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September 18, 1996 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-09-18

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aceo ai
Blues an
By James Miller
Daily Arts Writer
:The Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz
Festival is as much a part ofAnn Arbor
frigid winters, dirty hippies and bad
gels. James Miller knows this town
better than most and attacked the annu-
al festival for the Daily with all his
might. Here's his recap of this year's
phenomenal event.
Day One, Michigan Theater
Scott Adams, the creator of"Dilbert,"
once said that "Life is making mistakes,
is knowing which ones to keep." At
Taj Mahal show Friday night, the
scheduled opener, Alvin "Youngblood"
-Hart, could not make it. The staff
scrambled and found some one to fill
in. They needed a ringer. They found a
bluesman with rare evocative powers
and disarming charm. Robert Jones
hosts the superlative WDET radio show
"Blues from the Lowland," a stalwart of
traditional blues radio. Jones' set con-
sisted of the mainstays of an acoustic
*ues repetoire, such as "Kindhearted
Woman" and "If I Had Possession Over
the Judgement Day" (Robert Johnson),
"Dust My Broom" (Elmore James) and
Son House's "Death-letter Blues."
Jones worked his way through these
tunes with near-peerless' musicianship
and a style of slide guitar that is as deep
as Elmore James and as athletic as
Bukka White. His finished his set with
tune called "Gospel Train" which
micked all the different kinds of peo-
pie he heard in church as a boy. Jones is
definitely one of the most underrated
and unappreciated talents on the blues
scene today.
On to Taj. It's important to realize
that Taj Mahal's career has spanned
more than thirty years. Any show of his
is.going to be a salute to eclecticism at
its finest. The first several tunes were
decently played blues-rock numbers
h a taste of Creole thrown in for
od measure. Toward the middle of the
set, he launched into some of his old
classics: "Further on Down the Road,",a
H'ammond rich New Orleans cruiser,
and "Mailbox Blues."
The end of Taj's set consisted of
tunes from his beautifully executed
new album "Phantom Blues." The
stride-laden Fats Domino piece "Let
the Four Winds Blow" began the trend
ich let into the boogie-woogie ivory
rocket "Hustle I On" and culminated in
the high-octane rendition of the



Arf, arf
Want to understand more about the language of animals? Ted Andrews
will be talking about the language of animals and nature at 7 p.m. at
Crazy Wisdom, 206 N. Fourth Ave. He will also be signing copies of his
latest book, "Anima-Speak: The Spirit and Magical Powers of
Creatures Great and Small." Admission is $20. For more information,
call 665-2757.

September 18, 1996

September 18, 1996

nd Allison make
SJazz Festival a hit

album's hottest barn-burner, "I Need
Your Lovin'." For his encore, as a
salute and I-told-you-so, Taj played his
most famous tune, "She Caught The
Katy," which was featured prominently
in the following evening's showing of
"The Blues Brothers." In fact, most of
the evening Taj made a point of
demonstrating the difference between
popular music and the music he plays,
as well as the little recognition that
soul and blues artists get. But the
evening was presented without a trace
of bitterness or ego, and for a few
Blues & Jazz
Sept.13, 14 & 15
Michigan Theater, Gallup Park
moments, a man could believe that the
Michigan theater was a Mississippi
Day Two, Gallup Park
Rain and outdoor concerts go togeth-
er about as well as ... well, metaphor
fails me. Anyway, Saturday's leg of the
festival was not the paradigm of a
rockin' good time it has been in the
past. The first band, Al Hill and the
Love Butlers, are a talented bunch of
jump blues players, but had a difficult
time collecting with each other and
with the audience.
The next two acts suffered from simi-
lar problems. Ed Moss and John Sinclair
performed a spoken-word set, consisting
of fluid poetry about the great musicians
of the past 50 or 60 years. Unfortunately,
someone forgot to tell them that rather
pompous beatnik verse performed to a
wet, cold festival crowd fifty yards away
is not the best way to get a crowd hyped
up. Next, two excellent trumpeters, ubiq-
uitous session man Marcus Belgrave and
former Blue Note leader Louis Smith,
took the stage with their band. Adding
more muscle to the equation was local
and international piano stud Rick Roe
and University jazz studies faculty mem-
ber Gerald Cleaver on drums. All parties
involved played beautifully, with taste
and elegance. But the weather, which
drove the audience back to a distant tent,
made the subtleties upon which their
music depends difficult to hear. This is a
brilliant combo to hear indoors, in their
element. I recommend them highly.

