Thursday, June 02, 2016

Falls Church Hosts the Blues June 10-12

The Annual Tinner Hill Blues Festival returns to the City of Falls, Church Virginia starting on Friday June 10 and running through June 12. Presented by The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, the weekend has programs for hard core blues lovers as well as families and folks looking for a terrific time.

The Festivities include a juried Art Show, "The Blues In Paris," at Art and Frame of Falls Church at 205 W. Jefferson St. From 5 to 8 PM, there is a free kickoff reception at Applebee's located at 127 E Broad St. Appearing at theh erecption will be one of the DC area's favorite blues artists, Memphis Gold.  At 8:00PM there is the fabulous ticketed show, Blues & Soul Divas with Mable John, Trudy Lynn, and Gaye Adegbalola with the Wild Rūtz at the State Theatre (Doors open at 7:00PM). I have already previewed this show, Several Falls Church clubs are also presenting blues that evening.

Saturday, June 11 opens with some free blues music being presented at the weekly Falls Church Farmer's Market. Also taking place on Saturday Morning will be a workshop "History of Women in Blues" that will be presented by Gaye Adegbalola at 10:30 AM in the Falls Church Community Center. 11:30AM at the Mary Stiles Library there will be a participatory book reading and sing along with "Emily Sings"and at 11:30AM there will be a Mini-Film Festival at the Community Center including “John Jackson: a Blues Treasure”, Award winning documentary on the life and music of John Jackson, and "E. B. Henderson" by film maker Bob Burnett, a ten minute film on how Dr. E.B. Henderson was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Cherry Hill Park itself hosts a day of Blues, Brew & BBQ. Gates open at noon and the program starts at 1:00PM with the opening performers being the Mike Terpak Blues Explosion. Their website describes itself, "Based out of Washington, DC, the band explodes with virtuoso guitar work by Bill Kotapish, hard driving rhythm by drummer Brian Alpert and bassist Jerry Stewart, and dynamic organ and vocals by Mike Terpak. All are veterans of popular local, regional and national bands, like Jimmy Thackery and the Assassins, Tom Principato Band, Bob Margolin, However, and The Hitmen." Here is a sample of their music.

Next Musical act with be Carly Harvey and Kiss & Ride. Carly Havey is a terrific jazz-infused, blues and soul vocalist.  Her band Kiss & Ride is is a high energy blues ensemble lead by Carly Harvey. They strive to extend blues to younger audiences to bridge the age gap between blues aficionados.It performs a combination of originals, blues standards, and cool bluesy arrangements of current popular music.

Charlie Sayles & the Blues Disciples featuring Tony Fazio follows with a set spotlighting the distinctive blues harmonica and vocals of Charlie Sayles. Since being discovered playing on the streets of Manhattan decades ago, Sayles has taken his blues from off teh street into clubs and festivals around the world, and his current Blues Disciples include guitarist Tony Fazio, providing simple, solid support for Sayles very personal songs and Mississippi saxophone explorations by Sayles.

Once a mid-teen guitar sensation, Andy Poxon has won the praises of the likes of Duke Robillard and Mark Wenner as he has matured and grown as a singer and guitarist. Of his most recent recording, "Must Be Crazy" I observed that his "continual growth and maturity as a guitarist and a singer is established right away. here is someone who has listened to vintage B.B. King, Pee Wee Crayton, Tiny Grimes, T-Bone Walker and the like and brings a lot of heart and personality to his vocals …" He is a terrific performer whose star is definitely on the ascenscion.

About 50 years ago among the first blues albums I purchased were John Lee Hooker's Live at "The Cafe Au Go-Go"and Otis Spann's "The Blues Is Where It's At." The backing band on both was the Muddy Waters Blues band, and the bassist at the time was one Mac Arnold. After spending some in time in Chicago, Arnold moved to the West Coast where he continued his musical career. After retiring from show business to be an organic farmer, Mac is back with his own band and a "plate full" of music, building a new foundation in blues, soul and funk.His band consists Austin Brashier on guitar and vocals, Max Hightower on keyboards, harmonica, guitar, bass, and vocals, Tez Sherard on drums and vocals, and Mac Arnold on vocals, bass and Gas Can Guitars, and have been touring clubs and Festivals with his own brand of music. Writing about his 2010 release Backbones & Gristle I observed "Arnold  has an appealing baritone with a natural  delivery, and he gets solid support … [and the album was] full of intriguing originals (mostly by Arnold), heartfelt singing and songs, and first-rate musicianship."

