Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Blues Jam at Little Penang Street Market

Let 2013 begin with some YouTube videos from the last weekend of 2012. Jackie and I were asked at the last minute to perform at the Little Penang Street Market on Sunday. The LPSM is always a fun venue because the organizers let the musicians call the shots: we are able to put together our own sets and play whatever we want. No call for Lionel Richie covers or Frank Sinatra tunes to please the audience. The LPSM has evolved into one of the last remaining jam sessions on the island, particularly for jazz and blues fans, since the long-running G Spot jazz jam died over a year ago.

I phoned blues harpist Kim Gooi to join us, but our hopes to pick up the Penang Blues Brothers at short notice were dashed when we discovered that keyboardist James Lochhead was not feeling well and guitarist Sid was in KL for the holidays. Jackie and I were resolved to playing a not-too-fun duet set over Band-In-A-Box. We managed to convince one of the actors from the UK's Click Theatre Company, Richard, in town to play the role of The Major in Fawlty Towers, to sit in on piano for a few tunes.

Then things got interesting. I was told that there was another keyboardist in the crowd, which was larger than normal due to the number of tourists in Penang for the holidays. I asked him to join us and he modestly said he did not think he was up to standard. Ha ha. Fortunately I was able to convince "T" to come up on stage and sit in with me, Jackie, and Kim. The next hour caught fire. We warmed up on Chitlins Con Carne and Night Train, but then T just started jamming in Bb and things took off. T has a great rhythmic sense and we didn't miss the bassist and drummer after that.

I've posted four videos from December 30 on YouTube. First up is a slow gospel blues I've dubbed "Testifying with T" in honor of our mystery guest. I preach an improvised Sunday morning sermon over T's chords, then Kim and Jackie bear witness and Jackie and I harmonize in the choir before we all take it out.
Next up is The Doors' Roadhouse Blues, which I first played with Hans and the Hillbillies at Ziggy's Bar on the beach in St. Kitts. From the sacred to the profane, Roadhouse Blues is one of the all-time classic bar-band rockers. Then, back to tradition with Blue Monk and, finally, Blue Train as our New Years' wish.


As Blue Train closed, T got up from the keys and disappeared back into the crowd. Our time ran out too quickly, like 5 minutes rather than an hour. It has been quite a while since I've been in a pure pick-up band situation that I liked this much. You can see the smile on T's face in the videos. He definitely has the right attitude towards music and it was infectious. The crowd enjoyed listening to our set as much as we enjoyed playing the music, an all-around win-win. Like William Parker told me a couple of months ago, creating positive energy helps keep the world on its axis.

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