Friday, June 16, 2006

Down at the nightclub...

I had the unusual opportunity last week to play some music plus go out and hear some bands, so that's what I did. Here's what I observed during my travels around the Jet City.


Pianist Annieville Blues (left, with yours truly) was kind enough to hire me to play on her regular duo gig at Bad Albert's Tap and Grill in olde Ballard. Annieville told me that she has been playing this gig for ten years now (yikes!) with constantly rotating guests such as guitarist Brian Butler, Jack Cook, Mark Whitman, and blues harpist Paul Green. She also plays occasionally with a full band that features A-list Seattle blues musicians.

I must admit that the duo format is something that I struggle with, but we had fun playing straight ahead blues and some Louisiana style second line stuff. The club was practically empty (so what's new?) until about a half an hour into the last set when Annieville's CD posse finally showed up. I dig these guys - they appreciate the music, and are good tippers too. Thanks for the gig, Annieville!


I dropped by the Corner Inn on Friday night to see the Chris Stevens Band. Chris had invited me earlier to sit in, so I played the last set with them. This is a terrific band that can play everything from Freddie King to the Ventures to T-Bone Walker tunes and everything in between. Sometimes the band features one or two sax players, but this night the band was a quartet, featuring Brian Butler on second guitar and vocals. The band sounded great, as usual, even though they were playing to a practically empty house by the end of the night. Chris also appears occasionally at the Blue Monday jam at the Highway 99 Blues Club, where his set is always considered a blues guitar seminar.

The Chris Stevens Band, left to right: Brian Butler, Alan Isaacson, Mark Dalton, and Chris Stevens - The Corner Inn


Saturday night I visited two clubs, including the New Orleans Creole Restaurant and the Highway 99 Blues Club.

A ten-piece soul/disco/funk band called Soul Vaccination from Portland, Oregon was playing at the New Orleans. This band had the stage packed - the instrumentation included guitar, bass, drums, keys, two singers, and four horns (tenor sax, tenor/bari sax/flute, and two trumpets). During the set that I watched they played a pretty well known (but seldom heard) selection of Tower Of Power tunes, disco numbers, and ballads. But no James Brown stuff, dang it!

Soul Vaccination - New Orleans Creole Restaurant

Man, this band rocks with that horn section blasting away! This is the kind of group that I see occasionally at large tradeshow parties - just about the only kind of gig that can pay this many musicians decently. The club was about three-quarters full, with lots of folks doing (or trying to do, anyway) the Electric Slide on one disco number.

You know, I wish the New Orleans would fly a couple of decent PA speakers above the stage. Currently, the speakers sit on opposite corners of the stage, so one is typically pointed at the bar, and the other at the restaurant. You can't really hear both speakers no matter where you sit in the club.

Left to right: Harold Brown, Rockin' Jake (harp), and Lee Oskar (harp) - Highway 99 Blues Club

Rockin' Jake, a four piece band from New Orleans was holding court at the Highway 99 Blues Club. Fronted by Rockin' Jake himself on harp and vocals, I heard the band do a couple of blues tunes and then Jake invited former War band members Harold Brown and Lee Oskar to join the band on stage.

I guess that Lee Oskar has been living in the Seattle area for a while now, and has played at several local venues during that time, but this was the first time that I actually saw and heard him play. The band played a long funky instrumental jam with both Rockin' Jake and Lee Oskar both blowing harp. Oskar sounded quite good, but had some difficulties with feedback while playing through the house PA system. After Oskar left the stage, Harold Brown played a tune with the band, and was swinging hard. know what? What they say is true - "Live music is best!"

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