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2015 News March 21, 2019   

January 14, 1938  -  November 10, 2015

By Daniel Kreps - RollingStone www.rollingstone.com

November 10, 2015

Allen Toussaint Allen Toussaint, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriter, producer, pianist, performer and New Orleans legend, passed away Monday night while on tour in Spain.  He was 77.  Toussaint suffered a heart attack at his hotel after performing at Madrid's Teatro Lara earlier in the night; after being resuscitated, he suffered a second, fatal heart attack en route to the hospital, the BBC reports.

The Grammy-winning Toussaint was one of the Big Easy's most influential, beloved and iconic musicians, having penned oft-covered songs like "Working in the Coal Mine", "Mother-in-Law", "Fortune Teller", "Southern Nights", "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley", "Get Out of My Life, Woman" and countless more.  Toussaint's songs were recorded by the likes of Jerry Garcia, Ringo Starr, Little Feat, Robert Palmer, the Yardbirds, Glen Campbell, Bonnie Raitt, The Band, Warren Zevon, the Rolling Stones and many more.

Born in 1938 in New Orleans, Toussaint began playing piano at age seven and broke into the music industry by his teens when he was recruited to sit in for a recording session that fellow New Orleans great Fats Domino couldn't attend.  By 1960, Toussaint was serving as chief songwriter at Minit Records, where he penned Ernie K-Doe's chart-topping "Mother-in-Law".  After a stint in the military, Toussaint returned to form the production company Sansu with Marshall Sehorn, which resulted in the Lee Dorsey hits "Ride Your Pony", "Working in the Coal Mine" and "Holy Cow".

Toussaint also played a pivotal role of formulating a unique style of soul, funk and R&B that became emblematic of New Orleans.  Toussaint served as producer for the Meters, who got their start as Toussaint's backing band on Sansu before becoming one of the greatest funk acts of their era.  Toussaint and Sehorn also built their Sea-Saint Studio in New Orleans, which became a go-to for local musicians like Dr. John and the Neville Brothers as well as superstars like Paul McCartney - who recorded portions of Wings' 1975 LP Venus and Mars with Toussaint on piano at the studio - and Paul Simon, New Orleans' WWL writes.  Labelle also recorded the Toussaint-produced "Lady Marmalade" at the studio.

For all his contributions to New Orleans' musical legacy, a life-size bronze statue of Toussaint was placed in a park off the city's Bourbon Street, making him the eighth musician honored by the city.  However, Hurricane Katrina ravaged Toussaint's home and studio in 2005, forcing the musician to take a more prominent role in the spotlight as opposed to just songwriting; he toured frequently in the years following Katrina and collaborated on an album with Elvis Costello in 2006 titled The River in Reverse.

Toussaint was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and is similarly enshrined in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.  In 2013, Toussaint was awarded a National Medal of the Arts.  "After his hometown was battered by Katrina and Allen was forced to evacuate, he did something even more important for his city - he went back", President Barack Obama said at the award ceremony.  "And since then, Allen has devoted his musical talent to lifting up and building up a city.  And today, he's taking the stage all over the world, with all kinds of incredible talent, doing everything he can to revive the legendary soul of the Big Easy."

"Watching Allen changed me forever.  He was the link from our past to the future of New Orleans music", Preservation Jazz Hall Band's Ben Jaffe tells Rolling Stone.  "He touched me in ways he'll never know.  About this time last year, we joined Mr. Toussaint on tour.  There was a moment every night Mr. Toussaint would remain onstage, all by himself, and perform and sing and play and tell stories.  Every night, I was glued to the stage.  His legacy will live on through all of us."

At the time of his death, Toussaint was scheduled to perform with friend Paul Simon at a December 8th benefit for New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness, a charity Toussaint helped found.

September 16, 1925  -  May 14, 2015

By Greg Kot - Chicago Tribune www.chicagotribune.com

May 15, 2015, 10:42 AM

B.B. King It may have been a farewell or a passing of the torch for B.B. King when he played Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival at a sold-out Toyota Park in Brideview, Ill., in 2007.

"May I live forever, but may you live forever and a day", King said, while raising a cup to the fans.  "And when they lay me off to rest ... may the last voices I hear be yours."

