Uptown Jazz & Blues Fest (Click to enlarge)
Uptown Jazz & Blues Fest (Click to enlarge)
Organizers of the 2014 Uptown Jazz and Blues Festival in Lafayette delayed the shows for a half hour until the worst of a storm had passed. And man did it rain.

Porky's (Click to enlarge)
Porky’s (Click to enlarge)

The rain continued sporadically for much of the evening, but it wasn’t too bad. The down side is the crowd was the smallest I’ve seen at the festival. The upside is there weren’t lines to get a barbecue rib tip sandwich at the Porky’s Barbecue stand. Mmm.

Jarrard Harris Band (Click to enlarge)
Jarrard Harris Quartet (Click to enlarge)

Saxophonist Jarrard Harris and his band rocked the Uptown Jazz and Blues Fest with their classic jazz when they played in Lafayette six years ago. This year, there weren’t enough folks in the audience to rock. Harris and his band (James Austin Jr. keyboards; Junius Paul; and Phil Fornett, drums) matched the weather with moody, bluesy riffs. But they also cut through the rain, offering an energetic performance that brightened the few brave souls in the crowd. Harris and his pals didn’t even let the fact that the music from the blues band from another stage get them down. They just played louder and better.

I’d be delighted if the Uptown Jazz and Blues Festival organizers brought Harris to Lafayette every year. He’s terrific.

Indianapolis Jazz orchestra (Click to enlarge)
Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra (Click to enlarge)

The crowds started to grow a little by the time the Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra took the stage. Audience were rewarded with a nice mix of tunes ranging from Basie to Sinatra.

Lao Tizer (Click to enlarge)
Lao Tizer (Click to enlarge)

Karen Briggs (Click to enlarge)
Karen Briggs (Click to enlarge)

Raul Pineda (Click to enlarge)
Raul Pineda (Click to enlarge)

I was bit skeptical when I saw that the Jazz and Blues Festival folks had booked Tizer, a fusion jazz band. Too often, fusion seems gimmicky to me. Count me as a Tizer convert, though.

Lao Tizer and his band meld jazz and world music with a bit of rock and wow everyone who listens. Especially Karen Briggs, the “Lady in Red.” She’s amazing on her violin.

Percy Wiggins (Click to enlarge)
Percy Wiggins (Click to enlarge)

Archie Turner (Click to enlarge)
Archie Turner (Click to enlarge)

Howard Grimes (Click to enlarge)
Howard Grimes (Click to enlarge)

Kirk Smothers (Click to enlarge)
Kirk Smothers (Click to enlarge)

For months I’d been looking forward to hearing The Bo-Keys, guardians of the classic Memphis soul sound. Then I learned of the death of one of the group’s founders — Charles “Skip” Pitts, the guitarist who funked his way through both Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” and The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing.”

It’s hard to stay down, though, when listening to The Bo-Keys. Vocalist Percy Wiggins, drummer Howard Grimes and keyboard man Archie “Hubby” Turner are all veterans of countless class soul tracks from Stax, Hi Records and Atco. And the younger guys, especially the horn section, wake up the memories of Memphis in the ’60s.

A couple of my students caught the Bo-Keys’ set Saturday night. I’m sure they’ll be listening to Bo-Keys records for a long time. And if my students are smart (and I know that they are), they’ll start digging up classic soul that features Wiggins, Grimes, Turner and Pitts.

The crowd this year was small, but the music was great. I’m glad I braved the elements, but if it’s raining next year, I’m bringing a poncho.

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Shiny Penny at Mosey Down Main Street in Lafayette

by Carl Abernathy on August 10, 2014

Dean Schimmelpfennig of Shiny Penny (click to enlarge)
Dean Schimmelpfennig of Shiny Penny (click to enlarge)

I’d never seen Shiny Penny before I went on Saturday to Mosey Down Main Street, a regular showcase for musicians from Lafayette, Ind., and the surrounding area. The Kokomo-based band surprised me and ignited the crowd. Their high-energy rock and pop is infectious. They’re talented, energetic and charismatic. These young guys could make it big.

Larry Smeyak of Dr. Fine and D'Gleet (click to enlarge)
Larry Smeyak of Dr. Fine and D’Gleet (click to enlarge)

Rick Mummey (click to enlarge)
Rick Mummey (click to enlarge)

I don’t think I’ve heard guitarist Larry Smeyak or drummer Dennis Leas play since I saw them with Stone Soup, which featured Carrie Newcomer, in the early ’80s. Their new band, Dr. Fine and D’Gleet, is mighty good, too – guitarist Chris Xioufarides and Smeyak complement each other particularly well. And I was delighted to find that lead singer Rick Mummey has such a sweet, soulful voice. It’s too bad their set was delayed a half hour or so because of problems with the sound system, but at least they got to play a little past their scheduled ending time.

Jeff All (click to enlarge)
Jeff All (click to enlarge)

I caught only a couple of songs of Jeff Alls’ set. Too bad. He’s a talented singer-songwriter. I’ll have to see when he’s playing in the area again.

