Friday, May 8, 2015

Blues News You Can Use - Spring, 2015

Greetings!  We will be touching on a few different topics this week......

First off, B.B. King announced last week that he was under hospice care at his home in Las Vegas.  There have been conflicting reports that he was having issues with his blood pressure and diabetes, that he suffered a mild heart attack or stroke, that his management was abusing him, keeping friends and musicians from seeing him, and stealing from him.  His family and his management are in a big dispute over who is handling his affairs.  It's really sad that it's come to this.  A court decision today stated that King was not being abused by his management, but the family is still trying to wrest power of attorney away from King's longtime manager.  I'm not sure who's in the right and who's wrong, but please keep this great man in your prayers and hope that this can be resolved with as little turmoil as possible, so his final days can at least be peaceful ones.

More sad news.......Randy Chortkoff, founder, president, and CEO of Delta Groove Productions, passed away on May 4th.  Chortkoff worked tirelessly as a producer, promoter, and performer for a long time before founding Delta Groove about 15 years ago, where he continued his work with Delta Groove Records, Eclecto-Groove Records, No Respect Records, and Festivals Exclusive Booking Agency.  He also continued to promote independent artists and festivals.  Delta Groove is one of the major players in the blues these days, thanks to his tireless work.  Chortkoff was 65 years old.

(Thanks to American Blues Scene for the information)

Last night (May 7th), the 2015 Blues Music Awards were held at Cook Convention Center in Downtown Memphis.  Below are the categories, nominees, and winners (in bold).  Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees.

Acoustic Album
Hard Luck Child: A Tribute to Skip James – Rory Block
Jericho Road – Eric Bibb
Jigsaw Heart – Eden Brent
Son & Moon: A Tribute to Son House – John Mooney
Timeless – John Hammond

Acoustic Artist
Doug MacLeod
Eric Bibb
John Hammond
John Mooney
Rory Block

Can’t Even Do Wrong Right – Elvin Bishop
Living Tear To Tear – Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
Memphis Grease – John Németh
Refuse to Lose – Jarekus Singleton
Wrapped Up and Ready – The Mannish Boys

B.B. King Entertainer
Bobby Rush
Elvin Bishop
John Németh
Rick Estrin
Sugaray Rayford

Elvin Bishop Band
John Németh & the Bo-Keys
Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
The Mannish Boys

Best New Artist Album
Chromaticism – Big Harp George
Don’t Call No Ambulance – Selwyn Birchwood
Heavy Water – Fo’ Reel
Making My Mark – Annika Chambers & the Houston All-Stars
One Heart Walkin‘ – Austin Walkin’ Cane

Contemporary Blues Album
Can’t Even Do Wrong Right – Elvin Bishop
Original – Janiva Magness
Refuse to Lose -Jarekus Singleton
Hornet’s Nest – Joe Louis Walker
BluesAmericana – Keb’ Mo’

Contemporary Blues Female Artist
Beth Hart
Bettye LaVette
Janiva Magness
Marcia Ball
Shemekia Copeland

Contemporary Blues Male Artist
Elvin Bishop
Gary Clark Jr.
Jarekus Singleton
Joe Bonamassa
Joe Louis Walker

From His Head to His Heart to His Hands – Michael Bloomfield (Columbia/Legacy)
Live at the Avant Garde – Magic Sam (Delmark)
Soul & Swagger: The Complete “5” Royales 1951-1967 – The “5” Royales (Rock Beat)

The Modern Music Sessions 1948-1951 – Pee Wee Crayton (Ace)
The Roots of it All-Acoustic Blues – Various Artists (Bear Family)

Bob Stroger
Lisa Mann
Michael “Mudcat” Ward
Patrick Rynn
Willie J. Campbell

Jimi Bott
June Core
Kenny Smith
Tom Hambridge
Tony Braunagel

Anson Funderburgh
Joe Bonamassa
Johnny Winter
Kid Andersen
Ronnie Earl

Charlie Musselwhite
Kim Wilson
Mark Hummel
Rick Estrin
Sugar Ray Norcia

Al Basile
Deanna Bogart
Jimmy Carpenter
Sax Gordon
Terry Hanck

Koko Taylor Award
Alexis P Suter
Diunna Greenleaf
EG Kight
Ruthie Foster
Trudy Lynn

Pinetop Perkins Piano Player
Barrelhouse Chuck
Bruce Katz
David Maxwell
Eden Brent
Marcia Ball