Closing the musical performances this afternoon is the sensational Victor Wainwright & the WildRoots. Wainwright is a multiple Blues Music Award winner, having been chosen piano player of the year in 2013 and 2014 and more recently the Entertainer of the Year and Blues Band of the Year in 2016. A Savannah, Georgia native, his mix of boogie woogie, country honk and blues piano makes for some rollicking music and with his band he is an exciting live performer in addition to a strong singer.

After the music ends at Cherry Hill Park, there will be a blues crawl at various Falls Church venues. Performes for the Blues Crawl include JC & Lava Lamps at Ireland's 4 Provinces; Tom Yoder at Clare & Don's Beach Shack; Southbound Steele (Rick Steele & Charles Solomon) at Argia's along with mini pop up concerts at surprise locations in the City of Falls Church.

Sunday June 12, there will be an Old Fashioned Blues Gospel Concert & Picnic. Bring a blanket, lawn chair and picnic. There will be Free tea and lemonade. It will feature the NENO Project, plus outstanding church choirs, others tba.It takes place from 2 to 5 PM at the Tinner Hill Historic Site & Park, 108 Tinner Hill St. in Falls Church.

The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation in part celebrates the civil rights heritage of the first rural NAACP chapter.  For more information on the Festival visit

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Jonn Del Toro Richardson Tengo Blues

Jonn Del Toro Richardson is likely best known as guitarist with the terrific singer, Diunna Greenleaf. He also collaborated with Rich DelGrosso for a warmly received recording. "Tengo Blues" is a solid new self-produced recording by him that is distributed by VizzTone. This was recorded in Austin and produced by Jonn and Anson Funderburgh, who also plays on three selections. The band backing Jonn includes Nick Connolly on keyboards, Nathan Rowe on bass, Wes Starr on drums and the Texas Horns with Kaz Kazanoff. The leader wrote all 13 songs, with Gary Vincent and Anson Funderburgh each contributing to two songs.

Ax expected from both Del Toro Richardson's playing and the band assembled here, one has some nicely played songs that cover a variety of musical textures and flavors. He comes across as quite an appealing vocalist. A good singer, Del Toro Richardson sings honestly and with heart while laying down plenty of strong guitar. There is an almost Koko Taylor groove for "I'm Her Man," which is a celebration of his guitar as he sings he can make her laugh, cry, moan and sigh. "Love If You Want It," is not the Slim Harpo number but an original that is built on a lazy Jimmy Reed shuffle groove. "Triple Lindig" is a jazzy instrumental (very nice guitar) with Connolly on organ and horns adding to the flavor of this performance and followed by the Tex-Mex flavor of "The Moment" with the Texas Horns adding a mariachi feel along with some superb trumpet.

A Memphis funk groove is present on "Can't Run From Love," with a catchy lyric that "you don't find love, love finds you." "Get Me Back To Texas," one of the songs which Anson Funderburgh is present has a groove that evokes Hound Dog Taylor. "This I Know" is a swamp pop ballad the performance of which sounds like a Gulf Coast adaptation of a Charles Brown number and has a nicely played and paced guitar solo, while "Tell Me Pretty Baby" is updated T-Bone Walker styled jump blues with terrific guitars from both and "Wild Ride" is bluesy rock and roll with Connolly's rollicking piano coming off like Johnnie Johnson.

The title track, "Tengo Blues" is a splendid organ-guitar instrumental with a latin groove that displays Del Toro Richardson's inventive, fiery playing as Rowe and Starr provide a crisp groove with a touch of a latin accent. With solid production and marvelous Performances, "Tengo Blues" is a fine showcase for Jonn Del Toro Richardson's considerable talent.