King, 89, died Thursday night in Las Vegas.  He had been admitted twice in recent weeks to a hospital for treatment of symptoms linked to diabetes.  It was the only way to slow him down.  Only months before his death, King was still serving as the ultimate blues ambassador with a touring schedule that had surpassed 15,000 shows around the world.  He helped turn the blues into an international language that crossed lines of race, geography and genre.

A commanding presence on stage with his robust frame and stentorian radio-DJ voice, King sold millions of records worldwide, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and won 15 Grammy Awards.

The guitarist brought a jazz musician's sensibility to his playing and a gospel roar to his singing.  His constant companion through it all was Lucille, his Gibson hollow-body guitar, which functioned as a second voice on his songs - falling silent when King sang, and answering him in clusters of single-string notes when he paused.  For King, every note was precious.  Even on his extended solos, he never overplayed, a master of concision and precision.

"Sometimes when I'm blue it seems like Lucille/Tryin' to help me callin' my name", King once sang.  He expanded the stripped-down settings of most blues songs to include string and horn orchestrations, and covered music written by everyone from Duke Ellington to U2.  He bridged the chitlin-circuit juke joints and the supper clubs, and played arenas and prisons.  One of his most famous recordings, "Live in Cook County Jail", was recorded at the infamous South Side institution and topped the R&B chart in 1970.

He was a frequent performer in Chicago, headlining everything from the Chicago Blues Fest to clubs such as House of Blues in recent years.  He fell ill after a performance at House of Blues last year, and canceled a series of concert dates because of dehydration and exhaustion.

At the Crossroads Festival in 2007, he performed a leering "Rock Me Baby" and a trembling "The Thrill is Gone", his voice still roaring even though he was in his 80s.  Robert Cray and Jimmie Vaughan flanked him with guitars, and Clapton applauded from the wings.  King was a mentor to countless musicians, including Clapton, who recorded an album with his idol in 2000, "Riding with the King".  He was looked upon as a kindly godfather figure by many Chicago blues guitarists, including the late Hubert Sumlin, who accompanied King on stage at the Crossroads festival, and Buddy Guy, who once described King as the "last blues legend standing".

The future blues icon was born Riley B. King on Sept. 16, 1925, in Itta Bena, Miss., and grew up in several nearby towns, most prominently Indianola, reared primarily by his grandmother after his father left home and his mother died.  While picking cotton on a sharecropping farm, he sang gospel in a church choir and developed an affinity for blues guitar, eventually studying with bluesman Bukka White, with whom he lived for nearly a year.

He moved to Memphis in 1946, where he became known as the "Beale Street Blues Boy".  The newly christened B.B. King made his mark as a DJ at WDIA, playing blues records and developing a jive-talking patter that would serve him well as a concert showman.  He cut his first single in 1949, and scored a major hit in 1951 with his version of Lowell Fulson's "Three O'Clock Blues".  He continued to DJ and record for a few years, but finally put together a touring band in 1955 and began a lifelong commitment to the road, where his ebullient personality flourished.

On one of his many tours, a fight over a woman named Lucille resulted in a fire in the building where King was performing.  The building was evacuated, but King then rushed back inside to rescue his guitar, which he later christened in honor of Lucille to remind him of his reckless act.

With his string-bending solos on Lucille, King remained forever indebted to Mississippi Delta blues.  But that didn't stop him from exploring a more cosmopolitan vocabulary, as he experimented with big-band arrangements, R&B female choruses and Latin percussion.  In contrast to some of his more polished studio music, King's live recordings struck the loudest chord.  His first landmark was another Chicago-born album, "Live at the Regal", recorded at the South Side theater in November, 1964.

" 'Live at the Regal' is considered by some the best recording I've ever had", King told interviewers Colin Escott and Andy McKaie in 1992.  "At the Regal, and in Chicago, they still think well of and respect me and the dignity of the blues, thanks to Muddy Waters and the rest.  ... That particular day in Chicago everything came together and the audience was right in sync."

It was during this era that a generation of white rock 'n' rollers on both sides of the Atlantic began immersing themselves in blues, and King became a hero of sorts to Clapton, Mike Bloomfield, the Rolling Stones and countless others.  Amid this rising appreciation for "authentic" Mississippi sounds by a generation that had never set foot on a plantation, King continued to work both sides of the commercial fence:  his raw, raucous concert performances and his sophisticated, pop-sounding studio recordings, epitomized by "The Thrill is Gone".  The latter was his biggest hit in the late '60s, its wrenching vocal underscored by melancholy keys and sighing strings.  The song introduced him to a new audience far beyond the blues faithful, and brought him to "The Tonight Show" and "The Ed Sullivan Show", a prime-time coup for a blues singer.

