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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Robert Mugge - All Jams On Deck - Film Review

I have had the pleasure to watch Robert Mugge's All Jams On Deck, a documentation of late night jams as they take place on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. The scene opens with an interview of guitarist and band leader Tommy Castro and one of my absolute favorite artists, Elvin Bishop (the beginning of a dialog that continues throughout the film in clips). The film then cuts to a live jam with Castro and a backing band with guests including such luminaries as Commander Cody (Keys), Keith Crossan (sax), Randy Oxford (trombone), Tom Poole (trumpet), Mike Schermer (deluxe Tele). The first thing that strikes me is how incredibly clear the sound track is and how great of tone Tommy Castro is laying down. This film is incredibly clear considering that it is being shot in pitch black in the middle of the ocean! Tommy is playing a two pickup reverse Firebird and his tones are really creamy through what appears to be Blackface Super (one of my personal favorites). This first jam is a horn driven boogie and as much of a guitar geek I am, I have to commend all the players but especially Oxford who absolutely smoked me on his trombone! Tommy explains how he plans out his set to give every guest musician the opportunity to jam without waiting all night to get on stage. The second jam cuts in with the addition of Coco Montoya playing his upside down Strat and it's clear as a bell. Lee Oskar is playing in this jam as well and really gets a unique sound from his harp. Everyone remembers Lee from his days with War (and subsequent solo career) and now the Lowrider Band. The Commander and the gang all take turns again with the addition of Ed Earley on trombone and George T. Gregory III on Bari sax. These guys lay down a real nice horn duel. The entire band gets into it and it stays tight and doesn't sound like everyone is trying to step on the other of my pet peeves with "Jam" sessions. A further interview clip adds guitarist Jimmy Thackery, Bluesville Program Director Bill Wax, and Blues and Jazz Record Producer Bob Porter who discuss the fine art of jam etiquette. Next up is Johnny Winter and Elvin Bishop on a slow blues jam. It's nice to watch Elvin in a supporting role to Johnny where he can really lay back and just have a good time. Elvin has one of the best tones on the planet and my dream guitar is his old red 345. I just love that guitar. Johnny plays some interesting riffs on his headless Lazer guitar and Elvin plays around him with rhythm and warm slide action. They are joined on stage with Johnny's little brother Edgar Winter on keys although Edgar is an exceptional sax player. There are inserts of Marcia Ball from one of the ports just filling in some of what it's like for a musician to be a part of this program. Marcia then takes the stage for one of the best tracks on the film. Those of you who aren't that familiar with Marcia... this is the real deal. Marcia really gets the joint blusin' with her great vocals and exceptional keys playing. She is backed by the full horn section and it sounds just great. Also onstage are Jimmy Thackery (on Strat) and Terry Hanck (tenor sax), Steve Berlin (bari sax) and Darryl Cloutts (Hammond organ) who all lay down some exceptional solos. The continue dialogue includes guitarists Larry McCray and Coco Montoya discussing the chemistry required to play with musicians from other bands without extensive practice. Coco's Band is next up and he gets a real signature grinding tone from his Strat which has some custom bar pickups installed. The conversation continues with guitarists Vasti Jackson (Strat) and Laith Al-Saadi (Custon Shop Tele with bar pickups) discussing the call and response and a little demonstration jam. It's also really telling of the video that you can easily distinguish who is playing by the tones of their amps. Al-Saadi has beautiful clear tone. Jackson joins Montoya's band for the next track and lays down a blistering jam. I mean...who is this guy!! Kim Wilson (harp) and Lee Oskar (harp) contribute a discussion about the waiting game to where you actually get your turn to shine. Now Kim gets his shot as band leader and he comes on strong with great lush harp tone playing a short duel with Bishop. And then Lee and the Lowrider Band with their rhythm infused blues sound. Oskar definitely has his own sound and Al-Saadi lays down a great double stop filled solo over the Latin inspired track. Lance Ellis (Bari sax) takes a great soulful solo showing great chops and Larry McCray rips out a great solo on his Les Paul Deluxe. Percy Williams continues the jam with a cool trumpet solo and Sista Monica Parker joins mid song with some soul infused vocals. McCray adds his own vocals to the song and he is a great singer singing in the style of Muddy Waters. I love Elvin's shoes which are actually work boots like I wear but Elvin takes it to the next level. He has the lower boot strung with original laces and the upper with a white lace... like I got the bottom comfortable...not touchin' that. Now I have to get my foot in and keep it on.... I know...two laces...brilliant!! (I got this far through the summary without mentioning Al_Saadi's NORML t-shirt). Next up is Bishops hit "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" ... not my favorite Bishop song due to the amount of airplay but I will say that Elvin can really make that old Red Dog bark and he does so on this tune! John Nemeth, sounds incredibly like Mickey Thomas who originally sang this song. Billy C. Wirtz and Commander Cody take the time out to discuss blues structure as an into to an extensive piano jam with Cody, Leon Blue, Steve Willis (Hammond) and Kelley Hunt. Eden Brent joins the jam and takes the stage by storm. This ends up with six players on 3 keyboards (with organ too). Next up is Kim Wilson joined by Rick Estrin playing a Chicago swing and Earley again smokes out a great Trombone solo. It's so great to see these back line guys get their day in the spotlight. John Nemeth blows a great solo on this tune as well as Estrin who gets right into the Chicago groove. The director of this film has gone to great lengths to show each of the band members and to feature each of the players. As the credits roll Oskar and Wilson play a little harp duo which is a fitting conclusion to a great documentary film. This is a film that anyone who loves contemporary blues would enjoy.

Oh...And I dig the cover art by George Hunt!

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All Jams On Deck trailer from Robert Mugge on Vimeo.

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