After Steve Piper and Co. (Paul Dabrowski & Jason Arnold) opened up the Blues Jam at Gibson’s with a fairly blistering set- well, ‘blistering’ in the sense of, like, incredibly “smart,” shall we say: energetic and solid, driving and steady, rolling and rollicking without ever going any kind of “over the top” … civilized, highly enjoyable rocking blues, true to the tradition and stimulating to a wide audience- and at just the right volume level. Maybe it’s the room; maybe it’s the sound in the room… probably it’s the size and shape ahd the acoustics in the room, combined with the mighty fine PA and all, provided by the house (nice!) … that right there is a HUGEly welcome thing.
So, after that cool opener, the next-up set came from good ol’ Special K- Phyllis Lataille and Kenneth Kucza. First time we’d seen ’em here in this particular loco. LOVE the way they do that Stevie Windor boppy-roller, “Higher Ground,” and so did a bunch of others; I heard ’em say so. The song might not be entirely within the blues genre, strictly speaking, but the execution brings it on home. And the umbrella can open wide when we consider qualifiers like execution and delivery, or ‘presentation,’ musically speaking, on the one hand; and source or origin on the other (btw, Steve and I were just kicking this around, so…).
Material culled (or ‘sourced’) from all kinds of ‘neighboring pigeon-holes’ can transfer in: Motown especially, all kinds of rhythm & blues (obviously), and the over-arching spectrum of soul music (of course)… all this brings us to the very thing that Bill Goodwin just brought to my attention: DIVERSITY. Open ‘er up a bit, and next thing ya know, all kinds o’ peeps can play, and SO many more can enjoy, other expert axes, and audients alike. Jazz, arguably akin to blues as an authentic and indigenous American art-form, allows for the inclusion of the above ‘categories’ and a lot more, like funk and pretty much whatever the hell yawanna play- as long as ya lay it down with a blues twist, or play it between a couple o’ blues numbers.
Besides all that, as MC Piper said a little while ago, “it’s a JAM.” It ain’t quite ‘anything goes,’ but any decent player can work it in and make it work within the broad band of “blues” … and there SUREly ain’t no lack of decent players here; in fact, ‘decent’ is about the bare-bottom, entry-level minimum of talent here, and even ‘good enough’ is a rarity here. This is a “performance-portal” for professionals here; it’s almost (to my mind, anyway) like a gateway to the high-level and highly respectable network of pros who circulate around the Soringfield-Hartford corrider and thence southward. An element of this exists, admiradbly and inarguably, on Worthington Street in Springfield within the walls of Theodore’s Blues, Brews and Barbecue; and Wildcat O’Halloran holds forth an excellent outpost at City Sports in Northampton (also on Sundays). But, in these last couple-few years that your humble scribe has been on this beat, beating these friendly streets (not mean at all- communal, more like), it has been apparant that the sense of connection and community that exists within the entire, wide web of musicians in general and certain sub-groups as associated by style or age, or whatever; this bond of casual professionalism prevails among a HUGE number of blues players (and lovers) in the region starting in Springfield and extending south while spreading sideways both ways, east and west.
Diversity prevails as well, without an element of exclusion, as evidenced by the involvement, acceptance, and increasing regional success of a variety of blues-oriented artists. Bobby Paltauf, for example- the dude’s like, twelve I think! No, he must be 21 or more by now. And the Balkun Brothers- still fairly young as well, but paying their dues by carrying the blues to the whole generation of our parents’ grandchildren. In both cases, they present their love packaged for palatabilty but without compromise. In other words, these artists and others around the area are on a mission: they deliver to a wide audience and “educate the masses.” Those young hipsters and jammers might not realize it at first, and in fact these proponents may not have their ‘mission’ foremost in their minds and intentions at all times- they’re just doing what they dig, and sharing their passion.
Take Cold Shot for instance, Southwick’s trio of young ‘uns playing the blues and staying faithful to the tradition. Matter o’ fact, the excellently-slimming Jeff Fortier, that band’s bass-meister, brought his svelte-ness down here tonight and played a set (quite well, natch) with Jason Arnold and pals, including another even younger guy (brought Bobby P to mind; had to look twice). Perdomo came to the kit next, and then, for the next three hours, a dizzyingly mind-blowing array of artists took the stage and took our attention- and ran widdit, man; they took us places! We had some grooves in the mix, and some soulful singing; a set of instrumental funk stands out in retrospect; and some smooth jazz- energetic, ebullient even, but still smoooth…. I chirped in surprise, a bit loudly, as I thought I recognized the strains of Steely Dan’s “Peg” in one feller’s treatment, but no- ’twas a Grover Washington number. Oh, and flute- I heard a freakin’ flute, man! How cool is that? Blues flute- could be my new calling!
Gibson’s is the Gateway, it seems…
Piper’s portal is the entry-point…
Others help to set the stage…
It all heads south from here!
Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable