Gary's Review - 28 October 2022
Was this the best Open Mic night ever?
We started with the eye-opening Steve Gray as a soloist on seven string bass. Hmm. Never seen that before. With pre-recorded backing tracks he put together an ensemble sound with the kind of technical skill where you get dazzled. Not only original material but very original in concept of performance.
Steve Bobs use of slide guitar took as to another room altogether. His playing of the Weissenborn - with its distinctive, sweet tone - was wonderful especially when as a soloist he added harmonica. Love Rescue Me was particularly interesting because we had a Scottish folk melody fitting in at a blues club but – with that guitar – sounding like country and western. The instrument is effective in blues, but somehow that sound eventually leads you to the “Ye ha!” But all these genres, as the music of various working peoples - they are close cousins.
Peter Thompson made a great contribution as a multi-instrumentalist - as a soloist (was it three or four instruments?) and in leading the first part of the jam session when he donned a beautiful clean skin strat. Sometimes there is a particular kind of silence that will descend on a audience – where people are not only listening but listening intently. Peter got that many times e.g. at the beginning with his take on Robert Johnson but notably with his opening to “Jesus is on the Mainline” on Mandolin.
Then we had two of our house bands Chord On Bleus and Swamp Ratzzzz. That is quite a brag for a small blues club.
From the Chord On Bleus I so…so …enjoyed the Ornette Coleman… Wow! I was sixteen again listening to jazz on the radio. And once Robert’s instrument took us through to genre blending – start blues on an electric guitar and it will lead you to jazz phrases. But jazz and blues: like sisters.
The Swamp Ratzzz set was the best I have ever seen of them. I thought Paul’s solos on that beautiful blue Stratocaster were a high point of the night. His work was tight and “in-there” with that excellent thing going on with the rhythm section. The solos looked just so interesting.
It is worth mention what a good singer Frankie is. A clear strong voice with never a weak note.
I say that because with some of the other performers on the night (and on other nights) that was not always the case, even leaving the end of a song-line with a half-arse note like you would let the water out the dam. No problems with Frankie that way. Far from it. Such an accomplished singer.
Skip Landy did a great job as stand in keyboard. But then again he seemed to be there all the time - plus helping guest talent set up - under-pinning much of the night. MVP award.
Then we got the silky talents of new comer Mark McGurgan on alto sax, keyboard and vocals in the jam session with Peter Thompson setting the musical direction. Talk about musicality – where music sounds really good – we got it. Mark exudes sweet music. Please, please, please can we see him again?
I learned at the end of the jam that you don’t jump in to lead-sing with a new band without 1) warming up your voice first - I always do that with solo performances - and 2) at my stage of development, rehearsing it first with at least with one of the leading players. I did not know how to get the engine started. Then, also, because I hadn’t rehearsed it recently, forgot one of the verses. But, hey, aren’t open mic's about learning?