Show Review – Mike Zito Big Band

Show Review – Mike Zito Big Band

Show Review – Mike Zito Big Band

Show Review – Mike Zito Big Band

Event Center, Port Charlotte – May 13, 2020

 

Lou Phoenix put together a special evening of music at Port Charlotte’s Event Center. Mike Zito, Alex Lopez, Albert Castiglia, and Johnny Jensen were the featured talent at what proved to be a memorable event. A show that attendees continued to discuss on social media days after the event.

Alex Lopez and The Xpress opened the show and set the tone for the evening with a high energy set. Alex with the XPress (Kenny Hoye on keyboards, Kana Leimbach on drums, and Steve Roberts on bass) featured tracks from the new release “Rising Up”. Young gun Johnny Jensen, himself “rising up” in notoriety, joined the band on stage.

Mike Zito’s Big Band (Matthew Johnson on drums, Doug Byrkit bass, Lewis Stephens on keyboards, Fernando Castillo on trumpet, and Eric Demmer on sax) brought a different sound and style to the stage for Mike. And a most enjoyable sound it is. Mike wears the role of a “big” band leader well.

The band was tight and performed many of the favorites that Mike brings to the stage in his shows. The set began with a song from the forthcoming release Resurrection called “I’ll Make Love To You”, which featured an extended solo from ex-Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown sax player Eric Demmer. The band quickly moved to “Don’t Let the World Get You Down” from Quarantine Blues.

After the award winning “Pearl River”, “I Never Knew a Hurricane”, and a few more from the new release – highlighted by “Don’t Bring me Down” – the band cranked out “Judgement Day” – a version so intense that Matt Johnson’s cymbal fell off the drum riser. And the intensity was just beginning!

Albert Castiglia joined the fun and Mike passed the lead over to Albert who rocked out with “Let The Big Dog Eat”. Mike reclaimed the lead as the band broke into a unique version of “Hey Joe”, which featured a tight solo by Lewis Stevens. Albert introduced Lewis as being a former member of Freddie King’s band and the band played for many what was the highlight of the night: an extended jam of Freddie’s “Boogie Funk” – where Albert torched the stage with his solo. After a keyboard solo by Lewis, Mike jumped in with a solo of his own, and the heat continued until the conclusion of this almost 9-minute version. Wow!

Slowing it down. Mike brought “Gone To Texas” into the set. Always a poignant song, the timing was just right after the intensity of “Boogie Funk”, as it let the crowd recharge before the final jam was to start.


Calling Alex Lopez and Johnny Jensen to the stage, Mike gave up the guitar and led the band through “Dying Day” This version featured solos by Johnny Jensen and Fernando Castillo, whose trumpet solo took the mind directly to New Orleans. Alex Lopez and Lewis added the final solos to this rollicking version that had the crowd up and moving.


Following up with “Wee Wee Hours of the Morning”, this version on this night had special meaning to many in attendance. Mike sang to Renee Bennett, well known to many as the owner of the late-great Bradenton club “Aces”.  Albert joined in honoring Renee with a solo from his knees aimed directly at Renee who was sitting in the front row. Johnny added a marvelous solo while Albert left the stage and Frank Bang took his place.


The collected ensemble concluded the show with “Johnny B Goode”. After 3:30 minutes of music the band and the crowd left with smiles on their faces. What a night of music in Port Charlotte!

Thanks to Jim Hartzell for documenting the event with his wonderful photos.

-Scott Morris

GOOD NEWS!

GOOD NEWS!

GOOD NEWS!


GOOD NEWS!
– the 37th International Blues Challenge (IBC) is back and scheduled to take place January 18- 22, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee along historic Beale Street!

For those of you not familiar with the IBC, it represents the worldwide search for blues bands and solo/duo blues performers. The IBC is judged by blues professionals from across the world who have years of experience in listening to, producing, and creating blues music. The Blues Foundation has established a set of criteria by which all competing musicians are evaluated throughout the five days of the IBC.

Each local blues society affiliated with The Blues Foundation (we are!) can stage a live, regional IBC competition using local folks as judges. The winners of that event – 1 band and 1 solo/duo act – will go on to represent their organization in Memphis. Your membership fees help to cover the lodging and travel expenses of our representatives.

Your Suncoast Blues Society (SBS) is pleased to announce we have a date and a venue:

Sunday, July 25th from 2 – 6
at 10th Street Live in Palmetto
 

Calling all Bands, Solo or Duo (Blues) acts

If you’re ready to take it to the next level and launch your career as a touring Blues musician and want the world to know you’re out there, you should take the first step and compete in our Suncoast Blues Society regional challenge. Musicians must decide whether you want to compete as either a solo/duo or as a band. You can only choose one category.

  • There is a $25 registration fee that will go towards paying expenses for that day
  • At least one member must be a current SBS member so now is a great time to join or renew.
  • Live within a 250-mile radius of the Tampa Bay area

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER 

Your performance and instrumentation must be live. Absolutely no using tracks or drum machines or anything but real instruments.

A complete list of rules and regulations will be provided to you when you sign up.
Please email events@suncoastblues.org if you wish to compete ASAP.

 

 

Holiday Greetings Blues Fans

Holiday Greetings Blues Fans

Holiday Greetings Blues Fans

As 2020 rolls to a close we are looking forward to the start of the new year of change. We all hope for some normalcy in our future but there is still much uncertainty. The new vaccine to combat the COVID-19 virus is on the way. We must stay vigilant and patient, be cautious and safe, wear masks and continue to social distance – do not let your guard down. We are resilient, we adapt, and we will survive and be stronger for it.

