 347 public access stations in the United States and Canada. Now she hopes to be viewed also on more commercial stations. She comments: “We are the only tv program of its kind and we’re dedicated to the preservation, expansion, and unification of blues lovers everywhere.”
For further information, click on: http.www.ecsjookjoint.tv.
The Bay Area is a popular place for touring musicians. This time we had:
Frank Bey; Jerry,” the Iceman,” Butler; John Hammond; Samuel James; Sista Monica; Barbara Morrison; Rusty Zinn; Kim Wilson; Lil’ Dave Thompson; Billy Flynn; Jimmy Thackery; Henry Butler; Joe Louis Walker; Andy Mac; Kevin Russell; Dave Jacob; Johnny Venazza; The Aces; Alan Iglesias; David Lindley; Ernie Johnson; Dr. John; Janiva Magness; Gregg Wright; Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King; Zac Harman; Mose Allison; Papa’s Garage; Big Delta; Duke Robillard; and Doug MacLeod.
Two Bay Area indies issued music. Blind Pig released CDs of “The Essential Coco Montoya” and “Gravel Road” by Magic Slim & The Teardrops. Continuing with their vinyl series was the rerelease of “Take Me Back,” by James Cotton. Blues Express, Inc. did a CD of Long John Hunter called: “Looking For A Party.”
Bay Area musicians also had new CDs. Faye Carol called her CD “Carolizing Christmas.” “Nancy Wright” was her CD. John Lee Hooker, Jr.’s latest CD is “All Odds Against Me.” As a bonus with it, he has an animated DVD entitled “Extra Marital Affair.” “Meet Me On The Corner” on the Merry OId Soul Music label is a CD out by Birdlegg. The Tip of the Top Band issued “Depot Street Blues.”
Several dates are coming up of possible interest. A Tribute to Norton Buffao with a big all-star cast will be at the Fox Theater in Oakland on January 22 and 23, 2010 The Caribbean will be the destination for The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise from January 23-30, 2010. Mark Hummel’s Blues Harmonica Blowout will be a tribute to Muddy Waters at Yoshi’s in Oakland on January 29-31. The Sacramento Heritage Festival will have a Valentine’s Day Soul Spectacular in Sacramento on February 14, 2010. Further on down the road, The Monterey Bay Blues Festival will celebrate their 25th anniversary on June 25-27, 2010.
That’s all for now. Doug MacLeod is right on with his quote: “Blues is from the heart and for the people.”
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