by Mercy Moosemuzzle -
SGN Contributing Writer
Sonny Rollins delights
Excitement was mounting as my partner and I arrived at the Paramount for Sonny Rollins concert on May 9. The woman who gave us our tickets said her day was going to be fine once she got inside, because the sound check had been out of control. My date said, "Hopefully they fixed that." The ticket woman said, 'No, I meant in a good way.'
A man sitting next to us commented on the fact that the last time Rollins had been here was 15 years ago. He said the saxophonist has audiences in Europe and Japan, so doesn't really have to come to Seattle.
Kevin Kneistedt from KPLU, who introduced Sonny, made the point that the artist had been playing with Miles Davis when he was 18. Kneistedt said that what he himself had been doing at that age would hardly compare. The audience had to agree Sonny is the greatest living saxophonist.
We joined the standing ovation when Rollins came out on stage, even though we are disabled and don't give those away too easily. He was joined by Bobby Brown on guitar, Bob Cranshaw on bass, Kobie Watkins on drum, Victor Y. See Yuen on percussion, and Mark Saska on piano. Each of the players was a master.
We were surprised by the halo of white hair and white beard on top of Sonny's long, lean body. We looked at Rollins' biography and figured out he was 80, so had earned the white. We were happy that he has made a point of staying healthy and was still energetic.
Sonny opened with an elegantly mellow rendition of "In a Sentimental Mood." The pianist met his invitation to improvise with brio. The guitarist joined in.
"Patan Jali," which followed, let us know what the ticket woman meant about the sound check. Rollins' solo was just barely controlled pandemonium. His band was right in there with him.
"Serenade" included luscious sax and piano and an incredible drum solo. It made us want to cry.
Sonny took the mic to thank us for the welcome we gave him. He said, "I'm not going to say anything about the gulf." When he told us the next song was "Why Was I Born," the man next to me said, "obviously to play sax." That song had a nice interplay between Rollins and Yuen on congas.
"Global Warming" had a satisfying calypso beat that also gave Yuen a chance to shine, as well as nice sax and piano solos.
Sonny returned to the microphone to say," Keep the music alive. It is the only thing that matters." He sang "Blues Jam" and also gave each member of his band a delicious moment. We gave him another standing ovation. hoping for an encore, but had to admit the concert had been generous. We would have been worn out, if we had played sax that hard.
As my date said, "He got old on me. But he still knows how to make me happy."
110 in the Shade
Assonance has a friend who supported Seattle Musical Theater's production of 110 in the Shade, so she and Mercy and Cuteness received some comps and went. Assonance said she should have known something was amiss when she saw no Gay men in the audience for musical theater. Sure enough, the all-straight audience (except for their party) was a bad sign. The material, a musical adaptation of the play and movie The Rainmaker, was dated. It is hard to take seriously a story where a woman's deepest fear is becoming an old maid. Assonance said, "Now we know why it is rarely performed."
Mercy liked remembering the movie with Katherine Hepburn, so she was a bit more forgiving than the others. Everyone agreed the voices of the leads, Jennifer Littlefield and Gregory Conn, were great. The acting was good, and the dance was fun.
Cuteness thinks some revenge is appropriate on the friend who gave them the tickets. This may lead to an inspired gift in return. Cuteness hasn't decided yet what it will be.
Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith
Mercy is excited that Pinetop Perkins is coming to Jazz Alley on May 18-19. Band members are Pinetop Perkins (piano), Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (harmonica and vocals), Little Frank Krakowski (guitar), Bob Stroger (bass), and Kenny Smith (drums).
Pinetop Perkins celebrated his 95th birthday with his Grammy-nominated release Pinetop Perkins and Friends (Telarc 6/08). There are very few direct ties left to the golden age of post-World War II American blues, that seminal period in the 1940s and '50s when the acoustic sounds of the Mississippi delta migrated northward and gave way to the more electric groove of northern locales like Chicago and St. Louis. With the passing of John Lee Hooker and Robert Lockwood, Jr. in recent years, almost no one can claim any firsthand connection to seminal figures like Muddy Waters or harpist Sonny Boy Williamson. Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins is among the few. Perkins has been playing blues and boogie piano for more than six decades, including a decade-long stint with Muddy Waters beginning in 1969. In that time, he's had numerous encounters and collaborations with the aforementioned legends, as well as titans like Robert Nighthawk, Earl Hooker, B.B. King, Willie Dixon, and Howlin' Wolf.
