It was great night of blues when legendary blues piano man Pinetop Perkins graced the stage of Sound Academy 2 in Toronto, Thurs. June 26, 2008. This was Pinetop’s 95th Birthday Bash concert a musical feat that’s sure hard to beat. It was a Jeff Healey's Roadhouse Presentation promoted by Berel's Blues, so you know it was going to be good!
Backing Pinetop this night was Juno-winning blues guitarist Jack de Keyzer and his band, who also featured blues harp player Jerome Godboo (ex-Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks The Hawk being another ‘Legend’ in the biz).
Pinetop was certainly no disappointment and neither was the superb, bluesy warmup to his historic concert this night. Drummer Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith, along with Pinetop, were integral parts of inconic electric blues guitarist Muddy Waters’ Chicago-style blues band for decades, until Muddy’s passing in 1983. For this Pinetop concert, Willie was mostly playing blues harp and singing some great lead vocals. De Keyzer's regular drummer Dave Colter, played drums for most of the evening, except when Willie took over on the skins for a while. The impeccable bass lines this night, came from longtime de Keyzer bassist Al Duffy. Unfortunately Pinetop's regular bassist, the always-enjoyable Bob Stroger (who also tours with Willie 'Big Eyes'), couldn't make it.
Harp player Godboo opened this incredible night with some old blues standards, like Willie Dixon’s "Hootchie Cootchie Man". On bass was fellow Jeff Healey Alumni Band member Alec Fraser, along with de Keyzer drummer Dave Colter delivering up mouthwatering percussive backup. Godboo’s set was enjoyable but could have been a little longer. As well as some classic old blues, Godboo featured a few of his originals from his own band’s CD’s, including "Janey Jane" and the upbeat title track "Humdinger" from his most recent Humdinger CD.
After a relaxing and short intermission, de Keyzer was onstage again, along with Godboo’s backup on harp, Dave Colter on drums, Al Duffy on bass, and Chris Murphy on tenor sax. Murphy’s sax soloing at various times during this evening’s fine blues numbers, was an exhilarating experience. There were a few memorable numbers where Pinetop and Murphy fed off each other’s unbelievably good solos.
De Keyzer featured a few of his own really great bluesy and jazzy originals from several of his own CD’s, including his Silver Blues CD and DVD and the most recent Blues Thing CD. The upbeat swingin’ jazzy "Jump Right To It", went well with with the B.B. blues guitar-influenced "That’s the Only Time" (I Think of You). He also played a mesmerizing version of the super-bluesy "Engine Trouble".
Part way through de Keyzer’s own bluesy and jazzy showcase, the man of the hour, Pinetop himself, came walking up onstage under his power and with the use of a cane. During the previous two sets, he was sitting in the audience enjoying the musical festivities like a kid in a candy store. (It’s always advisable to enjoy the band that is backing you!)
Pinetop at 95-years-young has a new CD out, entitled Pinetop & Friends. These ‘friends’ include the great B.B. King, who having recently celebrated his 80th birthday could almost be considered a ‘junior bluesman’ in regards to Pinetop. Others on this new CD include the great Eric Clapton, as well as Jimmy Vaughan, with Willie ‘Big Eyes’ on drums.
Pinetop featured most if not all of the classic Chicago blues numbers from his recent 'Pinetop & Friends' CD, throughout his delightful almost two hours long set, interspersed with some out-of-this-world lead guitar riffs from de Keyzer, that blew the minds of those in attendance. After he finished the rousing "Chicken Shack", he ended it with a humorous little riff about old-time cowboy movie star Tom Mix. He also played and sang a great rendition of Muddy Waters’ signature tune "Mojo", and several others to the delight of the many awestruck audience members and musicians onstage alike.
After the show, Pinetop autographed and sold many CD’s. He was also very obliging in granting his fans’ requests (including this writer) for photos to be taken with him. Pinetop seemed to have a smile like an angel, which along with the incredible performance he and de Keyzer's band put on this night as part of the Pinetop Perkins 95th Birthday Bash Tour, is a good way to remember this once-in-a-lifetime fabulous and very historic blues concert experience.