Sunday, June 19, 2011

Neither Rain Nor Mud Can Stop Booker T & Band From Stealing the Show

I knew I was going to be in for a soggy day when my smart rock was wet on Saturday indicating rain in the forecast. While a little rain might have turned off a few fair weather friends (and fans) it could not dampen the spirits of those in attendance who were treated to a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon of good music by real musicians at the Walker Art Center's music extravaganza, Rock The Garden 2011.

Opening the festivities under a light but constant drizzle were Minneapolis' own Tapes 'n Tapes. Being something of an old guy and no longer into the club scene, I have to admit I was not familiar with this group but am happy to say these guys are the real thing. It is extremely encouraging to see younger generations of musicians who take playing their instruments seriously and these guys have the chops and play like they mean it.

The highlight of their set for me came towards the end of their high energy set when they welcomed a couple of horn players to the stage and Tapes 'n Tapes keyboard player switched to French Horn. Sounding some dissonant chords these guys reminded me a little of NRBQ's Whole Wheat Horns meet Rodwell Rudd. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay the group is, right before the group launched into the last number of their set, they announced "We are Tapes 'n Tapes and we're from Minneapolis..." causing me to break a smile as at that very moment I had been trying to figure out whether these guys were from Austin or Memphis, a high compliment indeed.

Next up was the reason I put on my rain gear, Booker T Jones and his crack young band which included "Burnin'" Vernon Black on guitar. Showcasing songs from his excellent new cd "The Road From Memphis", Booker T. and Band demonstrated the difference between having a high school music education and holding a doctorate. By the time they got to the third number of their set, the iconic "Green Onions", these guys were smoking. Looking hale and hearty and much younger than his age, Mr. Jones removed his jacket and got down to business looking debonair in his beige shirt and brown Fedora.

Other highlights included the familiar "Hip Hug Her" complete with a hip hop interlude compliments of his young, badddddddd drummer from Oakland. This kid played with such power he "knocked out" and over his high hat on two or three occasions causing me to make my inevitable Eric Gravatt comparison, the Marvin Haggler of jazz drumming. (Mr. Gravatt hits with such power one night I watched him have to pull his kit back closer to him three times in one set).

My personal favorite was the tune he penned for Albert King, " Born Under A Bad Sign" which had Jones, the virtuoso of the Hammond B-3 organ, switching over to guitar, an instrument he played on several occasions during their set, including a request from his bride in honor of their 26th Wedding Anniversary. Another must mention was a spectacular version of "Time is Tight" causing me to remark to my new friend, guitarist and L.A. transplant, Judd and his significant other Katrina, how amazing the sound was and our kudos to the engineers running the soundboard. My only regret was, alas, he did not play "Down At Ralph's Joint" but then I suppose for the master of the Hammond, it was only fitting.

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