Noah Shaffer was lucky enough to attend the Soul Clap 10th Anniversary in New York recently. Here's his review. Many thanks to Dave Thomas for the use of his photos of the event.
The occasion for this staggering lineup of soul greats was the 10th anniversary of the DJ parties thrown by NY DJ Jonathan Toubin. Some may have heard about his return DJing after a bizarre and horrible incident in which a driver drove into his ground-floor hotel room while Toubin was sleeping. Toubin is known for spinning uptempo tunes for young crowds complete with a dance contest and an MC. He is definitely an entertainer and while there are many fine Americans DJs who play soul 45s at their local watering hole, Toubin has managed to carve out a steady touring circuit around the US.
The 800 capacity Warsaw (AKA the ballroom of the Polish-American National Home - you can snack on perogis between sets) was sold out well in advance and quite packed. As we all know the quality of a soul show is almost entirely dependent on the quality of the backing band, and I'm happy to say that those duties were handled exceedingly well by the band of Nick Waterhouse
, a West Coast 'soul revival' singer/songwriter. Nick's secret weapon is JB Flatt, the keyboardist who has played with Eli Paperboy Reed for years and who is no stranger to doing arrangements for soul veterans as he had the same job as musical director for the on-hiatus Dig Deeper/Brooklyn Soul fest series. Another Paperboy alum, M. Juliani Brooks laid out some scorching tenor saxophone solos.
Waterhouse started off the night with some of his own tunes, which I can't say I found very distinctive or interesting. Then it was time for the veterans. First up was the only act on the bill I'd never seen: Ural Thomas
, the latest in the seemingly endless line of rediscovered soul acts who have surfaced out of unlikely locales, in this case Portland, Oregon. Ural brought with him his own young singer/drummer (who annoyingly seemed to think he was Ural's duet partner) as well as the horn section from his hometown band. He was quite entertaining in a versatile set of his own originals.
Next up was Baby Washington
. While her early 60's ballads are true gems, she can be a bit of a shy performer compared to most of her 60's R&B peers. At least she seemed fairly comfortable and soldiered through her brief set for the appreciative audience.
As time matches on very few artists with links to the 50's remain. Over the years I've seen Young Jessie
put on explosive performances at the Ponderosa Stomp, Dig Deeper, Viva Las Vegas and other vintage shows. Jessie is now 80 and has slowed down considerably but he was still in fairly good voice for the original 'Mary Lou' and 'Hit Git and Split.'
At this point the show had been OK but really needed a burst of energy. That came courtesy of Maxine Brown
who still looks and sounds decades younger than 78. JB has worked with her a number of times before but wrote new charts for 'Oh No Not My baby', 'All In My Mind' and 'One Step At A Time.'
A brief band stage gave the Waterhouse band a break while the sprawling Joe Bataan Orchestra
set up. Joe's astounding legacy as a pioneer of doo-wop, boogaloo, salsa, Chicano soul and hip-hop is indisputable. Sometimes his live shows are a bit uneven, especially in front of audiences that don't have much interest in hearing about his religious conversion. While he still started with 'Lord's Prayer' Bataan stayed much closer to his boogaloo roots for the rest of the night and his tight band really had it together as they blasted out mega-medleys of his hits like 'Subway Joe.' The only misfire was a Chaka Khan cover the lyrics of which Bataan read from a scrap piece of paper. But it was still one of the more compact and impactful sets I've seen him do.
After the Bataan orchestra had cleared, one of Toubin's dance contests was held, after which the Waterhouse band returned. Indian-Canadian garage/soul performance artist King Khan
was put on stage for what was certainly a change of pace.
Now it was back to the legends for the man who began his stage show with this memorable quip: 'Hi everyone, I'm Archie Bell
and if you see any Drells you're drunk as hell!' (Actually Eli Paperboy Reed and two female background singers appeared and remained for the rest of the night.) Archie did 'I Just Can't Keep Dancing,' 'There's Gonna Be A Showdown' with a cameo from David Johansen and then of course he ended by demonstrating how to do the 'Tighten Up.'` It's impossible not to have a good time when Archie is on stage.
I was looking forward to seeing David Johansen
as a number of years ago I'd seen him put on a blistering Howlin' Wolf tribute with Hubert Sumlin on guitar. I think he might be more effective as a raw bluesman than as a slick soul belter, but the audience loved hearing New York Dolls numbers like 'Personality Crisis' done soul style with a horn section.
The night ended on a very strong note with an artist who never lets her audiences down, Irma Thomas
. Like with Maxine it is impossible to believe that Irma is really in her late 70's based on the strength of her performances. I actually prefer seeing her without her band the Professionals, and I've rarely heard her with better backing or arrangements. 'Breakaway,' 'Anyone Who Knows What Love Is,' 'Ruler Of My heart' and 'Time Is On My Side were all impeccable and to finish things off we were treated to 'Hittin' On Nothing.'
The next night saw another Toubin party at a much smaller venue, Baby's All Right'. that featured Waterhouse, Ural Thomas and King Khan reprising their sets plus Eli Paperboy Reed in a blues quartet format. Even Ponderosa Stomp honcho Dr Ike was on hand to DJ.