Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Porretta number 30

The 30th edition of the Porretta Soul Festival begins next week and once again Graziano Uliani has assembled a high quality line up for this, Europe's, and my opinion, the world's greatest soul festival. It is appropriate that among the stars this year are Carla Thomas and sister Vaneese Thomas, as the festival, which is dedicated to Otis Redding, was built on the early appearances of their dad, Rufus Thomas. The arena where the artists perform is Rufus Thomas Park, there is a street in the town named after Otis, and this year the bridge across the river to the railway station is to be named after another of the soul greats who has played there, Solomon Burke.
Other artists appearing this year include Willie Hightower, who was very impressive when he appeared at the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans two years ago. There's also an appearance by members of James Brown's band, including Fred Wesley, Martha High, James's MC and 'cape man'
Danny Ray and bassist Fred Thomas. Other acts include Goldwax artist Wee Willie Walker, Scott Sharrard (Greg Allman's band leader), Memphis singer Barbara Blue (the new queen of Beale Street), the glamorous and ever popular Falisa Janaye (pictured at Porretta in 2013), drummer Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie, Rob Paparozzi of the Blues Brothers Band, Sax Gordon and Toni Lynn Washington. Bluesman Vasti Jackson is making a return visit with a tribute to Johnnie Taylor, as is New Orleans piano player Davell Crawford,  and there's also, a new name to me, Ricky Fante.    http://www.porrettasoul.it/index.php/programma 
It's 20 years since my first visit to Porretta, a quiet spa town hidden away in the mountains south of Bologna. This was a couple of years later than some of my friends, who had visited the festival and came back full of praise. That year, 1997, the stars were the Bar-Kays, Mable John, Jackie Johnson, James Govan, Rufus Thomas, Isaac Hayes, Irma Thomas, J Blackfoot (pictured with me below) and Otis Clay. Since then I've returned nearly every year and seen many other soul greats. In many cases they are no longer with us and this was their only appearance in Europe or, at least, their first since their sixties heyday. The line up has been variable but every year there have been artists who I have desperately wanted to see and the festival has never failed to be highly enjoyable, with top class backing bands (this year's, for the fourth year running is the Anthony Paule band). The audience, made up largely of locals, make up for their lack of soul music knowledge with tremendous enthusiasm.  Regular MC Liverpudlian Ricky Hatton, with his rather dodgy Italian, is another regular star of the show.
For the small group of Brits (and other non Italians) who attend every year, Porretta is a must. And it's not just the festival that appeals. There's the regular walk up the hill that overlooks the town and the late night bevvies in the Califfo Irish bar. There is free music during the day from Italian soul bands, a food and craft market and record stalls as well. It's a great weekend, and I can't wait!


At 12:37 pm , Anonymous Harry van Vliet said...

Hey Nick , looking forward to the festival as well ! Good line up !
Hope Mr Hightower is gonna perform "It's too late"

also looking forward to see you and the lads again !!

Prepare for a Dutch invasion .. there's 12 of us coming.

Tonight I'm gonna see Martha High at the Paradiso in Amsterdam.

Tada Harry

At 9:49 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Hi Harry. Looking forward to swing our Dutch friends again. You will enjoy Willie Hightower for sure and the rest looks good too. Cheers, Nick


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