We all want our live music back in our communities and we want the musicians to be successful as well. Music connects us and we want more. We had a successful ‘Drive In’ event at the Hudson Library recently. About 30 cars and 50 attended, some in their cars, some sat outside in front of their cars enjoying the live music event. We are working on other opportunities to find safe venues with the space to spread out comfortably. It is incredibly challenging to try to plan future events. The Board is working on some tentative arrangements for March 2021. We will keep you posted as we get closer.

In the meantime, please visit our web site, our Facebook page and read your weekly Blues News for CD reviews, Feature Articles, and event information.

If you have not renewed your membership, please check your card to see if it is time to renew. We know it has been a tough year but we do not want to lose our loyal members. We wish you a healthy and happy holiday and a New Year that holds peace and hope for unity from a year of conflict and division in our country. Cheers for a speedy recovery for our nation.

Your SBS Board

“Rise Up”- Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters CD Review

“Rise Up”- Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters CD Review

“Rise Up”- Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters CD Review

Rise Up 
Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters 

Rise Up, the 27th album in Ronnie Earl’s career, takes the listener through a journey that while bluesy, would at times be comfortable in a jazz club. Part studio, part live performances, this 15-song recording is a must for any Ronnie Earl fan.

Expertly mixed and featuring The Broadcasters along with Ronnie’s signature Stratocaster tone, Rise Up enjoyably begins with a melodic acoustic adaptation of I Shall not be Moved.  A version which left me with a good feeling from what I just heard and anticipating good things to come.

Featured prominently on this recording are the vocals of Diane Blue. On the second track, Higher Love, Ronnie, and keyboardist Dave Limina set up a nice introduction for Diane’s vocals within this Ronnie Earl written song.

Rise Up contains a few tribute songs; some that pay respect to social consciousness, and many others honor fellow musicians. Diane Blue highlights a live version of Fenton Robinson’s You Don’t Know What Love Is. The longest song on the recording is a Ronnie Earl original titled Blues for Lucky Peterson. This instrumental is Ronnie through and through.

Perhaps the most compelling tribute is a version of Magic Sam’s All Your Love. Again, Diane Blue’s vocals shine. Magic Sam licks never sounded so good as coming out of Ronnie’s Stratocaster. Dave Limina mixes in a nice keyboard between Ronnie solos.

The gospel inspired version of Bob Dylan’s Lord Protect My Child is another opportunity for Diane to showcase her talentsRonnie’s playing is superb on his original entitled Talking to Mr. Bromberg – a song that is unmistakably Ronnie from start-to-finish.

Mess Around is an up-tempo instrumental that features Dave Limina and bassist Paul KochanskiThe Broadcaster’s swing it on a live jazzy version of Jimmy Smith’s instrumental Blues for J.  The recording wraps up featuring Ronnie on an original co-written with Pete Ward called Navajo Blues

When speaking about Ronnie, B.B. King said it best:

“…he is one of the most serious blues guitarists you can find today. He makes me proud!” 

Rise Up is yet another class recording from one of the classiest and nicest performers in the business.  Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters fans will not be surprised by the quality of the recording.  For future Ronnie Earl fans, this would be an excellent way to begin your journey into magic sounds crafted from Ronnie’s creativity and smooth guitar playing.  B.B. would be applauding this effort.

Links
Ronnie Earl Website
Higher Love – Live at Daryl’s House
Ronnie Earl Albums
Blues Therapy

A note about Blues TherapyThis book, written by Anita Schlank, Ph. D., and blues fan, contains a series of interviews with blues artists. The goal of the book is to show how blues music helps to heal, including some artist who suffer from mental health issues and addictions. Within, Ronnie Earl is quite open about his past struggles. The book is fine reading and provides insights into the personal life of many we as blues fans revere for their musical talents. Proceeds from the book benefit the HART Fund.

For more information on the Handy Artist Relief Trust please visit HART Fund

 

2021 International Blues Challenge Update

2021 International Blues Challenge Update

2021 International Blues Challenge Update

The following post is from Michael Freeman, Chairman of The Blues Foundation

Dear Blues Friends,

This past weekend, as I presided over the quarterly meeting of the Blues Foundation Board of Directors, one of our key agenda items was The International Blues Challenge. I am writing to share with our blues community that our Board voted unanimously to cancel this years’ IBC and look ahead to the first quarter of 2022 when we can hopefully come together in person to celebrate the blues via this signature Blues Foundation event.

Leading up to this Board decision, we wrote expanded rules that would have allowed our affiliated blues societies to choose their challengers outside of a live judged event. In response, many have reported back to us that they and the musicians in their communities are not enthusiastic about proceeding. It has become clear to us that without full engagement of artists, industry, blues society leadership, and fans, we could not produce an event with the musical diversity and quality you have come to expect. After much discussion and careful consideration of all options, including a virtual IBC, we universally agreed that this special and unique Blues Foundation program is meant to be experienced live and that it would not be safe or feasible to attempt to produce it this winter in the midst of a pandemic. The Board concurrently voted to suspend nominations and selection of Keeping the Blues Alive Award recipients until the fall of 2021, with plans to honor those selected during the 2022 IBC Week, where they can be celebrated in person with their family and friends surrounding them.

 

We recognize that the International Blues Challenge has grown in scope and recognition throughout the world, and we do not want to leave a vacuum in its absence this year. Please be assured that we will be using the time and resources normally directed towards the IBC to develop unique content and virtual activities for this winter. This is not intended to replace the IBC, but to give the blues world and our membership a way to remain connected as we all continue to heal through this pandemic that has uprooted so many of our plans and our lives. 

While we will miss coming together on Beale Street this January, we choose to see this as an opportunity to expand our mission in new ways. We are hopeful that open travel, live music, and the ability to congregate in-person will quickly be safe again, and I encourage you to save the dates for the 37th International Blues Challenge – February 1st through February 5th, 2022.

 

Please stay safe and be well.