JAMES COTTON PERFORMANCE REVIEW WILKES-BARRE PA
I had the tremendous opportunity to see James Cotten and his band perform
last Thur evening (ll/3) at the River St. Jazz Cafe in Plains (just
outside WB). This was the first time I'd had the chance to see him live
and, as I'm sure most of the blues/harp fanatics know, he put on a hell
of a show.
The gig was plagued by just about every glitch and problem a show can
have, yet James and his band (Rico McFarland - guitar, Brian Jones -
drums, Anthony Space - Keyboards, and Michael Morrison - bass) rose to
the occasion, performed professionally and were hot-as-cinders.
The first problem was a missed flight connection by James (he flew in
from his home in Memphis) so he arrived during the second *warm-up* intro
song by the band. Ten minutes later he was on stage wailing and blowing like
he'd been there all evening.
James is currently on a small US tour (selcted dates according to his
manager) before going to South America later this month. I was told he'd
be doing extensive US touring early next year, so keep an ear out for
him. He's out in support of his new Gitanes/Verve release *living the
blues*. I was able to catch both sets, but only took notes during the
first so I could soak-up the music without interruption. 8-}
The band started the show in double time with an instrumental that
smoked! This band is one of the best grouping of side men to come through
our area in a long time, especially Rico and Brian. They are phenomenal.
The other two members are outstanding too, but these guys really shine.
When James came on after the third song, a slow/smokey/seething version
of *Stormy Monday* the crowd (fairly small for the first set, alas) was
ready for some straight ahead Chicago grooves. They were treated to a 75
minute set that did not dissapoint!
The second set was one of the strongest I've ever seen. The band came out
and warmed-up with some jazz tinged (sort of like Fenton Robinson I
think) songs before James came out and kicked it into high(er) gear.I
didn't recognize many of the songs, and no one in the band would admit to
knowing what was played either, so I didn't persue it.
Then about 45 or 50 minutes in, the second *problem* occured. Just as the
band had settled into it's groove a young, local blues guitarist (who had
the club owner *bug* James as far as I can tell [maybe not bug, but he
was responsible for taking him backstage and introducing him] to let him
get up on stage and *sit-in with the band*) got on stage. The folks on
Harp-l will recall the thread about that a couple months ago and it is clearly
tactless and in bad taste. James must of thought so too because he didn't
get on stage with him, even though the local asked him to. The band on the
other hand was pure pro. They didn't dog him or make him look bad, they kicked
ass and out performed him (although I must add the local boy held his own
- just barely).
Then James took the stage again, politely thanked the local for his
performing, and kicked back in with three more songs. Then he showed us
how it works by bringing up a young man from NJ called Deak Harp (he
admits it's an AKA) that has studied with James and is one of his
prodigies (not to be confused with the access provider). The cat can blow
too! He has a Little Walter style that was great (and he's a jump around,
down on the knees, leap to heaven showman) and it got even better when James
joined him on stage for a too brief duo.
Two hours after it had started, the set ended with an encore of
Hucklebuck. James is getting on in years and it was apparent that the
days hassles and the long performance had tired him, but during his sets
he had the spirit and enthusiasm of a young man. Make sure you catch his
set when he comes to your town!
More information about Deak Harp and his blues band can be obtained by
contacting MRT Management 718-745-6692 (and for you eric ;-} his dob is:
August 8, 1962 in Jersey City NJ). The guy has a lot of potential and
he's definitely up and coming.
Dan the Music Guy
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