Rock Blues Album
Step Back – Johnny Winter
Goin’ Home – Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Time Ain’t Free – Nick Moss Band
heartsoulblood – Royal Southern Brotherhood
The Blues Came Callin’ – Walter Trout

“Another Murder in New Orleans” written by Carl Gustafson & Donald Markowitz, performed by Bobby Rush and Dr. John with Blinddog Smokin’
“Bad Luck Is My Name” written and performed by John Németh
“Can’t Even Do Wrong Right” written and performed by Elvin Bishop
“Let Me Breathe” written by Janiva Magness & Dave Darling, performed by Janiva Magness
“Things Could Be Worse” written by Ray Norcia, performed by Sugar Ray & the Bluetones

Soul Blues Album
Blues for My Father – Vaneese Thomas
Decisions – Bobby Rush with Blinddog Smokin’
In My Soul - The Robert Cray Band
Memphis Grease – John Németh
Soul Brothers – Otis Clay & Johnny Rawls

Soul Blues Female Artist
Candi Staton
Missy Andersen
Sharon Jones
Sista Monica
Vaneese Thomas

Soul Blues Male Artist
Bobby Rush
Curtis Salgado
John Németh
Johnny Rawls
Otis Clay

Traditional Blues Album
Common Ground: Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy – Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin
For Pops (A Tribute to Muddy Waters) – Mud Morganfield & Kim Wilson
Livin’ it Up – Andy T-Nick Nixon Band
Living Tear To Tear – Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
The Hustle is Really On – Mark Hummel
Wrapped Up and Ready – The Mannish Boys

Traditional Blues Male Artist
Billy Boy Arnold
John Primer
Lurrie Bell
Sugar Ray Norcia
Sugaray Rayford

It's been a great week for the blues in the Bluff City but it's not quite over.  There's another major event taking place this weekend in Memphis......the Grand Opening of the Blues Hall of Fame. We will be taking a closer look at it in a few weeks.

This past weekend, I attended the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for the first time in 21 years.  From 1987 to 1994, I was a regular attendee, going at least once each year until family obligations, bills, etc...put our annual excursions on hold for a bit, then other things began to happen and soon, Jazz Fest became an afterthought.

Then, I made The Promise.  My daughter is a huge fan of  a musician named Ed Sheeran and for Christmas, she asked me for tickets to one of his shows.  Well, Mr. Sheeran wasn't scheduled to appear anywhere in our vicinity for the next extended period, so no tickets were to be found.  When I reported this to her, she asked if I would promise to take her to see him if he ever came close to us.  Being the wonderful dad that I am, I promised to do so.

Although my kids had never been to Jazz Fest, I have been telling them how cool it was for years.  They listened attentively, or pretended to do so in hopes that I would soon stop talking about it, and I told them we would have to go one day in the future.  Well, I always look at the roster of musicians that will be performing at Jazz Fest and, lo and behold, this year's list included one Ed Sheeran.  I decided that I would wait and see what day he was case it was during the week since she would not be able to attend because of school.

Turns out that she was checking his tour dates all along and soon she found about he was at Jazz Fest.  So, next thing you know, my sister and I are taking my daughter to Jazz Fest this past Saturday to see Ed Sheeran, an artist that I was almost totally unfamiliar with.  Oh well, I figured, I'll learn more about this guy and it will give me an opportunity to show my daughter some of the other great music and culture that comes forth from Louisiana.  

Cyril Neville at 2015 Jazz Fest (courtesy Offbeat)

That was the plan anyway.  There were some pretty good acts playing that day.  Aaron Neville was playing at the Blues Tent, the Royal Southern Brotherhood was playing, piano man Davell Crawford was doing a Fats Domino tribute, Kermit Ruffins, Terrence Blanchard, Jerry Lee Lewis, there's always a jazz parade....those are cool to see.  The craft tents are really neat.  The food is fantastic......I'd been thinking about crawfish bread for two weeks before Saturday.  

A few things have changed since the last time I attended.  One of them is that the prices have soared.  I think it used to cost maybe $10 to go in when I started going, and you could actually park inside the Fairgrounds for about $5 or so if you got there early enough.  Now, you can park outside the Fairgrounds if you can find a parking spot, or pay someone in the neighborhood to let you park in their yard, or you can take a shuttle bus from either City Park or the Downtown area.  

We opted to park at City Park and take the shuttle, which cost about $85 total....$70 for the Fest, $15 for the shuttle.  Unfortunately, they were a few buses short for us to go in, so we waited about two hours at City Park, standing in a really long line.  Luckily, it was fairly cool and everyone was in pretty good spirits and very patient.  Also, the Jazz Fest staff stationed at the park (all unpaid volunteers from what I understand) were very nice and very helpful.

