Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Prodigal Son comes home - Michael Roach House Concert in Falls Church

Sunday July 27 will be a treat for Washington DC blues lovers as Washington native Michael Roach along with harmonica wiz Johnny Mars are being presented by the Tinner Hill Foundation. Mike was one of the folks who founded the DC Blues Society and was its President for several years. Over a decade ago he moved with his wife to England where he has established himself as quite a blues performer as well as an educator. Mike was mentored by the late John Jackson and Jerry Ricks as well as John Cephas and has become quite a marvelous singer, guitarist and songwriter. I will miss the Falls Church show as I will still be at the Pocono Blues Festival where they perform Saturday, June 26. I will likely miss the Kinsey Report to see Mike as his recordings have been so good and I am really looking forward to seeing him after all these years. The picture is from Michael's website and the rest of the test is from the publicity provided by the Tinner Hill Foundation folks.

"You are invited to experience a spectacular evening of the soulful sounds of rhythm and blues with Michael Roach and Johnny Mars in concert to benefit the Tinner Hill John Jackson Blues Festival. Blues singer and guitarist Michael Roach and Blues singer and harmonica player Johnny Mars reside in the United Kingdom and will be making a rare U.S. tour to perform at the Pocono Blues Festival They will perform in Falls Church in a one night, one show invitation only concert at the historic Henderson House and gardens.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C. Michael Roaches’ life has taken him to reside in Cheltenham, England. He has become a beloved performer in Guitar, Blues, Folk, Jazz, World Music and Country Blues Festival across the globe. He has performed in Sweden, France, Ireland, England, Scotland, The Channel Islands, in the Middle East including Dubai, Bahrain, Abu Dhabe, and Qatar. His work has taken him to Bali and Jakarta in Indonesia. He will soon be performing in Spain and Capetown, South Africa. He has performed in the USA at the Chicago Blues Festival and Maryland's Bluebird Blues Festival.

He has taught in workshops in the United Kingdom for the European Blues Association (which he founded with Paul Oliver.), in Galway, Ireland, at the Bergen Music Festival in Bergen, Norway, Centrum Country Blues Week in Port Townsend and the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop in Washington state, and at the Augusta Heritage Festival for Bluesweek in Elkins, West Virginia. He traveled to the USA to interview many Blues elders for the BBC which culminated in his 3 part series called "Deep Blue" for the highly esteemed BBC Radio 4. He created the Federal City Blues Connection with the Washington, D.C government to serve many factions of the community in Washington.

He was the President for over 4 years of the D.C. Blues Society and Festival Director of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Annual DC Blues Festivals. Michael currently performs as a solo performer, as the leader of the Michael Roach Band and as a duo with harmonica master Johnny Mars.

Mr. Roach is an exceptional performer who has developed his own unique rhythm and blues style after many years of learning directly from such well known figures as John Jackson, John Cephas and Jerry Ricks. Come experience the indisputable genius of Michael Roach.

Songwriter, harmonica player and singer Johnny Mars was raised in a sharecropping family. He was given his first harmonica at age nine. His family lived in various places around the South, including North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

When Mars' mother died in 1958, the older family members settled in Florida, while Johnny and his younger brother went to live in New Paltz, N.Y. After he graduated from high school, he played club shows around New York and recorded with his band Burning Bush for Mercury Records.

In the mid-1960s, Mars moved to San Francisco, where he met Dan Kennedy and formed the Johnny Mars Band, playing clubs and festivals in northern California, as well as shows for rock promoter/impresario/producer Bill Graham.However, Mars could not seem to expand his audience much in San Francisco. After hearing about the greener pastures across the pond from his friend Rick Estrin of Little Charlie and the Nightcats, he toured England in 1972. There, he recorded a couple of albums, eventually moving to West London in 1978. Working with producer Ray Fenwick, who also worked with Spencer Davis, Ian Gillan, Mars met with success on the much praised album, Life On Mars.

In 1991, Mars became a featured soloist with the British New Wave pop group Bananarama. The group used him on their singles "Preacher Man," "Megalomaniac," and "Long Train Running," and he appeared in the group's video of "Preacher Man." Through the 1990s, Mars retained his strong European fan base, and he enjoys particularly strong followings in Ireland, Scotland and Scandinavia. Critics there have called him "the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica." Over the years, Mars has shared bills with Hendrix (before he was well-known) and Magic Sam.

In 1992, after a long absence from the Bay Area blues scene, owing to his new foothold in England and the rest of Europe, Mars was invited to play at the San Francisco Blues Festival. Mars' 1994 U.S. release for MM&K Recordings, Stateside with Johnny Mars, features brilliant, original, topical compositions and superb, unique harmonica playing, unfettered by the standard Chicago blues conventions. ~ Richard Skelly, All Music Guide

These gentlemen will offer breathtaking virtuosity and wide-ranging musical palette in the lovely garden and historic house constructed in 1913. The home was home for over fifty years to civil rights pioneers Dr. Edwin B. and Mary Ellen Henderson.

