Three of the greatest entertainers on the live music scene today, are not necessarily household names, but their talent as artists is long-standing and much-appreciated by ‘those in the know’ in the music biz. Johnny Pennino is known as the Sax King of New Orleans, and rightly so! He is deservedly in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and is one of the freshest and most vibrant tenor sax players around. Pennino has been a long-time friend and musical sidekick of guitar great Bobby Lonero, who over the decades has performed with the one and only Louis Prima until his passing, as well as Elvis Presley and countless others. Lonero was also a rising rock ‘n’ roll star in the late ‘50s, with vocals that remind this writer of Dino DiMucci of Dion and the Belmonts fame.
Rockin’ and rollin’ tenor sax man Jimmy Cavallo had a huge surge to fame in the mid ‘50s, when he performed the theme song to iconic rock ‘n’ roll movie classic Rock, Rock, Rock in 1956, as Jimmy Cavallo and His Houserockers -- and has never looked back since! Although 80 now, Cavallo and his ‘new’ Houserockers make regular tours of North America and Europe -- where audiences really know talent when they hear it! Cavallo is invited back each and every year to festivals and upscale nightclubs overseas, and across the U.S.A. and Canada.
Pennino, Cavallo and Lonero are now familiar faces whose performances the avid blues and jazz fans look forward to enjoying at blues harp/vocalist Chuck Jackson’s annual Southside Shuffle Blues and Jazz Festival. This coming September 2007, will be the Shuffle's 9th successful year .. and growing bigger and more popular as the years go by. In fact the great Buddy Guy, whose fame as one of the finest and most appreciated blues guitarists in the world, will be the featured headliner at the Southside Shuffle this coming Saturday, September 8, 2007.
Pennino, Cavallo and Lonero stole the show for this writer at last year’s Shuffle. Lonero’s talent on guitar is unsurpassed. His guitar leads are a real eye-opener, and are extremely inventive. His blues, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll riffs are the kind that seem to come right out of a movie .. the kind we only hear in movies, but rarely experience live, from the artists who created this ‘sound’ in the first place.
Cavallo’s sax playing was rousing all through the various venues he performed at the Shuffle last September 2006 in Port Credit. At one show, he along with Pennino and another tenor sax great Pat Carey (Downchild/Jazz Navigators/Bradley & The Bouncers), joined forces as The Three Tenors (saxes). This was their second musical excursion in as many years, and to this writer, came off better than the first time they came together as a tenor sax trio the year before at the 2005 Shuffle. This 2005 concert was recorded for posterity by Pennino’s friend and business manager Myles Tangedal of MT Productions, and is released as a live CD entitled The Three Tenors .. (what else?).
Tangedal also recorded Pennino with Chuck Jackson, ‘Live On Bourbon St.’ (which is also the name of this entertaining and ‘historic’ CD). It was recorded live at the Jazz Parlor, on New Orleans’ world-famous Bourbon St., only a few months before Hurricane Katrina wreaked her wrath on this Crescent City that gave jazz and later early R&B its name: http://www.jazzreview.com/cd/review-17042.html
The only letdown for this writer, in regards to the 2006 concert, was that Lonero although present in the audience, was not part of the Three Tenors sax extravaganza. His superb technique and imagination on guitar and vocals, would only have elevated this already-excellent concert to even greater heights. Jazz guitar great Jake Langley was the featured guitarist in this Three Tenors concert, and did a superb job. Lonero did however join Pennino, Langley and others onstage at various other concert venues during this 2006 Shuffle, and amazed and transfixed the crowds who attended these extremely entertaining shows, whenever he performed. At one point this all-star grouping were joined by Fabulous Thunderbirds piano man Gene Taylor, who really ripped it up on keyboards with Pennino, et al -- like he did in years gone by when he was part of the Downchild Blues Band.
Another standout performer, who regularly tours with Cavallo, is his longtime friend and band mate, bassist Chuck Sgroi. Sgroi’s bass lines are impressive and imaginative, whether it’s ‘50s-style rock ‘n’ roll, classic jazz or gut-bucket Chicago blues. He’s been there .. done it all, with the originators of these genres, and continues to entertain in the same high musical fashion that’s made him a huge draw with Cavallo over the ensuing decades since they joined musical forces in 1962.
Pennino although he hadn’t met Cavallo or Sgroi until the 2005 Shuffle, got along with them like it was old home week. They might not have performed together before then, but their high quality of musical performance and good-natured small town camaraderie, made it seem like they knew each other for ages onstage musically and offstage socially.
They all had a chance to groove at one point with local blues vocalist Johnny Max, whose raw, gritty blues singing is natural and welcome whenever this writer has seen him perform live, or heard him on CD. Max hosts the Sunday Night Soul blues and R&B radio show at Toronto’s AM 1430, that can also be heard on the internet. Max and Jackson (the former co-host) have featured and interviewed Pennino and Cavallo on their show. Max’s performance with these legends onstage was electrifying to say the least this past year, and promises to be the same this coming September 2007 at the 9th Annual Southside Shuffle.
I hope many of you out there in 'music land', get a chance to attend the Southside Shuffle, or go out to see these fine performers when they play your way. Pennino and Lonero regularly perform in New Orleans and Metarie, Louisiana and elsewhere. Cavallo owns a nightclub in Florida, where he lives. He often entertains there and at various festivals throughout the year.
Whenever Johnny Pennino, Bobby Lonero, Jimmy Cavallo and Pat Carey get onstage to entertain, one thing you know is, it’s gonna be one helluva hoot!