Once we made it to the Fairgrounds, I was totally unprepared for what I saw.  I can safely say that I have never seen so many people in one place in my nearly 52 years of living.  When we stepped onto the Fairgrounds, it looked like somebody had stirred up an ant bed.  I have read reports stating that there were over 100,000 people in attendance that day (I would bet that it was closer to 150,000).  I think approximately 40,000 of them were lined up at the Port-a-Johns.

Approximately 20,000 were lined up at the Food Booths, so we opted for the shortest line we could find, which served a shrimp/sausage bisque that was very tasty, but not the crawfish bread I had been dreaming of.....maybe next time.  The inner circle of the Fairgrounds area, where the craft tents and such are located were nearly packed by folks who were sitting in chairs under the trees cooling off or visiting with friends, so it was pretty hard to get around in there and we opted out of there pretty fast.

It was taking a while to move from one place to another, and when we did make it near a stage, it was between acts, so I missed out on the Royal Southern Brotherhood and Kermit Ruffins (though I did get close enough to hear a little bit of his show).  My daughter wanted to try and see a bit of Elton John's show before we headed to the opposite end of the Fairgrounds to see Ed Sheeran, so we tried to work our way over there, but quickly ran aground in a solid mass of humanity who had the same idea.  We couldn't get within a quarter mile of the Acura Stage, where John was playing, so we backed off and headed to the race track area, hoping to work our way around to the other side, but struck out there as well.

Ed Sheeran at 2015 Jazz Fest

We decided that if we were going to actually see Ed Sheeran perform, we had better start in his direction, so we trudged across the packed soil of the race track and managed to get a pretty decent view of the stage.  There were probably 35,000 to 40,000 folks waiting with us.  Soon, Mr. Sheeran came out onstage.  As I said, I was not familiar with him at all, but he did a great job, playing solo with his acoustic guitar, mixing a little bit of rock, soul, pop, and even a bluesy tune that most of the crowd talked through around us.  I liked it okay, but my daughter LOVED it and when we finally headed for the exits a short time later, she began talking about going to Jazz Fest next year.

One of the other things that has changed about Jazz Fest over the years is the fact that they now feature some big name acts that lean more toward rock and pop mainstream music, such as John, Sheeran, the Who, and in recent years Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Eric Clapton.  While this decision might have put off longtime fair goers, who enjoyed the earlier, more regional, feel of the festival with more local acts, it has really increased attendance in recent years.  Hopefully, some of those who come to see the mainstream acts find time to take in some of the local Louisiana or southern-based musicians while they're visiting. 

I think that if we do come back next year, we will look at possibly attending on Thursday or Friday.  Back in the day, those days were usually less crowded, there were more local acts that played, and you could get around a lot better.  While it was nice to actually return to Jazz Fest, it was a bit frustrating trying to get around and actually see or do anything.  

It wasn't all frustration though......the T-shirts this year were really cool and those lines weren't so bad to deal with, and I would say that about 99% of the people we encountered were extremely nice.  Also, the record tent is still there, with CDs from all or most of the acts playing the Fest.  I also found out that Jazz Fest also offers CDs, DVDs, and downloads of previous performances dating back to around 2005 from many of their acts.  

One of the great things I remember about my previous Jazz Fests was the music that I picked up in the tent from acts that I'd heard there.  Now, you can actually buy CDs and occasionally DVDs of the performances you just watched (there's a place to buy them at the Jazz Fest website).  I picked up CDs from two of my favorites....Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas and Walter "Wolfman" Washington, both from their 2011 Jazz Fest appearances.....but would have loved to have brought home a couple of others.

All in all, I've had better experiences.  All the standing in long lines reminded me of registration during my college days and I'm not a real crowd person anymore.  However, I remember what a huge influence that my previous Jazz Fest experiences were on my current music interests.  My love for the blues really took off during those years and I discovered a lot of blues musicians that I probably never would have heard otherwise.  Hopefully, my kids will one day be able to have such an experience, only maybe it will be on a day where it's a little easier to get from Point A to Point B so they can actually see a few things.

Besides, the smile on my daughter's face when her musical hero walked on stage was worth all of the crowds and lines we endured, so yeah, I'm pretty sure we'll be going back.  So will a couple of hundred thousand other people as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review...the crowds are exactly why I will never attend Jazz Fest...ridiculous!