In 2005, Perkins was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys. In 2008, Perkins received a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album for Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas. Perkins won the Blues Music Award for best blues piano every year until 2003, when he was retired from the award, which now bears his name: the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year.
Not only did Willie "Big Eyes" Smith garner two nominations for the 2008 Grammys, but in doing so, he made blues history. His nominations for Best Instrumentalist in the categories of drums and harmonica marks the first time an artist has been recognized for two instruments, let alone in the same year. He is a seven-time W.C. Handy Award-winner, multiple Grammy Award nominee, and 2007 Blues Music Award recipient for Best Drummer. Known for his traditional shuffle style, he has been regarded as the heart and soul of the Chicago blues sound. But these days, fans are just as likely to find Willie "Big Eyes" Smith holding on to a harmonica, his first instrument. Turns out, this award-winning blues drummer is also an accomplished harmonica master, band leader, and dynamic vocalist.
Earl Klugh and Bob James
Mercy is very excited that Bob James and Earl Klugh are coming to Jazz Alley May 20-23. The band members are Bob James (piano), Earl Klugh (guitar), Joseph Patrick Moore (bass), and Yonrico Scott (drums).
Contemporary jazz legends Bob James and Earl Klugh reunite at Jazz Alley to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of their first collaboration: Grammy-winning, platinum-selling One On One. With a total of nearly 70 full-length albums recorded independently by Klugh and James, their award-winning discographies are impressive and diverse. Their collaborative magic on the stage has rarely been witnessed in the past couple of decades, and 30 years after their first release together, the duo is ready to deliver a sensational four nights of performances at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley.
"It's fun getting together with Bob for these shows," says Klugh. "We always have a great time and it's always a joy to play the music. Over the years we've had some very memorable concerts all over the world, including Japan, Venezuela, and India, and all across the U.S. several times."
The two jazz legends have been friends ever since being paired up for a west coast tour in the mid-1970s. "Bob and I started sitting in on each other's shows, and the audience really responded well to us playing together," says Klugh. "When it came time for Bob to record his next album [Touchdown], I played guitar on a few tracks. After working together for a while, we were approached by record executive, Bruce Lundvall, to do an album together, and we thought, why not? "
Two-time Grammy winner Bob James has played a major role in taking fusion-jazz mainstream. Discovered by Quincy Jones, James has had great solo success, with over 30 albums of his own since 1963, numerous collaborations with artists including David Sanborn and Kirk Whalum, and from his hit album Touchdown, the television theme song from Taxi entitled "Angela." James is a founding member of the super-group Fourplay and continues to enjoy writing, recording, and touring.
Grammy-winning guitarist Earl Klugh's career of more than three decades includes over 200 compositions, more than 30 full-length albums, hosting and producing his own events, work in film, collaborative recordings with Chet Atkins, George Benson, and Stevie Wonder (to name a few), and numerous world tours. Klugh's work has earned him 12 career Grammy nominations, the most recent a 2009 Grammy Nomination for his critically acclaimed release The Spice of Life.
You can get tickets for Pinetop Perkins, Earl Klugh and Bob James at www.jazzalley.com.
Mercy is ecstatic that Marcia Ball is coming back to the Triple Door on May 27.
Marcia Ball, who will be making her fifth appearance at The Triple Door, hails from The Texas Triangle, the musically fertile country around the Texas/Louisiana border that also spawned Janis Joplin and Johnny and Edgar Winter. The commingling of musical cultures (Texas blues, Louisiana R&B, and Cajun) inspires Ball's approach, which, in the words of the All Music Guide, is "equal parts boogie woogie with zydeco and Louisiana swamp rock."
A two-fisted demon of a player, Ball took up the piano at 5 and found her musical calling in her teens from encounters with singer Irma Thomas and pianist Professor Longhair. Based in Austin since 1970, she has worked the club and festival circuit in the USA, Canada, and Europe for three decades. Her eclectic, but highly individual style has won her impressive credits such as a 1999 PBS "In Performance at The White House" spot and appearances on Austin City Limits, Fresh Air, Piano Jazz, and Prairie Home Companion.
The good folks at W.C. Handy Blues named her Best Contemporary Female Vocalist for 1998 and she later earned the same organization's Blues Album of the Year for Presumed Innocent. The good times roll with a vengeance at a Marcia Ball show, but she is also a songwriter of real substance.
Marcia Ball is about to celebrate her 61st birthday, and is at her artistic peak these days, a livewire personification of honky-tonk roadhouse party and passionate soul.
You can get tickets at www.thetripledoor.net.
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