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Eric Clapton

Last night the legendary Buddy Guy played Davies Symphony Hall as part of the SF Jazz summer series. Born in Louisiana, he moved to Chicago in 1957 and became a staff guitarist for Chess Records, playing on recordings with Junior Wells, Muddy Waters, Howling' Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Koko Taylor. As an architecht of the second generation of Chicago electric blues guitar style, he is, along with B.B. King, the most influential guitarist to all blues and rock guitar players. (Albert and Freddie King must of course also be mentioned.) While obscure in the US until the early 90's, he influenced Mike Bloomfield, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton (The Cream was Clapton's idea based on the powerful Buddy Guy Trio) Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck, to name a few. With complete command of all blues idioms, he can sweep from rural delta blues to psychedelic wail in seconds. Dynamics is often missing even in great players, but Buddy delights in a wide pallet, from a whisper to a roar, and back again. His vocals are always intense, and riveting. At 79, he is the most supple being at that age I have ever seen. (Even Ravi Shankar would get a little stiffer physically each year, though it never affected his playing). Toward the end of the set he walked around the auditorium, and as he came within a few feet of me, playing screaming guitar, I realized how light his right hand attack was - the massive amps doing the heavy lifting. "Buddy Guy is by far and without a doubt the best guitar player alive. " — Eric Clapton

My Valence Project band mates Brain and Melissa Reese suggested we check out the Steve Gadd Band at Yoshi's last night.  I've had the privilege of seeing Steve many times; with Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, and most recently at SF Jazz with David Sanborn and Bob James.  He's always super tasteful and groovy.  From being part of the house band at CTI Records, often with Ron Carter on bass and revolving leaders including Jim Hall, Paul Desmond, Chet Baker and Hubert Laws, to Stuff (the Live at Montreux dvd is a must have) Gadd can play any style of music with conviction and taste.  For his own band he had Larry Goldings on B3 (I believe I first saw Larry with John McLaughlin many years ago) Larry Johnson (James Taylor/ Allan Holdsworth) on bass, Walter Fowler on trumpet and fluglehorn, and Michael Landau on guitar.  The music ranged from funk to New Orleans second line, to blues to a lovely straight-ahead version of Bye Bye Blackbird. So inspirational!


The marvelous Mark Knopfler and his band performed Sunday October 27 at The Fox Theater in Oakland.  Touring in support of his latest recording, a double cd entitled "Privateering", the band is capable of all Knopfler demands; from Celtic hymns to delta blues to bluegrass, to barroom rock and roll.  In his own words ""I have always thought in terms of the transatlantic nature of music. My idea of heaven is somewhere where the Mississippi Delta meets the Tyne. What I wanted from the very first album with Dire Straits and songs like 'Sultans of Swing' was to write my own geography into the American music that shaped me, to identify the English, Irish and Scottish landmarks on Chuck Berry's road. I think what I'm doing now is both synthesizing those influences and separating them. The band I have is so talented, and so flexible, they give me the kind of palette to go anywhere I want, so I can jump from a hill farm in the north of England and go straight to the streets of New York City or go down into the delta for a straight-ahead blues." 

Many of the musicians have been with him for almost 20 years: Guy Fletcher on keys, Richard Bennett on guitar, Glenn Worf on bass.  His low key manner on stage belies what a prolific and brilliant career he's had, from Dire Straights to film scores (Local Hero is a gem) to his solo work and duet recording with Emmy Lou Harris.  How many guitarists can say they've produced Bob Dylan recordings, backed up Eric Clapton on tour, and had Eric as a second guitarist on tour?  While his vocal style has always borrowed heavily from early Dylan and JJ Cale, the guitar style is utterly unique - the right hand frails like a banjo player, the left hand vibrato is slow and wide, and immediately recognizable.  A style perfectly matched to a Stratocaster. 

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