Monday, May 22, 2017

Roomful Of Blues At The Tin Pan ~~ May 21, 2017

For the third time in four days, The Tin Pan in the West End of Henrico was the place to be if you are a blues fan. Earlier in the week they showcased the talents of John Hammond (Thursday), Ana Popovic (Saturday) and Sunday they entertained the swing jazz blues sound of Roomful Of Blues!
While the room wasn’t completely packed, it was still a good sized crowd, especially for a work night, and those who were in attendance were long time fans of the band and ready to get into the music quickly. Roomful Of Blues is celebrating their 50th Anniversary as a band this year, and last night there was actually two members of the original lineup! Both of the sax players, Richard Lataille and Doug James were there at the very beginning.
James was joining the band for a week of touring and Richmond was very lucky to get to see him, and anytime one can catch Lataille is a good time. Along with trumpeter Rick Hammett, they make up one of the tightest horn sections around. So few bands work with a good sized horn section, so when you get that chance to see one that works on this level, grab it!
Completing the band was Chris Vachon on guitar and band leader, Rusty Scott on piano, and the rhythm section comprised by Chris Anzalone on drums, and Big John Turner on upright bass. Phil Pemberton fronts the band and handles all the lead vocals.
The show got started before Pemberton made his way to the stage, with the band vamping through a jazzy number and segueing into a slow blues burn. Pemberton’s voice is good and handles a variety of blues style with ease. The band quickly ran through Up Jumped The Devil and It’s A Sin to Tell A Lie with only a slight pause in between.
Most of their songs offered a good chance for one or more of the musicians to take an extended break, often trading off – sometimes between guitar and piano, sometimes between the horns, and once in a while even bass and drums getting a turn to showcase just how good they are. Many of the guys in Roomful Of Blues also play in various jazz groups in New England. Jazz keeps players sharp – always listening for new directions that a song is taking and trading off solos throughout a number.
That’s the way Roomful Of Blues runs a show. The music may be deeply rooted in the blues and swing, but they carry with them a jazz sensibility. Since most of them have been playing together for years, they’ve developed a group mind that allows them to change on the fly and even to go from one song to another if that’s where the moment takes them.
From there, Pemberton took a minute to talk a little about this being the 50th year of the band before going into Easy Baby, which was off their last album, 45 Live. Has it really been five years since their last album? They have been so prolific over the years, it’s hard to imagine.
After that they delivered a rocking rendition of one of my favorite Doc Pomus songs, Boogie Woogie Country Girl. That’s not one you hear very often and they did a bang up job with it. The songs continued one on top of the other: Two For The Price Of Ten, Too Much Boogie, and Your Love Was Never There.
Pemberton really put his heart and soul into My Baby Quit Me, a powerful bluesy number that the audience really appreciated. Shortly after that, Pemberton stepped off the stage after announcing they were going to feature the band. First was a quartet made up of Vachon, Scott, Turner, and Anzalone, and then with Hammett, James, and Lataille.
Pemberton returned to close the show on One More Mile before coming back for a raucous and rousing rendition of New Orleans. Afterwards, while the band broke down the stage, Pemberton and James greeted all of the fans who wanted to stop and chat, and pick up any merchandise that they didn’t already have. I was lucky enough to score a copy of an album James did with Sax Gordon, and I will be featuring it soon on Time For The Blues.
As a music fan, I love to catch live music. There is an immediacy of seeing high level musicians practicing their art that can be lost on a record. Watching how they feed off the energy of the crowd and build excitement in a roomful of strangers is always an amazing experience for me. That’s one of the reasons why I love to go to venues like The Tin Pan (sure, there are others, but the folks at The Tin Pan invite me in and treat me like I’m part of the family) where you are right on top of the artists and they will take the time to connect with you after the show.
If you are ever on the fence about going to see someone, especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve been out – go ahead and take the plunge. Chances are you’re going to have a great time and you’ll want to come back for more. 

We may start out a roomful of strangers, but the experience of the show turns us into a family. Especially when it’s a masterful group like Roomful Of Blues.

(All photos by Anita Schlank. Used by permission.)

No comments:

Post a Comment