Legendary blues guitarist Buddy Guy, made his annual musical pilgrimage to Toronto’s Massey Hall, Saturday, April 21, 2007. He again was supported by his fabulous blues band, featuring Ric ‘Jaz Guitar’ Hall on rhythm/lead guitar; the great Marty Sammon on keyboards; Tim Austin on drums; and Orlando Wright on electric bass. All these musicians are virtuosos in their own right, and Buddy whose wise musical eyes and sharp taste recognizes this, features them all in various exhilarating solos throughout this evening’s entertainment. The one sad note however, was not seeing Jay Moynihan playing sax, as he has during other Guy concerts this writer has attended.
Many blues standards and even some scorching Hendrix was part of the show, and all came off as if they were made in Heaven. The sound was excellent as always, and the lighting was superb .. highlighting all the performers’ solos, and coloring in with hues of red the other performers during these solos. The lighting was done to perfection by Kevin Mahoney, whose work over the years behind the scenes has ranged from lighting for the likes of Maureen Forester at the Royal York’s opulent Imperial Room in the early ‘80s, to half a million screaming fans at Toronto’s Sarstock in July 2003.
It was really something to see Buddy and Ric sharing the spotlight in guitar solos with each other, on Willie Dixon’s classic "Hootchie Cootchie Man" and other awesome blues standards this night. Sammon’s keys solos ranged from the deeply bluesy, to classical creations that befit the setting of this Massey Hall stage, which calls home the renowned Toronto Symphony. Orlando’s bass solos hit heavy and hard at times, and at other times featured just a hint of bass -- choosing a minimalist approach with just enough to be enough. His bass lines were consistently melodic, with a deep sense of musical purpose. Orlando is the most senior member of the Buddy Guy band and is its bandleader. http://www.orlandowright.com/
Whenever Buddy Guy plays Toronto, he always has such nice things to say about our city, and about shows he’s played in Canada .. including the much-respected Mariposa Folk Festival, which he’s been showcased at as far back as the mid ‘60s, when Guy was still deciding whether to keep going as a professional musician, or pack it all in and do a much less fulfilling job to earn a living. According to Buddy, he made up his mind in the ‘60s to keep playing music and not give it up, due to the always-warm welcome he felt he was given here in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario. This was a time in the ‘60s when the blues reached ears that hadn’t grown up with it, but appreciated it like they had.
Buddy reminisced about Jimi Hendrix and mentioned he has a DVD out now, that shows Hendrix in the audience at a Buddy Guy concert in the ‘60s, taking it all in from the ‘Master of the Blues’ Buddy and his fine band. Buddy also mentions Hendrix in another light, in the quintessential blues and R&B documentary Record Row: Cradle of Rhythm & Blues (PBS documentary narrated by the one and only Etta James). In one scene, Buddy mentions his son coming him to him one day after attending a Hendrix concert and saying to him, "Dad .. I didn’t know you taught Hendrix his riffs!" to which Buddy humbly replies, "You never asked me, son!"
Buddy did his annual 'Walk Through Massey Hall', and delivered a breathtaking excursion through the blues, in leads and rhythms that were so good to hear, you really had to be there to fully appreciate it. While walking up the aisle in the orchestra section, Guy stopped now and then to play some blues up front and personal to various fans right at their seats.
Shortly after, Buddy was front row in the first balcony, playing to more fans up close with his guitar genius .. then disappearing from sight .. And where did he go? Well .. where he went was outside Massey Hall, right onto the sidewalk on Shuter St. itself, and that's where he really came into his own at this show ... playing some of the most out of this world leads that could ever fill up Massey Hall or anywhere ...
Inside while this was going on, the whole hall radiated the blues like right out of a kind of blues Heaven .. but Buddy was nowhere to be seen (except to his fans outside on the sidewalk). I remember at the time looking in awe at the carvings and frescos on the walls and ceiling, while Buddy was outside playing his inspired blues leads -- and thinking to myself that Massey Hall (built in 1896) right at that particular moment looked and sounded like a blues shrine. Buddy's band was backing him onstage (without him being there), in just as breathtaking a performance as Buddy was giving to his fans out on the sidewalk, who unfortunately didn't have tickets, but loved his playing nevertheless. So, he brought his own brand of the 'blues muse' to them, and no doubt delivered them from their own 'inner blues'.
Near the end of the Buddy Guy Blues Band’s spectacular performance this night at the ‘Old Lady of Shuter St.’, Guy told the audience, "This is what Hendrix heard, when he saw me play." Then Buddy went into some of the most scorching guitar licks this side of ‘Rainbow Bridge’. He came up with original, ‘not-inspired by Hendrix’ guitar riffs that told it all -- that Buddy was indeed a primary influence on the young Hendrix, and did it all before Hendrix realized what ‘all’ was, (with all due respect to Jimi and his unquestioned mastery of the guitar). Buddy’s part rendition of "Purple Haze" was certainly the best this side of bringing Hendrix back -- since it was basically the root of the muse that got Hendrix to do it to perfection himself at Woodstock, Monterey and Isle of Wight. This was truly an era when outdoor concerts were the Prima Donna of the music business in the ‘Flower Power/Summer of Love’ generation of late ‘60s rock and blues extravaganzas, and indoor venues with names like Fillmore and Winterland.
Despite Hendrix being gone, and Buddy rockin’ on the best there is, guitarist Ric Hall seemed somehow on an equal musical footing with Buddy, playing some of the finest blues and jazz solos this side of anywhere. His enthralling guitar leads were out of this world, and are the kind of playing that can hold its own beyond belief, when playing with one of the great originators of blues guitar as Buddy Guy truly is! When not touring with Buddy, Ric tours with his own incredible jazz and blues infused band. http://www.myspace.com/ricjazguitar http://www.ricjazguitar.net/
For the past 25 years, Hall has also been touring with Chicago doo wop legends The Dells ("Oh What a Night"), whose vocal harmonies and melodies are still as vibrant in 2007, as they were when they were top Chess recording artists in the '50s -- alongside The Larks and Pookie Hudson & The Spaniels (on the Vee-Jay label). http://www.themightydells.com/
The quality of musicianship from drummer Austin and bassist Wright also excelled beyond belief. The great B.B. King’s band are the ‘Harlem Globetrotters’ of the blues world, as Count Basie’s band is in the jazz world. But to get right down ‘n’ dirty in the working man’s blues world, Buddy Guy’s band hits the soul like a good home-cooked dinner of roast beef, baked potatoes and gravy! Good for what ails ye, and more!!!
So, all in all, if you need a good blues 'fix' that stays fixed, then make sure you check out the one and only Buddy Guy Blues Band, when they come to a town near you.