I received my copy from the record company. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2016  Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 365) on page 16 (you can download the issue at, although I have made a few stylistic changes from that review. Here is Jonn Jonn Del Toro Richardson in performance, and if this doesn't knock you out, I do not know what will.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Tinner Hill Blues Salutes Blues Divas June 10 at State Theatre

The Tinner Hill Blues Festival returns to Falls Church on the weekend of June 10 through 12 with a exciting program of Blues and Gospel. Among the artists to be presented is a Friday evening show at The State Theatre with the legendary Mabel John, a full day of blues on Saturday at Cherry Hill Park with former Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker sideman Mac Arnold and keyboard wizard Victor Wainright. On Sunday there will be an Old Fashioned Blues Gospel Concert and Picnic at the Tinner Hill Historic Site.

This entry focuses on Friday night's State Theatre Concert-A Salute To Blues Divas which in addition to Mabel John, also will present Trudy Lynn and Gaye Adegbalola and the Wild Rutz. The show starts at 8:00PM with Doors opening at 7:00 PM.

Mabel John was for many years the lead singer with the Raylettes who supported Ray Charles. She was the brother of Little Willie John and was one of the first act to have a recording on the Motown subsidiary, Tamla label. After several years with the Raylettes, she was signed to Stax where she recorded her hit "Your Good Thing Is About To End," and other songs like "Able Mabel," and "You're Taking Up Another Man's Place."  After another stint with the Raylettes, she retired from secular music although in recent years she has established herself as an actress and still appears at Festivals  (including the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival in 2011 and the 2015 Ponderosa Stomp) where she still wows audiences. It is a real coup for the Tinner Hill Blues Festival to present this musical legend.

Houston's Trudy Lynn is a big-voiced blues and soul vocalist whose career bgan in groups and clubs in Houston. In the 1960's she sang with guitarist Albert Collins and then later, Clarence Green. Her recording career began in 1989 with the Ichiban label. Her album "Trudy Sings the Blues" had riveting renditions of "Ball & Chain" and "Come To Mama." After Ichiban folded she recorded " U Don't Know What Time It Is" for Ruf Records which had Lucky Peterson's keyboards and Bernard Allison's guitar. In more recent years she was associated with the late Calvin Owens orchestra, appearing on his recordings and his Orchestra backed her for the Blues Music Award Soul-Blues Nominee "I'm Still Here." Her most recent recording is the terrific "Royal Oaks Blues Cafe" from 2014. About that recording I wrote, "The closing Whip it To A Jelly further displays how nuanced a singer Lynn is as she brings out humor and wit of Clara Smith’s lyrics, Many blue singers today would come across as emotive or heavy-handed singing this. Her ability to convincingly deliver so many shades of blues makes 'Royal Oaks Blues Café' such a terrific recording."

Many will know Gaye Adegbalola from the trio, Saffire- the Uppity Blues Women, which she was such an integral part of for several decades. With the demise of Saffire, Gaye has formed a unique vocal group, Gaye Adegbalola & the Wild Rūtz whose first recording "Is It Still Good to Ya?," has been nominated for a Blues Music Award for acoustic blues album. Her website describes the music as "In this world of screaming electrified instrumental acrobatics and digital perfectionism, this CD delights in returning to our RUTZ! It celebrates the Creator's primary instruments: THE VOICE and THE BEATS. 4 unique voices combine with percussion and occasional guitar to add a previously unrecorded dimension to the blues. All 14 songs are Gaye's originals." Along the powerful blues and soul of Trudy Lynn and Mabel John, this will make the State Theatre on June 10, a night with the Blues Divas you will not want to miss.

For more information, including ticket information, visit

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Hendrik Meurkens Harmonicus Rex

The remarkable jazz harmonica wizard, Hendrik Meurkens, may be best known for his magic in the realm of Brazilian jazz, but on his latest release, "Harmonicus Rex," his focus is on straight ahead jazz. On this session he is joined by the legendary Jimmy Cobb on drums, along with bassist Marco Panascia and pianist Dado Moroni. Joe Magnarelli on trumpet and Anders Bostrom on alto flute are each heard on four of the eleven tracks (one on which they both are heard). The program on this release are five originals as well as six interpretations of standards.

Meurkens' "Mundell's Mood" is a bright, swinging number that opens this with the leader and Magnarelli stating the theme before the trumpeter takes the first solo before Meurkens takes the first of his solos on his chromatic harmonica with his melodic invention and horn like phrasing (if not tone) at the fore before a break from Moroni with Magnarelli and the leader trading fours prior to the coda. Its the beginning of a delightful, and wide-ranging, recording with the rhythm section exemplary throughout. The groove of Meurkens' "Slidin'" has Meurkens sounding a bit more wistful at first before he solos vigorously followed by Bostrom's lovely flute.

