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I believe my review of a wonderful show by John Hammond and John Mayall at the Jazz@Lincoln Center’s Allen Room a couple of weeks ago got lost somehow, due to my own personal screwups. I managed to stay up late enough to see the final of four separate sets.
Hammond has recorded over thirty albums, all of them interesting and surprisingly fresh takes on orthodox blues, both delta and urban. Mayall is one of the few people in our benighted world for whom the world “legend” is not overstatement. He founded the Bluesbreakers in 1963 and among those who passed through his bands over time included Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and Mick Taylor to name a few. He’s 78 now, but a pretty lively 78 even by the standards of, say, fellow 78-er L. Cohen.
Hammond opened with his typical set, which changes all the time and contains great stories and solid picking. It is what it is. Mayall, with a full band, paid tribute to the wonderful room with a jazzier set than I’ve seen him play in the past. Put together, the show was kind of like going to blues school, which would be a great idea, come to think of it, especially if one’s classroom were the Allen Room.
Earlier this week, I caught Lyle Lovett’s show/party at the Concert Hall at the Ethical Culture Society. The show was a celebration of Lyle’s new cd, “Release Me,” in which he sings other people’s songs that he (no doubt) wishes he had written. A few of them, like Michael Franks’s “White Boy Lost in the Blues” and Chuck Berry’s “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” he probably wishes he had written about himself. The album is almost all covers and duets, as was the concert, with classics like aforementioned “Brown-eyed” which revealed itself anew in Lyle’s interpretation and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” which reminded one of its wonderfulness without much in the way of reinterpretation. (And really, who wants to compete with Ray Charles and Betty Carter?)
You also get k.d. lang playing the role of Kitty Wells on the title track and a “White Freightliner Blues” by Townes Van Zandt, who has become an obligatory contributor to every Texan’s repertoire of late. The show was a hoot because of Lovett’s shy charm and the assembled muscians’ virtuosity and affection for one another. It featured Lovett’s longtime band (Keith Sewell on guitar, Viktor Krauss on bass, Luke Bulla on violin and Russ Kunkel on drums) plus Sara and Sean Watkins, formerly of Nickel Creek, and Mickey Raphael, the longtime harmonica player in Willie Nelson’s band, added to the falsetto backup vocals of Arnold McCuller. Hard not to like, but I could have used some more of the “classics” that Lyle himself has written. More about the new cd here.