Though King announced a "farewell" tour in 2006, he continued to play, backing off only slightly from his typical pace of 200 shows a year.  He also accumulated more than 40 studio recordings in a variety of settings.  Though no longer breaking ground artistically in recent decades, he remained a vital performer who spread the language of the blues to places it had never gone before, or would never have been welcomed in previous generations.

He recalled how a writer once criticized him for abandoning his roots:  "B.B. - symphony hall, no dirt on the floor, no smoke in the air, and that's the blues?"

"But my answer is, why not?" King said.  "Isn't a symphony hall built for beautiful music?  And the blues is a beautiful music - it's everybody's music."


February 10, 2015

Nancy Wright - Putting Down Roots


Top blues sax sidewoman's second release, Putting Down Roots, out 2/10/2015, reveals vocal and songwriting skills alongside hot and soulful sax.

Oakland, CA - Nancy Wright's new album PUTTING DOWN ROOTS effortlessly blends blues, R&B, funk, New Orleans and gospel styles in a fresh, creative collection of twelve original compositions, intertwined by strong, tasteful arrangements and performances.  Wright's naturally bluesy voice conveys charm and conviction, giving her a very honest, unaffected sound all her own, which is nothing short of refreshing.  If comparisons of her vocal stylings must be made, they would be to Ruth Brown and Dinah Washington.  Her lyric writing gives the listener a peek into the twists and turns of a woman's romantic life, while her instrumental work seduces us to party.  The whole CD is enhanced by the emotional, melodic, and technical breadth and depth of Wright's command of, and love for the sax.  The language of her full-toned, throaty tenor moves from tight, syncopated funk, to broad sweeping phrases of soaring altissimo, breathy croons, purrs, and growls.  Wright owns the mood of each song by changing gears and fluently shifting from technical control to raw emotion and back.

PUTTING DOWN ROOTS opens with "Sweet Satisfaction", an uplifting ode to the power romantic love has to deliver joy, even during turbulent times.  "Lovely Pretender" masks the need for love in bravado.  The point is made by powerful, Junior Walker-inspired sax work.  In "Just Can't Put a Finger On It", the romantic mood and time signature shift back and forth.  This display of craft skillfully depicts the confusion and pensiveness triggered by waning love.  "Well I'm Travelin'" features a train beat, which alludes to a futile attempt to run from pain caused by a failed relationship.  Guitarist Kid Andersen's style on this song is reminiscent of Wright's early mentor Lonnie Mack.  The deep gospel ballad "Seems I Still Love You" outlines the regret of lost love and the difficulty of letting go.  "Hush Little Darlin'", with its soulful sax stylings a la King Curtis, offers the listener sweet, soothing comfort.

In choosing musicians to back her on PUTTING DOWN ROOTS, Wright selected a team of cohorts she has recorded and toured with, The Frank Bey and Anthony Paule Band, sans Frank, Mike and Tom.  It was only fitting that she record where the Bey/Paule CDs were recorded:  Kid Andersen's Greaseland Studios.  The results of her decision are spectacular.  Paul Revelli serves up immaculate grooves across the roots spectrum.  Bassman Paul Olguin holds down the bottom with relentless precision throughout.

"Boogie for JL" honors John Lee Hooker.  Nancy toured with Hooker, including a showcase at Carnegie Hall.  Anthony Paule's propulsive rhythm guitar is featured on "Funkin' It Up", a hip-shaking, back-bone slipping James Brown groove.  Playing over an infectious cha-cha beat on "A Serendipity", Wright's upbeat sax lead is handed off to soulful organ work by keyboardist Tony Lufrano.  New Orleans funk instrumental "The Big Queen" is a tone poem dedicated to women who mask alongside Big Chiefs during Mardi Gras Indian celebrations.  The song opens with percussion and moody sax, painting the parting of NOLA fog to reveal the imperious march of a commanding queen.  The mood relaxes with "Grooving Easy", an easy-going, toe-tapping, out-for-a-Sunday drive instrumental.

Listen to the CD here.

Order the CD here.


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