Moroni rumbles a bit to set the mood for a lovely quartet rendition of Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way." Then there is a lovely, bluesy original ballad performance, "Afternoon" with Magnarelli on flugelhorn contributing to the mood that Meurkens' engenders here. Both Magnarelli and Bostrom are present for the lively rendition of Milt Jackson's blues, "SKJ," while Meurkens' fluidity, melodic playing and invention is showcased on the Rodgers-Hart classic "Falling in Love With Love," with Moroni and Panascia also showcased. "A Summer in San Francisco" is a lovely, lazy original that features Bostrom while Magnarelli adds his bright tone to a relaxed, rendition of Freddie Hubbard's "Up Jumped Spring."

The album closes with marvelous quartet performances of the standards "Darn That Dream" and "What's New." And one cannot emphasize how exceptional the rhythm section is throughout nearly one hour of delightful, straight-ahead jazz on "Harmonicus Rex."

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here Meurkens is heard performing "Up Jumped Swing" with Cobb and Moroni by Ray Drummond on bass.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue

The eponymously titled Electro-Fi album by the Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue brings together singer and harmonica player Mark Hummel with guitarists Little Charlie Baty and Anson Funderburgh, R.W. Grisby on bass and Wes Starr on drums. They are friends although only some have played together prior to this revue. They are joined by Jim Pugh on keyboards, along with saxophonists Eric Spaulding and Jack Sanford for this recording that Chris "Kid" Andersen recorded at his Greaseland Studios.

Its a terrific set of all blues with any lumpy or rocky filler that contains a mix of interpretations of  lesser known blues gems along with originals penned by Hummel. Hummel has been and remains a real good vocalist and here this starts with the opening rendition of Gatemouth Brown's "Midnight Hour." In addition to Hummerl's vocal there is  plenty of slashing guitar by Baty and Funderburgh, both of whom delight with their contrasting styles. Hummel plays harp on Billy Boy Arnold's "Here's My Picture," followed by Hummel's original shuffle "Prove It To Me" with some greasy fafisa sounding organ and terrific guitar (I suspect from Charlie Baty). Hummel's moody "Cool to Be Your Fool," with backing from just piano and rhythm, borrows the "Sittin' on Top of the World" melody.

Lowell Fulson's "Check Yourself" takes listeners  into a jump blues vein with Hummel taking a harp solo followed by some blistering playing (likely from Funderburgh). Baty trades fours with Hummel's harp in the relaxed rendition of Mose Allison's "Stop This World," with Pugh terrific again. An older Jimmy McCracklin tune "Take a Chance," takes us uptown on a rocking number that sounds like it would have if Junior Parker had done it. "Walking With Mr. Lee" is a terrific feature for Hummel's harp, while the Grisby penned "Detroit Blues," is a nice lazy Jimmy Reed-style shuffle. Among the other selections is a solid cover of J.B. Hutto's "Dim Lights" if Hummel can't match the fervor of Hutto, it still has terrific slide guitar.

This is a terrific revue and reports of their shows seems consistent with the music here. The performances are marvelously performed and backed by an excellent rhythm section. Fans of real deal blues are in for a treat with this gem.

I received my copy from a publicist. Here is a recent performance by them.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Guy King Truth

It was at the Montreal Jazz Festival that I first discovered the Israeli-born, Chicago blues guitarist and vocalist Guy King and was first struck by King's sophisticated and jazz-inflected blues. I believe it was the following summer when I was in Chicago for business when Dick Shurman recommended catching him at Andy's Jazz Club where he was leading his jazz organ combo on a set that was musically different, but equally satisfying. When word came out that Shurman was producing an album by King for Delmark, I was delighted, and the recently issued CD, "Truth," fulfills expectations.

