Monday, April 30, 2018

Big Jay McNeely still honking at 91

San Luis Obispo turned out to be quite a lively place on Thursday evenings. There's a farmer"s market with street food, entertainers and displays as well as the usual fruit and veg. Next day we set off for LA via Santa Barbara and checked in at the Rodeway in Culver City. The evening meal of herring at the Gravad Lax was followed by some beer at the hotel. Friday was a quiet day. Breakfast in Venice Beach was worked off by a walk along the sea front to Muscle Beach. Lots of people on motorised scooters and segways and sunny but chilly by LA standards. I bought a few 45s at Record Surplus and Amoeba and in the evening had shepherds pie at the the Olde Kings Head pub in Santa Monica. John, Alan and I completed last year's Route 66 road trip by checking out the sign marking the end of the route on Santa Monica pier.
Next day we had a look at the pretty canals after which Venice Beach is named and then enjoyed a real treat. Big Jay McNeely was celebrating his 91st birthday with a show at Joe's American Bar and Grill in Burbank. Jay had to be lifted onto the stage, but once there he showed that vocally he is still in great shape and that his sax playing remains of the highest calibre. What's more, he seemed relaxed and happy with life, smiling constantly. He was funny and his audience rapport was brilliant. Backed by the Rob Stone Band, comprising Steve Mugallion on drums, Brad Hayman on stand up bass, Bill Bates on guitar, Steve F'Dor on keyboards and Jim Holt and Al Rappaport on extra saxes, Jay began with some jump blues with All That Wine Has Gone. It was to believe that Jay has been playing sax for 75 years and first recorded on 1949 as he moved on to Big Fat Mama and Flip Flop and Fly, followed by his big hit There Is Something On Your Mind. Pretty Girls Everywhere followed, along with Get Up We're Gonna Boogie and a little bit of I Can't Stop Loving You, which suddenly changed into You Don't Miss Your Water Until The Well Runs Dry. Next it was pure blues with Sad Sad World before Jay finished off the first set with a funky Party. His second set featured more of the same with Let The Good Times Roll, a blues, Times Getting a Tougher Than Tough, sung by Rob Stone, the instrumental After Hours, the funky Everybody Needs Somebody, blues with Just a Country Boy and the New Orleans flavoured Zydeco Soul, before finishing with Party once again. Throughout his two sets Jay, dressed in a red jacket and hat, smiled and winked and was clearly enjoying himself. What a treat to see a living legend still sounding so good. Definitely a show to remember.
After Jay we intended to go to the Pure Pleasure Blues club, but Jay's was an afternoon show so we were a little too early. We went instead to the much more sophisticated La Louisianne where we very much enjoyed the smooth soul singing of songstress J P Miles, a Houston singer now based on the West Coast. There were a few numbers too from a good soul man named Jay Jackson, plus a rather less good song from a Michael Jackson wannabe called, I think, Scorpio, and the club's owner, who really shouldn't have been allowed on a stage. A good night though, after a fantastic afternoon with Jay.
Our final night in LA was again spent at La Louisianne, where veteran soul blues man Sonny Green put on a brilliant show backed by Lester Lands and his band. Sonny is a real showman and some of the ladies in the club got quite excited. Wearing a glittery jacket, his set included That's The Way Love Is, Last Two Dollars, Drown In My Own Tears, Love and Happiness, Bobby Bland's Members Only, and Down Home Blues, all performed with great panache and soulful styling. Lester contributed good versions of Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You, I'll Take You There, Bright Lights Big City and a medley of Sam Cooke numbers. An all round great night and a super way to finish off the trip. More photos soon as we will be heading for home tomorrow after a great three weeks.


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