[Dixielandjazz] B.B. King

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Apr 15 10:29:15 PDT 2004

Below article about how one man does the "Blues" these days. Having seen
his show twice in the past year, B B King at almost 80 (makes you feel
old doesn't it) still knows how to put on an entertaining show for his

Steve Barbone

April 15, 2004 - NY Times


For Evening at the Apollo a Mix of Banter and Blues

       When B. B. King has played in New York in recent times, it has
usually been at his own place on 42nd Street, or downtown at the Blue
Note: the kind of carpeted nightclubs that serve pricey grilled
calamari. Not in a theater where a comic warms up the audience. But the
Apollo is the Apollo.

"White people are late!" the black stand-up comedian Capone marveled at
some stragglers few minutes after 8 on Tuesday night. "That's unusual!
Things are really getting mixed up in this country. Hmm: grown man
carrying a book bag over there. What you got in there?"

Mr. King's eight-piece backing band trooped onstage. Some of the players
have been with Mr. King for more than 20 years. They played a long, slow
introductory blues, giving solo time to fluegelhorn, trumpet, baritone
sax, two electric guitars and organ. Then Mr. King himself finally
appeared, in a smoking jacket, and took a seat with his guitar.

The first time Mr. King played the Apollo, he recalled, was in 1952;
he's made many return stops since then. What he brings now, at 78, are
glimpses of guitar heroism in a deep, starchy, heavy guitar sound; some
powerful singing; and a lot of black vaudeville bantering with the

He brought so much of that lost art that the first half of his set, a
good hour, was something other than straight music. "I'm a diabetic, got
bad knees, bad back and a bad head," he said early in the set. He took a
wary look back at his band, starting a routine that would last all
night: the boss fearing an insurrection. Then he noticed a young girl in
the front row.

"And I promise that as long as I'm alive or can think, I'll never say or
do anything to embarrass any family," he said. All subsequent references
to teenage lust and Viagra were coded.

Starting off, he merged into the band's groove, producing a few
screaming, tremolo notes. And for a good hour that was the size of it:
scraps of sound, miniphrases, each one hurled at the audience.

At 9:30 or so, after a long story about flirting in church, Mr. King
bumped the show to another level. "I got a good mind to give up living
and go shopping instead," he sang. "Pick me up a tombstone — girl had me
pronounced dead."

His singing punctuated by shouts, he kept the momentum with another song
about death, "Please Accept My Love." ("If you should die before I
do/I'll end my life to be with you.") The guitar solos became more
continuous, stretching to a few choruses at a time. And in the
inevitable rendition of "The Thrill Is Gone," this time given a
slow-funk treatment, he used sustained notes in his fat, heavy sound,
bending a note a quarter-tone up and keeping it there for several
measures, letting the dissonance obliterate the music.

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