Writer (and songwriter) David Ritz, in the liner notes, credits Buddy Guy for telling him about King This led to Ritz catching him a number of times and becoming impressed by King's vocals (Ritz notes the influence of Ray Charles and Percy Mayfield) and  guitar playing (influences include Wes Montgomery, Albert King, B.B. King, Albert Collins, and Johnny Guitar Watson) lending to King developing his own personal approach to blues and jazz. His blues on this CD has a jazzy, swinging flavor, yet retaining plenty of of grit and funk. King is backed by a sextet and produces strong renditions of songs associated with Charles, B.B. King and others along with three originals co-written with Ritz, and a fresh original instrumental.

The Ray Charles flavor is more felt in the arrangements of several songs and some of King's vocal phrasing as opposed to trying to capture Charles' gospel inflected sound. This can be heard on the opening rendition of Charles' "The Same Thing That Can Make You Laugh (Can Make You Cry)." Here King's fervent singing is complemented by some Albert King-styled fretwork with brassy horn riffs accenting his driving solo. The title track is one of the King-Ritz collaborations with an urbane, jazzy flavor matching some smoldering singing.

The King-Ritz song, "My Happiness," is a delightful vocal duet with Sarah Marie Young, and King channeling B.B. King in a manner that also evokes the late gentleman of the blues, Johnnie Bassett. It is followed by a cover of the late Johnny 'Guitar' Watson's "It's About The Dollar Bill," that captures the funky spirit of the Gangster of Love's original, both in the rendition and King's guitar playing here. The last King-Ritz collaboration, "A Day In A Life With The Blues," is a late night blues with outstanding contributions from Christopher Neal on tenor sax and Marques Carroll on trumpet.

Also nice are covers of B.B. King's 'Bad Case of Love," and the Doc Pomus-Dr. John penned "There Must Be A Better World Somewhere." Guy King captures much of the humor inherent in Percy Mayfield's "Cookin' in Style," with Amr Marcin Fahmy on Fender Rhodes and Carroll on trumpet spotlighted while ably crooning on "I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues." This latter number spotlights his fleet jazz-inflected playing here (debts to Wes and Grant Green amongst others). "King Thing" is a strong guitar feature set against a relaxed groove. Among the other delights is a cover of Albert King's recording, "If The Washing Didn't Get You (The Rinsing Will)," as King's vocal captures the lyric's ironic humor while King's guitar pays homage to Albert King.

If there was one quibble, it might be King's versatility has him heard in several different styles as opposed to there being a specific Guy King style (such as one heard from Ray Charles or Albert King). Some will not find that an issue and, in any event, this is an excellent recording.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here Guy King performs "If The Washing Didn't Get You (The Rinsing Will)."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ernie Watts' Wheel of Time

"Wheel of Time" is veteran saxophonist Ernie Watt's latest release on Watts' Flying Dolphin Records label. On this he is backed by his European Quartet consisting of pianist Christof Saenger, bassist Rudi Engel and drummer Heinrich Koebberling. This band has been together for 15 years and each members has contributed to the originals here along with four new ones from Watts. The title track is a dedication to the late Charlie Haden with whom Watts played in Haden's Quartet West for 30 years. Also included is an interpretation of Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge."

The Quartet is a terrific band su[p[orting the veteran saxophonist whose career spans from the sixties until today. Watts continues to display a vibrant, expressive sound and dynamic attack although I find his vibrato on the opening "Letter From Home," somewhat harsh which detracts from my enjoyment of the track despite his invention and the energy his playing displays. More satisfying is his energetic rendition of "Inner Urge," while "Andi's Blues" is a nifty blue performance with bassist Engel and pianist Saenger both taking solid solos. Watts' own high energy blues playing is followed by Koebberling nimbly using his brushes.

"L'Agua Azul" is a terrific Brazilian jazz performance on which Watts displays a softer side while the aptly titled "Velocity" is a torrid workout that is influenced by "Giant Steps." It further showcases the leader's virtuosity. The title track opens with Engel's bass, then becoming a lovely duet with Watts before the full quartet enters. Saenger and Koebberling exercise restraint in their accompaniment and  Saenger'ss solo is a marvelous example of taste and restraint, before Engel eloquently takes out this moving performance.

Ernie Watts continues to be a formidable saxophonist who brings considerable passion and invention to his music. His European Quartet does a superb job in accompanying him and making their own statements on a fine recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here us a performance by The Ernie Watts Quartet.