Don't miss the opportunity to meet Michael Roach and Johnny Mars, connect with fellow blues lovers and help the Tinner Hill John Jackson Blues Festival. If you are unable to attend we can still support the Blues Festival by making a donation.

Event co-hosts:
Trish Byerly, Ed & Nikki Henderson

The Henderson House & Garden
307 S. Maple Ave.
Falls Church, VA. 22046
(703) 534-4627

Date & Time:
Sunday, July 27th
6 PM

Tickets: $25.00 each
The concert includes hors d'oeuvres extraordinaire, luscious desserts, and cool beverages.
A Cash wine bar will be available.

Parking, in the designated parking lot adjacent to the Henderson House.

Please mail checks and/or money order for reservations and donations to:
Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation
P.O. Box 6117
Falls Church, VA. 22040

For more information about Michael visit:
For more information about Johnny Mars visit:
For more information about Tinner Hill visit:

Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. The festival is co-sponsored by Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and the City of Falls Church.

We warmly welcome your friends. Feel free to forward this e-mail those who may be interested in a wonderful evening of refreshments, music and the opportunity to help the Tinner Hill Blues Festival! Please bear in mind this is an advance invitation event open ONLY to those with reservations/tickets.

Thank you!"

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mr. Jacquet's Texas Tenor still sounds tough

The late Illinois Jacquet certainly left his mark on musical history with so many outstanding recordings. The Man I Love is a marvelous reissue from the French Black & Blue label that I downloaded from emusic (I believe it is available on other download services such as amazon and itunes). A trio date with organist Wild Bill Davis and drummer Al Bartee, there are few musical surprises, but plenty of space for Mr. Jacquet's tough texas tenor as well as space for organ pioneer, Wild Bill davis to shine. Perhaps not a lot of surprises in the music contained as it includes classic big band swing numbers. Still Jacquet handles it in his own distinctive approach with a heavy blues foundation (and a bit of vibrato in the manner of Ben Webster) with a dash of Lester Young in how he phrases his solos. This can be heard in the marvelous trio rendition of Cottontail, a feature for Webster in the Ellington Band of the early forties. The title track is taken at a quicker tempo than usual for a song most probably identify with Billie Holiday's classic renditions. Of course Jacquet was one of the great ballad players as evidenced on Misty. There are also strong renditions of Herschel Evans blues ballad, Blue and Sentimental, and Ellington's It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got the Swing). I won't claim this is a definitive Jacquet disc, just one that has given me plenty of enjoyment after downloading it and well worth folks sampling.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Still believing in Louis Jordan

Its the centennial for the great Louis Jordan (1908-1975) whose influence still can be felt in today's music. The vocalist and his wonderful fan, The Tympany Five, were a bridge between the swing era and jump blues (and rock'n'roll). Songs of his like "Let the Good Times Roll" and Caldonia," remain staples of blues, R&B and noveau swing repertoire. And his music is quite available from a Bear Family deluxe box set of his Decca Recordings, public domain reissues of these same recordings and post-Decca sides. He was also a major cross-over artist and had duets with other pop artists like Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby. For a nice concise biography check out the one written by Bill Dahl on

Jordan's last recordings were made for the French Black & Blue label back in 1973, I Believe in Music. A session that included Irv Cox on tenor saxophone, Dave Burrell on piano (and he was on the Mercury New Orleans R&B sessions that included Professor Longhair), bassist John Duke and drummer Archie Taylor. While he would pass in less than two years, these exuberant recordings give no sense that Jordan had lost any of his powers, as these recordings illustrate Bill Dahl's observation about "Jordan's own searing alto sax and street corner jive-loaded sense of humor." This was issued on Evidence some time ago and now available for download from various sources (emusic, itunes, amazon, etc.).

From the bluesy alto that opens the disc with Its a Low Down Dirty Shame, through the closing instrumentals, there is a joy to this music that helps explain his immense popularity and influence on such artists who themselves became legends like B.B. King, Ray Charles and Sonny Rollins. There is more than a heavy dose of Jordan's humorous take on the blues like Three-Handed Woman, and Hard Head. Bill Dahl in his bio of Jordan notes Jordan had become a lounge performer and this affected his selection of material citing mac Davis' tune that gave this album its title as an example, but if Jordan included I Believe in Music, because he was primarily playing playing Vegas lounges, his exuberant performance transcends the lounge repertoire. If this is lounge music, well then let me here more in this vein. Considering how many mediocre renditions of Caldonia are out there in the blues world (and I point to Gatemouth Brown, Muddy Waters and Pinetop Perkins as easy examples), it is refreshing to hear the master on his last recording of this tune, including his jivey rap in the middle. Almost every rendition of this song lacks the simple joy of Jordan's ebullient approach. Then there is the lively rendition of a party that got out of hand on Saturday Night Fish Fry. Further display of his marvelous bluesy alto saxophone is heard on Red Top and Take the A Train. These thirty-five year old performances sound lively and fresh today and make much of what is called blues sound pretty pallid today.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Payne and Edmondson Sensational Soul-Blues