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Matthew Sweet concert at City Winery in Chicago

by Carl Abernathy on July 26, 2014

Matthew Sweet at City Winery in Chicago. (Click to enlarge)
Matthew Sweet (Click to enlarge)

Tommy Keene (click to enlarge)
Tommy Keene (click to enlarge)

Matthew Sweet didn’t interact with the audience much Friday night at the City Winery in Chicago.

He spoke only a couple of times (other than when he was pitching his Kickstarter campaign for a new album and bronze cat figurines). He didn’t open his eyes but a few times, either (he said the lights hurt his eyes). And in the opening portion of his set, Sweet opened and closed every song at the back of the stage facing his guitar amps instead of the crowd.

Didn’t matter. Sweet and members of The Velvet Crush still have the magic that made him one of the most dynamic power pop voices of the early ’90s. Sweet’s vocals still sprinkle the coarse instrumentals with a powdery coat of sugar. Their renditions of “Girlfriend” and “Devil with the Green Eyes” were particularly stirring.

My biggest thrill of the night, though, was when I learned that Tommy Keene had crashed the party. After an excellent opening set by Chicago’s Stolen Silver, Keene bounded onto the stage with a 12-string guitar and sang several lovely low-key songs. Then he picked up his Telecaster and members of The Velvet Crush and mayhem ensued.

Keene also bounced around the stage, providing great backing vocals and energy for a couple songs during Sweet’s set.

I’m looking forward to Matthew Sweet’s new album. I hope Tommy Kene is on it.

Taste of Tippecanoe, 2014

June 21, 2014

I’m bummed. Local officials postponed the Taste of Tippecanoe just a couple songs into Jennie DeVoe’s set because of a big storm headed our way. I don’t blame them. You don’t mess with public safety. But damn. The Indianapolis-based singer, who delivers blues and a bit of country with a sweet rasp, was making tons […]

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Mahsa Vahdat and Mighty Sam McClain: ‘Scent of Reunion: Love Duets Across Civilizations’

June 17, 2014

Soul and bluesman Mighty Sam McClain’s voice floats. Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat’s voice soars. Together, their tunes — rooted in the sounds of traditional R&B and traditional Persian music — are almost other-worldy in their beauty. I’m partial to “Scent of Reunion: Love Duets Across Civilizations,” but everything they’ve recorded is worth acquiring.

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2014 Chicago Blues Festival photos

June 16, 2014

I made it to the Chicago Blues Festival only on Saturday this year. Work intervened Friday and I wanted to beat the storm home Sunday. I’m not complaining. I heard a bunch of great blueswomen. I also took my friend Diana to her first blues fest and the weather was almost perfect. We started the […]

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Sam Morrow: ‘Ephemeral’

May 30, 2014

John Steinbeck would love Sam Morrow. The young musician, still in his early 20s, writes about addiction, love and heartache with a photographer’s eye for detail. His musical tales are nuanced and tragic, vivid and hopeful. Morrow knows the subject matter intimately; he’s been drinking since his early teens, and a few years ago his […]

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Cahl’s Jukebox, 5-29-14

May 29, 2014

Thursday morning blues: 1) Percy Strother: “Love is Growing Cold” 2) Jimmy Witherspoon: “Early Morning Blues” 3) Jimmy Rushing: “Blues in the Dark” 4) Eddie Boyd: “What Makes These Things Happen to Me” 5) Otis Spann: “Trouble in Mind” 6) Michael Burks: “Salty Tears” 7) Calvin Leavy: “Brought You to the City” 8) Preston Shannon: […]

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Chicago Blues Festival preview: Diamond Jim Greene

May 27, 2014

Diamond Jim Green coaxed a variety of sounds, a lifetime of emotions, out of the guitars he used on his 2012 release, “Surrounded.” On the opening track, “Shake ‘em on Down,” Greene’s guitar riffs are as jaunty as his vocals and the horns. Greene and his guitar sound as if they’re creeping down an old […]

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Cahl’s Jukebox, 5-26-14

May 26, 2014

Today’s mix: 1) Shouting Matches: “Gallup, NM” 2) Thad Cockrell: “My Favorite Memory” 3) Halleyanna: “Out of the Blue” 4) Toni Price: “Lonesome Wind” 5) Todd Farrell Jr. and the Dirty Birds: “Liner Notes” 6) Matt Hannah: “Sweet Sweet Time” 7) Peter Bruntnell: “Handful of Stars” 8) Beachwood Sparks: “Forget the Song” 9) Eilen Jewell: […]

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The Fast Romantics: ‘Afterlife Blues’

May 26, 2014

The lyrics to the songs on The Fast Romantics’ “Afterlife Blues,” the latest album by the group of Canadian indie pop rockers, cover some dark topics. The album’s far from a downer, though … even as they sing about breakups and death. The Fast Romantics love life. You can tell with every happy pulse from […]

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