Set 1: Blues on the Porch with
Charlie Musselwhite, Elvin Bishop and Guy Davis
When: Saturday, May 31
Where: Jackson Theater, 4400 Day School Place, Santa Rosa
Time: 7:30 pm
Tickets: $75 | $55 | $45 (Reserved seating)
Guest MC: Bill Bowker (KRSH-FM)
As practically every jazz musician will tell you, their work is grounded in the blues. For its 16th annual event, The Healdsburg Jazz Festival goes straight to one of the sources, honoring blues harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite in four distinct sets in two concerts. The shows will be a watershed in what’s been an incredible year for the 70-year-old harp master. Charlie has recently weathered a slew of awards and recognitions, among them winning the Blues Album Grammy for his collaboration with Ben Harper, Get Up! He was nominated for two other Grammys as well—Best Blues Album for Remembering Little Walter and Best Music Film for I’m In I’m Out and I’m Gone: The Making of Get Up! Charlie also won the Living Blues Reader’s Poll award for Most Outstanding Musician Harmonica. (See more about *Charlie Musselwhite below)
Two evenings at the Jackson Theater will display multiple facets of Charlie Musselwhite. Saturday’s first set, “Blues on the Porch,” showcases Charlie’s rural-blues roots in solo, duo and trio configurations with guitar hero Elvin Bishop—another of those youngsters who hightailed it to Chicago, where he became a founding member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band — and Guy Davis, a guitar and banjo specialist (see the Blues Brunch), not to mention an actor of distinction on stage and screen whose parents are Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. Guy knows the blues, as you can hear on any of the 15 albums he has released.
Set 2: “Continental Drifter” Revisited with
John Santos y Sus Soneros
Saturday’s second set opens a window on Charlie’s most unique historical project, a blues and Afro-Cuban jazz collaboration he created on the disc in 1999 with sublime Cuban guitarist Eliades Ochoa and the band Cuarteto Patria. Ochoa is best known Stateside for his work in the 1999 film Buena Vista Social Club. The harmonica may not seem a natural fit with Cuban jazz at first swipe, but Charlie makes it happen with open ears, a generosity of spirit and English lyrics he composed for Cuban standards like “Chan Chan” and “Sabroso.”
The program will feature Charlie playing with local Latin jazz star John Santos y Sus Soneros— specializing in the Son style—featuring Cuban percussion giants Orestes Vilato and Jose “Perico” Hernandez, who also sings; plus flautist John Calloway, guitarist Gabriel Navia, bassist Steve Senft-Herrera and Santos on percussion.
For Part 2 of Celebrating the Blues, see June 1 – Blues Meets Jazz. This event has been made possible by generous grants from Thomas Sparks and NEA Artworks.
*Charlie Musselwhite was born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, localities where the blues runs as deep as anywhere in the country. But it was his decision to move to Chicago—the same decision made by hundreds of hungry musicians, blues and jazz alike—that established him as a professional and an influence.
A bit of this story is told in another major 2013 event for Musselwhite, the release of Born in Chicago, a documentary that recounts the pilgrimages made by young white blues artists to the Windy City Southside clubs where they could learn at the feet of masters like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush, Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter. Musselwhite proved an eager adept, developing an urban, electric style on harmonica that is warm, piercing and above all open.
His first album arrived with a bang in 1967, Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite’s South Side Band, and he has followed it up with more than a dozen others. His most recent, released just this year, is Juke Joint Chapel, recorded in Clarksdale, Miss., birthplace of the blues. Charlie Musselwhite was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2010. His website is www.charliemusselwhite.com