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Monday, July 28, 2008

A Weekend of Gigs

As I rode my bicycle at dawn along Lake Michigan this morning, I was reflecting on the fine musical weekend that just passed. The Mystery Band was a pure blues unit on Friday and was a jazz/blues hybrid on Saturday. We had two musicians that played their first gig with the group over the weekend, and they handled the challenge well.

On Friday, I had the honor of playing with the great Felix Reyes, also known as "Uncle Fe." This was his first gig with the Mystery Band. Felix hails from Dallas and now lives in Chicago, but he spent quite a bit of time in Atlanta. His first band, in Texas, was called the "Weebads" (fabulous name!!). In Atlanta, his band, Felix and the Cats was a very important pillar of the Atlanta blues community. The Cats played B.B. Kings birthday party in the mid-90's and also played at the Atlanta Olympics. Mr. Reyes was also instrumental in the development of several young blues players, most notably the young guitar phenom, Sean Costello who recently died before reaching his 29th birthday. Felix and Sean are pictured together at the top of this post. Felix moved to Chicago several years ago and he is a fantastic guitarist, songwriter and vocalist (he wrote tunes for Susan Tedeschi and currently does music production work for the Oprah Winfrey Show and independent films). This cat is very heavy, and he just killed on Friday. The other members of the Mystery Band on Friday were all top Chicago blues veterans - Harlan Terson on bass, Tom Crivellone on guitar, and Aaron Almon on drums. These aren't my regular bandsmen, but the group sounded tight and we were having lots of fun.

The Friday night gig at Bill's Blues started slow, but turned into a frenetic dance party when a large group of folks came in at around 10:30 p.m. They had just left a wedding reception and were is a party mood (many had consumed a number of adult beverages prior to their arrival at Bill's). We had women down on the ground kicking up their legs and flashing their scanties to various interested observers. It was a very fine night for the Mystery Band.

On Saturday, a different Mystery Band assembled at Duke's Bar in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood. Duke's is a classic Chicago tavern with a small side room that contains a tiny stage and P.A. system. The Mystery Band plays there regularly (for the giggles, not the money). On Saturday, the Mystery Band consisted of Mike Finnerty and the Heat Merchants, with Mr. G up front on harmonica and vocals. Mike Finnerty is one of the tenor sax giants of Chicago; his band consists of Andy Meacham on guitar, Adam Kraus on upright bass and "Street Beat Pete" Castranova on drums (this was Pete's first gig with the Mystery Band). The Heat Merchants are not completely familiar with the various blues grooves typically explored by the Mystery Band, but the typical Mystery Band is not generally familiar with the changes to "Body & Soul." It was an interesting gig. We played blues, jazz and country tunes. We had some great moments and some not-so-great moments. Duke's Bar lets patrons bring their dogs into the joint, so we had two canines wandering around as we played.

These Mystery Band shows are always great evenings, full of stories and odd moments. They are times to be treasured.

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