It is often difficult to say who was the best act, or your favorite on these amazing Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruises. Often we go prepared to just love the hell outta a certain band for various reasons, or dislike or not be thrilled for the same opposing ones.
I often find that it falls into place as it unfolds before one. Yes the Bobby Blue Bland Tribute was fantastic, touching, weepy-eyed at times and magnificent for various reasons. I personally love the Lionel Young Band, their blend of sounds and styles plus the energy they shoot from the stage is like a true boogie woogie flu – can’t resist it and it takes ya down for the count. This year the surprise was band the Otis Taylor Band.
I have known Otis’ work for several years, I especially enjoyed and learned much from his Recapturing The Banjo release. I never knew the banjo could be so funky, blues’d out and powerful. I never saw him live and there are always ‘issues’ when Otis’s name comes up it seems – mostly from people who do not know how to take him or handle his view on life and music. But since that don’t confront me later for all that. I was ready and willing to take on this ‘trance blues’ banjo rural thang he was putting down and found myself getting more and more excited as the hour drew near.
Maybe the proximity of the Crows Nest (a smaller venue) made it all the more appealing – the intimacy of being up close with him and his band to experience his views on music and sound. Maybe it was the new friendship that had evolved with Otis’ eldest daughter, Ms. Cassie Taylor (also of Girls with Guitars fame) that made me feel like something very exciting was going to happen. Maybe I was ready to be released?
Setting up with a good spot to watch from, Cassie noticed me and waved so I went over to her for a chat. What an amazing young lady. Talented beyond her years, smart, playful and deadly serious about music. At that point the band was just getting set and then BLAM they were on – I almost got caught short it all happened so quickly, a few words, smile and then they were on the stage playing music that immediately struck at the souls of just about everyone there.
Otis, the man-bear of Colorado surveying the lay of the land strumming, tuning and defining the aural and visual space that we were in. Jon Paul Johnson his young and dynamic guitar player sending out notes that reached the stars and played amongst the eternities and Otis set a base back home for him to land when needed. Ms. Anne Harris – fiddler extraordinaire, a leaping lady using her fiddle as an extension of herself, gyrating, jumping and taking us with her as she captained her own star-ship of sound that folded into the band in a unifying collection of individuals who were acting as one.
Ms. Cassie Taylor on bass had, quite possibly the hardest job keeping the bottom in and the beat on. thumping at sea level sound at times, well below the range of many of us, but it was felt through the body reaching in and replacing your own heart beat and sense of rhythm. Letting us up for air just enough to notice that drummer Larry Thompson was working Afro-rhythmic patterns and weaving in and out of the shared reality of this show.
As they moved with some re-aligment and tunings thru their set Otis was very aware of the audience -asking if there were questions or comments. None were voiced, as I believe we were all enthralled to be passengers on this mystical trip. Mr. Taylor certainly knows how to choose band members and to maximize their talents. In the case of Ms. Harris he allowed her to accompany him, lead and provide the spark that some may have seen as missing in the band. She is a whirling dervish that captures each note on the fiddle and assures it of a long and healthy life. Mr. Johnson on guitar can absolutely shred that mutha and is allowed to work that sonic warfare into the context of the greater good of the band. Their version of the Jimi Hendrix tune ‘Hey Joe’ is a perfect example of everyone coming together and creating a life form from their parts. Staccato beginnings from a tremulous Mr. Taylor with echoes of reverb casting a shimmering plate setting, dressed by Ms Harris’ subtle fiddle workings which builds to a crescendo wherein Mr. Johnson breaks down his guitar and proceeds to re-build it in a new form capturing the desperate situation in the song as they flee together to Mexico and settle back down to a quiet existence amongst the hills and sun parched land of new found freedom.
At various points during the show other artists came up to join the band – which to me is a tribute to the band itself. Mr. Roy Gaines, Mr. Victor Griffin, Ms. Eden Brent and others wanted to be part of what was going down that late afternoon as we left Cabo San Lucas and headed toward La Paz. If the clamoring audience is any sign of appreciation of a bands performance then it was a huge success. Cruisers were ten deep at spots to congratulate and clamor around Mr. Taylor and his band.
Mr. Taylor is sponsoring a Trance Fest in Colorado Thanksgiving weekend. It is open to all who wish to attend and more information can be found at this site along with more info on Mr. Taylor:
We have an extensvie collection of photos from this show in the Crows Nest as well as other events on the Blues411 Photot site:
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
photos: Leslie K. Joseph