The title track of the new Delta Groove CD by the Jackie Payne-Steve Edmonson Band, Overnight Sensation, quickly dispels that myth as Payne sings of growing up to Lightning Hopkins and T-Bone Walker, playing with Johnny Copeland and touring with Johnny Otis. “they call me an overnight sensation, but it sure has been a mighty long time.” Often such songs can come off flat, but this gem penned by vocalist Payne and guitarist Edmonson sets the tone for this soulful, funky set of modern urban blues. This is the third collaboration between the two veterans of the blues scene. Payne had been featured with Johnny Otis for about 15 years, and then had several fine recordings in the company of guitarist Kenny ‘Blue’ Ray (including an album under Payne’s name for JSP) while Edmonson had made his mark with various musicians before the two teamed up and put together a terrific band that include bassist Bill Singletary; drummer Nicky Otis (one of Johnny’s sons); saxophonist Carl Green and trumpeter Lech Wierzynski.

Payne and Edmonson are responsible for most of the material here but their are some choice interpretations of vintage material such as Gene Barge’s Mother-in-Law Blues, with Payne’s gripping vocal and Edmonson’s sizzling guitar work certainly compares favorable with Buddy Guy’s Chess original. of the originals, Take a Chance on Me, has a Latin tinge with a strong Memphis soul-styled vocal by Payne and a nice trumpet break from Green. Mitch Kashmar adds harp (and the horns sit out) for the Windy City salute I Got a Mind to Go to Chicago, while the mood shifts on the jazzy Uptown Woman Downtown Man, with a vocal that would have done the late Lou Rawls proud. The rest of this album is equally good. There is a terrific remake of Your Good Thing (Is About to Come to an End), the strutting funk of Bag Full of Doorknobs, with a great line “My woman has a bag full of doorknobs, she changes the lock every time I leave home.” and some tasty guitar commentary from Edmonson. It is followed by the driving deep-soul medley She’s Looking Good/ I’ve Never Found a Girl. After the instrumental Bringin’ Me Right Home, this disc ends with Charlie Rich’s Feel Like Going Home, with a country-soul flavoring in Payne’s vocal that ends this marvelous disc on another high musical note. There are some singers who affect me deeper than Payne does, but none of them sing as soulfully and consistently strongly as Payne does here and with the superior playing by guitarist Edmonson and the band, this certainly will be on my list of best blues recordings of 2008.

Homemade Jamz Youthful Blues

Much has been made about the family band from Mississippi, The Homemade Jamz Blues Band who were runners up at the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge a year or so ago.

When Lucky Peterson first came to attention as a very young child playing keyboards and singing the blues, there was no doubt that part of his appeal was as a child. One might be tempted to suggest that part of the appeal of The Homemade Jamz Blues band is their youth. The Perry siblings range from 9 year old drummer Tara, 13 year old Kyle on bass and 15 year old Ryan on guitar and vocals, yet perhaps because of the maturity of the vocals in particular, this trio does not come across as a novelty act. Northern Blues has issued the trio’s debut recording, “Pay Me No Mind.” With the exception of the closing rendition of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” all the songs are written by their father, Renaud, who also adds harp to several songs while producer Miles Wilkinson plays rhythm guitar on several tracks. Listening to this disc, one would not guess they were so young, and they sound as accomplished as many bands much older than them. At the same time like many often highly touted recordings, nothing on this recording is striking or compelling. There are several songs that build on a Stevie Ray Vaughn styled power riff and two tracks, including the Hooker classic and ‘Pay Me No Mind,’ are nice workouts in the North Mississippi Hills style. The elder Perry provides typical blues themes in his songs such as the philosophical ‘Who Your Real Friends Are,’ who reveal themselves when you are heading to the bottom, or ‘Voodoo Woman,’ a well worn blues theme. One expects the trio to mature and grow, especially Ryan as a vocalist, who needs to exhibit a bit more of a relaxed or a bit of hesitation to his vocals. That is one aspect of their music that should improve with maturity and experience. One can imagine with the youthful exuberance they must bring to the performances, that they are a terrific live act. It should be noted that they have been booked on encore performances of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, indicating that they put on really good shows.

I will hopefully have an opportunity to see them August 9 when the DC Blues Society presents them at the Surf Club, and I expect to enjoy the live performance more than this album, which is respectable, but not extraordinary.