Narendra Kusnur's music musings …

bill wyman mick ralphs

Bill Wyman (left) and Mick Ralphs

A FEW weeks ago, the music press talked of the formation of the blues-rock supergroup The Rides, featuring the legendary Stephen Stills on vocals and guitar, the hugely talented Kenny Wayne Shepherd on guitar and Electric Flag veteran Barry Goldberg on keyboards.

Those who’ve grown up on rock and folk-rock of the late 1960s would be delighted to hear of the involvement of Stills, best known as a member of iconic bands like Buffalo Springfield and Crosby Stills Nash & Young. Having been diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer and recovering from it a few years ago, the master musician is taking his career in a new direction.

Like Stills, many musicians of the 1960s and 1970s have been working on new music or on side projects. We’re not talking of Mick Jagger, Ian Anderson and Ian Gillan who continue to be associated full-time with their earlier groups, or people like Eric Clapton, Robert Plant and David Gilmour who have been releasing solo material. Specifically, we’re mentioning musicians who are now doing more work in the blues and jazz, instead of continuing in the field of rock, which they were known for.

A few random searches on Google and YouTube revealed some very interesting results. Though this music and these bands may not get the kind of popularity that their earlier rock bands earned, they are definitely brilliant in quality. And though these musicians are making the occasional appearance at blues and jazz festivals, a lot of their new stuff is going unnoticed.

Let’s look at five such acts, which are definitely worth checking out:

Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings: The former, long-time bassist of the Rolling Stones, Wyman ventured into blues-rock with this group, which also consists of some veteran musicians like guitarist Albert Lee and keyboardist Georgie Fame.

Also featured are vocalists Beverly Skeete and Gary US Bonds, guitarist Andy Fairweather Low (who accompanied Roger Waters on his India tour) and keyboardist Mike Sanchez. Guitar hero Peter Frampton, best-known for his mega-selling live album ‘Frampton Comes Alive’, appears as a regular guest, and even guitarists Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler and Mick Taylor have guested with this group.

Wyman and the Rhythm Kings have been around for a while, releasing five studio albums since 1997. Their versions of ‘Anyway the Wind Blows’, ‘Chicken Shack Boogie’, ‘Green River’ and ‘Melody’ are simply outstanding, and Skeete’s singing on the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins masterpiece ‘I Put A Spell On You’ takes you to another planet.

Peter Green and Friends: Vocalist and guitarist of Fleetwood Mac and writer of the Santana-popularised ‘Black Magic Woman’, Peter Green has had his roots in the blues, which was evident in some of the band’s early albums. This project marks his comeback in 2009, after a five-year hiatus.

Here, in fact, Green goes into exploring the blues even deeper. Accompanying him are Mike Dodd (rhythm guitar, vocals), Geraint Watkins (keyboards), Matt Radford (bass), Andrew Flude (drums) and Martin Winning (tenor sax).

The group’s versions of ‘Rainy Night in Georgia’, ‘The Stumble’, ‘Sitting in the Rain’, ‘Stranger Blues’ and ‘When the Lights Go Out’ are surely worth checking out.

Mick Ralphs Blues Band: Formerly with glam-rock group Mott the Hoople and then with the marvellous rock band Bad Company, Mick Ralphs is one of the most under-rated yet brilliant guitarists ever. His Mick Ralphs Blues Band totally showcases his talent and his proficiency with the blues.

Accompanying Ralphs are vocalist/ harmonica player Son Maxwell, slide guitarist Jim Maving, bassist Dicky Baldwin and drummer Sam Kelly. They’ve done some brilliant work on songs like ‘Can’t Do It All By Myself’, ‘ ‘Mister Charlie’, ‘Hideaway’, Just a Little Bit’, the classic Albert King song ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ and the Bad Company hit ‘Can’t Get Enough’.

John Densmore’s Tribaljazz: The former Doors drummer has been in the new more for his legal conflict with other band members Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger, which he wrote about in his book ‘The Doors Unhinged’. Following Manzarek’s death in May, he has initiated a reunion with Krieger.

Over the past few years, Densmore has been actively involved with Tribaljazz, which explores a mix of jazz, African beats and world music. The group released its debut album in 2006, featuring songs like ‘Blues For Bali’, ‘The First Time I Heard Coltrane’ (dedicated to the great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane) and ‘Violet Love’, besides a more jazzed-up version of the Doors classic ‘Riders On The Storm’.

Besides Densmore, the group features saxophonist/ flautist Art Ellis, pianist Quinn Johnson, Egyptian bassist Osama Afifi, Guatemalan conga player Miguel Rivera, Italian-born, Brazil-trained percussionist Cristina Berio and African drummers Marcel Adjibi and Aziz Faye. Going by that very line-up, one can imagine how eclectic the music will be.

Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion: One of the rock world’s best drummers, Baker had very successful stints with Cream (along with Eric Clapton and bassist Jac Bruce) and the short-lived Blind Faith (with Clapton, keyboardist Steve Winwood and bassist Rick Grech). He later teamed up with African musician Fela Kuti and explored world music.

Baker’s group Jazz Confusion is doing the rounds on the UK festival circuit, and is slated to play at next month’s Great British Blues Festival in Colne, Lancashire. Also featuring veteran saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and conga player Abass Dodoo, the band plays a highly energetic blend of jazz and African music.

Superb stuff from all five. Just a quick tour of YouTube will unleash loads of pure magic.


Comments on: "Too old to rock ‘n’ roll, too young for the blues and jazz" (4)

  1. This article reminded me of my favourite blues musician Mr KENNY Wayne Shepherd. And of course the great Jazz guy Mr Fela Kuti.

    I also have great adoration for keyboard player Mr Mike Finnegan ( from Boston I believe) . He also toured with CSN Y. ( not relevant to your above article though)

  2. Good info. Lucky me I found your site by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have book marked it for later!

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