Saturday, November 27, 1999


Mojo worked at Music Hall

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Posh, smoke-free Music Hall Ballroom made one unconvincing juke joint, but there was no questioning the sweaty realness of the blues, soul and funk coming off the stage of Friday's “Shades of Blue II” concert.

        The sequel to 1998's first Shades of Blue CD release show was another winner — more than three hours of some of the area's most familiar musicians playing in unusual combinations.

        Organized by singer/guitarists Marcos Sastre and Larry Goshorn, the Shades of Blue efforts naturally tend to focus on Tristate guitar players.

        Friday's lineup included such noted six-string wranglers as Sonny Moorman, who shone on a two-song set of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac classics “Black Magic Woman” and “Oh Well”; Ted Karas, who stayed on the jazzy side of the blues backing wife Dixie on a swinging “Route 66” and a too-laid back “Chain of Fools”; jazzman Kenny Poole, playing the sweet blues “Centerpiece” as well as Jobim's bossa nova “No More Blues.”

        Then there were the guitar bands, roots-rocking Big In Iowa, with guitarist Rick House tearing up Jimmy Reed's “Shame Shame Shame” and their Leadbelly medley from the Shades CD, “No Good Rider/Leaving Blues.”

        Chris Arduser's Graveblankets tore through their two-song set, “Gamblin' Man,” their CD contribution, and the bluegrass breakdown “Poison Mountain.”

        But the singers stole the show. Bill Caffie won the crowd of 680 with his sly, lascivious “Sixty Minute Man” and earned a standing ovation with “Stormy Monday Blues.”

        Keith Little was a new face to many, but his intense version of the late Luther Allison's “Big City” was another crowd favorite. His “Big Boss Man” filled the strip of floor in front of the stage with dancers, and the party got moving.

        Bam Powell, who spent most of the evening sharing drum duties with Mr. Arduser, stepped to the microphone for satisfyingly soulful versions of Freddie King's “Tore Down” and Roger Yeardley's “Big and Bold,” singing the latter with lyric sheet in hand.

        But the night's real unsung hero was Blue Birds keyboardist Charlie Fletcher. Not only did he provide vocal harmonies for just about all the other singers, but he put his keyboard through some very unusual paces.

        For “Big Boss Man,” it sounded like a Hawaiian steel guitar; on LeRoy Ellington's performance of James Brown's “Cold Sweat,” he synthesized baritone sax licks; on “Cincinnati Jail,” he stole the guitarists' thunder, pulling a complete guitar solo — string bends, chord distortion and all — out of his synth. It wasn't just a matter of having the right equipment; he played with the true soul of the instruments he replicated.

        The finale was a jam with Mr. Sastre, Mr. Goshorn and Mr. Moorman amiably dueling on Freddie King's “Going Down.”

        Then it was time for the encore, as Mr. Little returned to lead the whole Shades crew, and much of the crowd, through Muddy Waters' singalong, “Got My Mojo Working.”


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