Monday, April 09, 2007

Paul deLay Memorial Concert

By Phil Chesnut

Last Sunday, April 1st, I was among the privileged few who were witness to a truly spiritual event, the memorial concert, celebrating the life and music of our beloved blues giant, Paul deLay. Held on two floors of the Portland Art Museum, the 5 hour, sold out show was a first class operation, thanks in great part to longtime deLay bandmates, Peter Dammann and Dave Kahl. Originally devised as a benefit for Paul's widow, Megan, and immediate family, the show was a huge success, even though a much larger venue would have easily sold out too. Hosted by the deLay band and it's many current and former members and featuring a multitude of fantastic blues talent, all paying their own personal respects, this special evening was truly memorable.

The evening's theme, "Remember Me," came from the title of one of Paul's many original songs. A heartfelt reflection on love and loss, Paul's song certainly helped set the mood for the night. With Paul's special harmonica case and his familiar bullet microphone resting on his trusty stool on the front, center of the stage, the evening's performances were all just a backdrop for this stunning image, reminding all of our great loss. Setting up each set and the various player's historical significance to Paul, was the night's MC, the renowned blues scholar, Ray Varner. "Uncle Ray" also helped set the tone by reminding us just how fortunate we were to have had this great bluesman with us at all.

Considering the huge list of musicians eager to pay their on homage to Paul, the concert ran smoothly and efficiently throughout the program. With the sound dialed in, a multi camera, large screen, video simulcast to the first floor lounge, a true photo pit for the pro shooters and a well catered green room, it was obviously run by someone with experience in important blues events. Of course, Dammann, the deLay guitarist for the past 2 decades, is also the man behind the gigantic, Waterfront Blues Festival and thus the reason for the high quality of this event.

This glorious night offered volumes of deLay songs and stories, interpreted by the fine talent that were all influenced by this hugely talented man. Long known for his great insights on human nature and his wry sense of humor, the savvy Portland crowd showed a festive feel for the majority of the night. The concert opened with a raucous set by Brown Sugar, the very first band to feature Paul. With old friend and fellow Portland harp ace, Bill Rhoades, taking Paul's parts and original band members Jim Mesi tearin' it up on guitar and a very rare performance by Lloyd Jones on drums, this opening set offered a good example of things to come.

With a rotating cast of deLay band members and alumni taking on the house band chores, the quality of the night's music was superb. Other deLay members that enhanced the night's show included keyboard masters, DK Stewart, David Vest and Louis Pain, with Don Campbell and John Mazzocco on bass, and drummers, Mike Klobas, Jeff Minnick and Kelly Dunn. Although the house band's personnel was in continual rotation, the love and appreciation for Paul was apparent all night. Highlights of this multi set memorial came from such NW blues greats as Terry Robb, from No deLay Band front person Linda Hornbuckle, blues belter Lily Wilde and Seattle's own writer, vocalist, and harp master Mark Dufresne. Certainly a high point of this massive showcase was a brilliant duet by Portland blues legends, Curtis Salgado and Lloyd Jones.

Demonstrating his own love and respect for Paul was the legendary Pinetop Perkins. The 93 year-old, former Muddy Waters pianist, not only left his scheduled tour to perform at this concert, he also broke his own long standing rule by playing the blues on Sunday. Probably the most memorable portion of this blues marathon came when NW blues darling, Duffy Bishop took the stage. Singing her own special dedication the big guy, which included a "duet for one," Duffy was the only one to use the sacred stool and play to the tools he left, that had decorated the stage all night. Upon receiving a framed, Duffy/Paul photo, late in her set, Duffy's true emotions surfaced, reminding all of our great loss. At that point, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

The final 90 minutes, or so, became an ever evolving, star studded, jam. With multiple mini sets from an outstanding list of even more worthy blues folk, including soulman, JC Ricco, Harpdog Brown from Canada, and So-Cal guitarist Frank Goldwasser. Along with the earlier headliners and numerous other artists not mentioned here, they continued to share anecdotes of Paul and tunes by Paul. The midnight, grand finale was an all artist, final collaboration, expressing their final gratitude for a man who touched so many.

Brown Sugar Band

Left to right: Jim Mesi, Mark Dufresne, D.K. Stewart, and Don Campbell

Curtis Salgado and Lloyd Jones

Left to right: Peter Dammann, Dave Kahl, and Pinetop Perkins

Duffy Bishop

Paul deLay's Space Case

Note: All of the photos in this article were created by Phil Chesnut.

1 comment:

The Blue Shoe Project said...

Awesome event, wish we could have been there!!