Bringing up the blues side of the
equation was Texas (by way of Canada)
plank spanker Sue Foley. She and her
trio put on an admirable show, with her
languid, almost surf-styled guitar, that
bordered on sinister at times. But on her
more torchy songs like "Long Distance
Lover," her voice proved to be clear and
expressive, yet slight and lacking depth.
Good, but not great.
Beginning the evening's upward
swing was Terrence Simien and the
Mallet Playboys. The Playboys played
a good sized set consisting of happy,
effulgent dance music, heavy on the
accordion. In a fit of musical worldli-
ness, several of the songs contained
passages from such famous tunes as
the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back"
and War's "Low Rider." At any rate, the
Playboys were the only band that got
members of the audience out from
under the shelter tent and dancing. Big
accomplishment on such a nasty day.
I wasn't sure what to expect from
Pharaoh Sanders. Sanders was one of
the men who picked up the free jazz
torch after the death of John Coltrane.
His music is often wild and unpre-
dictable, involving strange instrumen-
tation and saxophone playing that is
aggressive, bordering on violent. But I
was pleasantly surprised. The first two
tunes were free jazz, but in the most
genteel sense of those words. Free jazz
is often hard to listen to because its
energy seems both boundless and
pointless. But Sanders' music was
filled with positive energy, at the risk
of sounding like hippie. The last two
tunes before the encore were actually
danceable. The first was a laid-back
Latin number with Sanders leading a
call and response with the audience
and living it up with various auxiliary
percussion instruments like a dement-
ed grandfather. The second was a funk
tune. Really, an honest to God Pharaoh
Sanders funk tune. And it was really
good too. A damn fine capper to the
second day.
Day Three, Gallup Park
The third day was vastly improved
from Saturday. Sadly, due to logistical
problems, I missed the first act. But
the second band, local titans Big Dave
and the Ultrasonics played their hearts
out, as if they we're capable of any
less. Opening the set with Louis
Prima's "Jump, Jive and Wail" they
had a good chunk of the crowd doing
just that before the end of the tune.
Songs like "Where'd You Learn To
Shake It Like That" and "No Sweat"
showed off Dave Morris' harp chops
(and new spiffy haircut), Ben Wilson's
tasty ivory tickling and "Big" Dave
Morris' smoky vocals. Big Dave and
the Ultrasonics continue to be the epit-
ome of high energy jump blues. Bless
those boys.
The Dave Douglas String Group.
Um, I'd rather not talk about it. Let's
just say if you see Dave coming to your
town, run.
Following Douglas was Corey
Harris, a one-man army of dreadlocks
and dobro. His set tore out of the gate
with an incendiary "Gonna Get My
Religion" and never let up. He moved
effortlessly from Bukka White stom-
pers like "Do The Jitterbug" to west
African-flavored workouts like "Jungle
Partner." He also managed to call forth

Luther Allison plays the blues at Gallup Park on Sunday.


the somber, almost demonic side of the
blues that is almost lost these days with
tunes like "Death-letter Blues" and "5-
0 Blues" (his composition). Harris has
one of the rare gifts of the blues, incor-
porating both the sinner and the saved
in his music.
Luther Allison. What can one say
about such a man? Returning to the
festival after his now legendary 1972
festival appearance, Allison put on a
show that never let the crowd touch the
ground for a minute. Even though he
showed up late due to a mistake with
his transportation, he crammed the full
allotment of blues power into his
somewhat compressed set. Allison
proved just how deadly the Buddy guy,

them school of the blues can be.
Leading the crowd through massive,
dense 10- to 15- minute tunes with
numbing crescendos and mesmerizing
bridges, Allison even simulated a con-
versation with his reluctant wife, using
his guitar tremolo as the whine of her
voice. And in one of the better set
closers I've ever seen, he walked off
stage while still soloing (he was
hooked up to a radio mic) and was car-
ried around the crowd on the shoulders
of some lucky fan. Now that's a show-
And what to say about Maceo. I sup-
pose I could tell you that he played
"Pass the Peas," "Shake Everything You
Got," "Funky Good Time" and "Let's
Get It On." I could tell you how good

the bass and drums were. I could tell
you how his son came out and rapped
on a few songs and even danced 3vith
his father a little. But that would be bor-
ing and predictable.
What I'd rather tell you about is ihe
crowd. Every single person, from
wing to wing, was grinning like a
ghoul at a fat man's funeral. White,
black, young, old, aging hippie and
confused Community High freshman
- they were all putting their back-
fields in motion to the best of their
abilities. Maceo's show was a
reminder of what music can be' and
should be: an expression of our deep-
est joys and the blessed sonic tonic for
our souls. Or maybe it was just a
funky good time.

Maceo Parker Jazzes It up at Sunday's Blues and Jazz Festival.

Social Distortion rocks out on new LP

social Distortion
White Light White Heat
mhite Trash
550/Epic Records
Social Distortion, a name synony-
mous with punk ethic and attitude, has
returned to deliver yet another offering
of powerful tunes with their fifth
album, "White Light White Heat White
Although they've been around over
0 years, Social Distortion doesn't
bw any signs of slowing down or giv-
ing up. Like punk grandfather counter-
parts Bad Religion, Social D. went on
hiatus for much of the mid-'80s and
returned in 1988. Social D. differs from
Bad Religion, though, in that they are

done to those he's met and loved in
the past, and is now admitting his
errors. When Ness belts out "I was
wrong / Self-destruction's got me
again" so convincingly, you almost
wonder if the lyrics aren't totally
"Crown Of Thorns" reflects on what
love has meant to Ness in the past: "I
wish I knew then what I know now / It's

no bed of roses / It ain't no crown of
thorns / Better than lonely / I've been
there before." The most aggressive
track on the disc is the last track, a hid-
den one called "Under My Thumb,"
which really gets you hyped up to start
the disc over and listen to the whole
thing again.
- Colin Bartos

;: .... ., ,,.., ; . . .. .. s . .

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