Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review from the Archives: Joe Louis Walker, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Scotty Moore and Ike Turner in Central Park 7/26/97

A fair approximation of what the Robert Cray/Albert Collins/Johnny Copeland album Showdown might have sounded like, live. Roomful of Blues opened the outdoor show with a set of pedestrian, swingy blues. Joe Louis Walker followed, backed by an excellent band featuring a terrific rhythm guitarist who only got one solo all night long but made the most of it. Walker is the absolute real deal: the guy can play. His opening tune was a long, extended number, possibly titled Hip Shaking Mama, featuring all kinds of searing, distorted solos on a black Gibson solidbody. Another original, Slipping and Sliding was next, and just as long, Walker switching to a Les Paul, playing with in an open tuning with a slide and this was as good as Sonny Rhodes at his best. It was pretty obvious that Walker knew this would be a shootout, and he was trying his best to establish himself as the meanest guitarslinger onstage before the others appeared.

Matt “Guitar” Murphy, of Blues Brothers fame, was the first to join him. Early on, he tried several of his trademark lightining-fast triplets and couldn’t get off the ground with them, so he stuck wailing furiously up and down on chords and burning through innumerable, supersonic blues runs, and ended up stealing the show. It’s hard to imagine Murphy, or for that matter any lead guitarist, turning in a more exciting performance than Murphy’s today: pretty impressive, considering the rest of the crew who would be up there with him. After a gentle, jazz-inflected solo in the duo’s first song together, he took a fiery, searing one in the next tune that had everything a good solo should have: spectacular speed, melodicism and a point to drive home, hard. Later he took another one but lost focus and fell back into triplet mode. At that point, Walker, who was playing rhythm, hit his distortion pedal and really slammed out his chords, as if to say, Matt, get your act together. Which Murphy did, spectacularly.

Scotty Moore, the legendary lead player in Elvis Presley’s original band then joined them, somewhat of a fish out of water. He comes from an earlier era, a jazzier, more reflective school of lead playing, like Les Paul or an even mellower Jimmy Rogers. He looked lost up there more often than not, surrounded by so much adrenaline: ostentation is not his thing. Walker savagely stepped all over the outro to one of Moore’s solos, bringing the intensity up to redline again in seconds flat.

Then Ike Turner joined the fray, first playing sensationally good, fast, brightly chordal blues piano, then wailing on a Strat running through all kinds of effects: chorus, digital delay and then a phaser. Which was showy, assuring him the spotlight whenever he took a solo, regardless of what he played. Although he was also excellent, using short bursts a la Albert Collins from time to time and with the phaser, this was intense and extremely entertaining. They did Rocket 88 as Turner returned to the piano and sang it; vocally, he’s lost quite a bit. Later, they all did Mystery Train, showcasing Moore again. Their lone encore had all five of the guitarists soloing and playing off each other and rather than sounding like Phish, this was amazing, Moore even being swept up in the madness and turning in his most incisive, bluesy solo of the night. A frequently transcendent, historically significant show.

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July 26, 2008 Posted by | blues music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment