A December, 1983 television production “In Session” in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada featuring Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan has become legendary. The music has been been available for years (and Stax reissued it a few years back) as has been video of the television broadcast. Now Stax has issued a deluxe DVD/CD set of “In Session” that includes three previously unissued performances on the DVD which had been left out of the original broadcast because of time constraints. The previously unissued performances of signature songs of Albert, “Born On A Bad Sign,” and Stevie Ray, “Texas Flood,” along with Albert doing the blues standard “I’m Going to Move to the Outskirts of Town.”
While they had previously played together at Antoine’s in Austin,Texas, this session was performed not too long after Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood,” was released. In the liner notes for this new release of this material Samuel Charters writes, “It was evident from the first choruses, that they were playing for each other. And that was the best audience either of them could ever have. The music never lost its intensity, its quality of something very important being handed back and forth and there was time for Stevie and Albert to see where their ideas took them.” It is a joy to watch the two interact, accompanied by Tony Llorens on piano and organ; Gus Thornton on bass; and Michael Llorens on drums. They were the rhythm section on the two albums King recorded for Fantasy in the mid-eighties..
Watching and listening to them, it is clear that Albert is the mentor and Stevie Ray, his student as Albert recalls seeing Stevie and talking about others who play a lot of nots but lack soul, but Stevie was always watching and learning. Albert handles the bulk of the vocals and one watches them trade extended solos and play rhythm for each other. The vocals may be a tad restrained at the beginning of the performances, but as they get into them and get into their solos, their is some truly magical moments. At times, one can’t hear where Albert’s playing begins or ends from that of Stevie Ray as Vaughan’s playing here clearly shows King’s influence on him in the phasing and tone. Yet at other times, Vaughan’s playing is more in the vein of the post-war Texas blues guitar tradition.
The smiles they give the other’s playing and the hug by the two at the end of the performance shows that they realized just how magical the performances were. It was the last time they would share the stage together, and now all the magic of that December day in Hamilton is finally available. It is available for purchase on November 9, 2010.
For purposes of FTC regulations, my review copy was provided by the record company.