Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another Blue Monday Jam Session

The weekly blues jam at Buddy Guy's Legends was happenin' last night. Seems like all the characters came out to prowl the city at night.

I had the pleasure of playing with the house band, Brother John Kattke, subbing for his regular guy, Marty "Boom Boom" Binder. The Legendary Paul Stref was on the gig, playing bass (awesome), and the horn section was there, sans Marqueal Jordan (and the cool Otis Redding stuff he pulls out- too bad).

A great lineup, for sure.

I've played with John's group quite a bit over the last dozen-or-so years, but I'm not his regular guy, by any means. So whenever I do this gig, I'm never on auto-pilot. I'm always thinking about the tunes, remembering different changes and "hits", watching for cues, etc; the usual stuff you gotta do when you're a sub.

John's got extensive repertoire, so there really is no way to prepare for one of his gigs. I've got about 9 CD's of the various tunes he does, and that's still not the complete Kattke collection. So I listen to a few, and hope that those are some of the tunes that he picks. Luckily, they're all GOOD tunes, and I pretty much (key words being "pretty much") know them all more or less.

Sometimes more, sometimes less.

So we did our set, about an hour long. Some of my personal faves of the set were "Blackjack", by Ray Charles, and "I Got Loaded", the Los Lobos arrangement. We ended our part of the show with "Hillbillies From Outer Space," from the Vaughan Brothers. It's a very hip Texas shuffle (which is a little lazier than a Chicago shuffle) that I played brushes on, not a typical way to end a set. John even tossed me a solo to finish off the set. Totally cool, and the band sounded great.

Bring on the jammers.

Actually, the talent level was quite high. There were a handful of guitar guys that I had never seen, but they were more than serviceable (hey,at least they're trying). Otherwise, the quality was high. Some good bass players came through as well, including Melvin Smith, bass player for Koko Taylor's Blues Machine. I hadn't seen him in a while.

Another old friend, Homie (honestly that's his name), was there too, hanging with Sammy Fender. He used to be a drummer back in the day, as they say (whatever day that was, anyways), working for Buddy way back as far as the Vanguard days.

Gave it up to make a living.

Smart guy, I suppose. He was certainly in fine form, though, holding court for a while at the bar, and then in the VIP section, which is stage left, telling stories I can't repeat and sipping on his seemingly never empty glass of red wine.

Homie's cool.

Tommy McKracken was there, the black Elvis. I've written about Tommy before, as some readers (hopefully) may recall. He's a riot. Far and away, he's the hardest working guy you could ever hope to see on a Monday night. Each time I see him, he gives it his all. That's quite an accomplishment, considering that he does the same. routine. every. single. time.

His set starts with big hits on the "C", then the "F" then "B flat" (or whatever chords he calls), and then into a swing shuffle, "Have You Ever Seen a One-Eyed Woman Cry." He's got his hips gyrating, the microphone swinging, the mic stand bouncing, and the people are wrapped around his finger. He's dancing and clapping and snapping, passing solos around, singing a verse or two, then doing it some more. You'd never believe that this guy could work a crowd so well if you haven't seen him up close and personally.

Then it's his slow blues, "Little Blue Bird." A classic B.B. King tune.

The end of the song always is a sort of preaching section, giving props to waking up in the morning ("a wonderful thing happened to me this morning; I woke up"), and crying the blues about the woman that can't be satisfied and left him. After each little statement that he makes, he cues the band to hit a chord, quick and short.

He makes a lot of little statements.

He gets off the stage with the same swagger he got on with.

The players got switched around after Tommy's set, and it was time for Holly B. Maxwell to do her thing. She's the self proclaimed "new blonde bombshell," and she certainly is. Holly is a large woman, over 6 feet. She always wears bright and stylish outfits, tight around her hips and thighs which are quite large and round (baby got back). And she's got the BLONDE wig.

It's screaming blonde.

It totally completes her persona.

Holly always starts with a medium tempo shuffle, singing about how, "I don't need no instant breakfast, 'cuz I'm hongry..." (Notice: hongry, not hungry.) That's how she sounds, in that loud, throaty, growling blues mama voice that you'd expect from a woman of her, uh, stature.


And her schtick is as you would expect from a blues mama. She oozes sexuality, whether it's with the band on the stand or the guy sitting in the front row with his wife and mother-in-law. Lot's of hip shakin' and rubbing and bumping and grinding. Blues cabaret, basically.

Just like that, seemingly, the clock reached 1:00. Show's over. Time to go.

Another successful Monday.

So it goes...

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