Gig review: JOE JAMMER’S ALL-STAR CHICAGO BLUES REVUE – London Jazz Festival, Bulls Head, London,16 November 2015

JOE JAMMER'S ALL-STAR CHICAGO BLUES REVUE – London Jazz Festival,

Joe Jammer’s All-Star Chicago Blues Revue appears in Barnes as part of the London Jazz Festival. And whatever the debate about whether jazz or blues came first, Joe Jammer makes sure that his blues show is both essential and fun!

Joe is a man who makes every minute of his stage time count. He’s a born performer with an unbridled confidence that befits a career nurtured at the dawn of rock with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Who, and crossover funk band The Olympic Runners.

JOE JAMMER'S ALL-STAR CHICAGO BLUES REVUE – London Jazz Festival,

Now after a few decades absence, he’s back on the European scene with a new record deal and a killer blues review that rocks the house.

His modus operandi is to make a connection with his audience before he’s even hit the stage, making sure his entry is a triumphant one.

Once on the stand, he mixes wit, repartee and a bluesman’s slight of hand that makes you think that what you have just witnessed is the greatest thing since sliced bread. And there are many such moments when both the band solos and Joe’s Telecaster skills draws warm applause from the crowd.

JOE JAMMER'S ALL-STAR CHICAGO BLUES REVUE – London Jazz Festival,

Put simply, Joe re-energizes the kind of old school blues-soul review that has recently made heroes of bands like Vintage Trouble.  The difference is that he has lived the life, played with the best and still garners critical acclaim from the likes of Aeromith’s Joe Perry.

It’s not difficult to see why, as his raw gut passion and real fervour is backed by a huge tenor voice coupled with judiciously stolen licks that are the basic tenets of a Chicago blues review.

His band is a mix of American expats – John Scott on rock solid bass and Tom Brundage on big toned harp – counter-weighted by emerging British blues talent such as young drummer Russell Gills, whose lightness of touch ensures a fluidity of style, while Joe introduces vocalist Ken Morland as having the Daltry looks that Roger still dreams about!

JOE JAMMER'S ALL-STAR CHICAGO BLUES REVUE – London Jazz Festival,

The band is encouraged, cajoled and frequently applauded by their guitar toting leader. The material is very familiar, but you can’t have a Chicago review without the basic ingredients. Joe gels things together with an array of interesting links, ad-libs and audience participation and his band gradually overcomes collective introspection with a new belief in their own abilities.

They blow away the cobwebs on ‘Rock Me, Baby’ and launch into a raucous ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ on which Joe becomes the personification of the song title. He dips into the Stones B-side repertoire for the underrated ‘Under Assistant, West Coast Promo Man’, complete with kind of a histo-cultural intro so beloved by American music fans when they reflect on the British invasion. There’s also the Stones version of Bobby Womack’s ‘It’s All Over Now’ with faux power chords from Joe.

Working on the bluesman’s principal of ‘keep ‘em dancing keep ‘em singing’, Joe encourages a sing-along time on Dylan’s ‘Rainy Day Women’. He then strips things down to a power trio for a blistering version of ‘Red House’, before guest vocalist Lamb Lamont joins Annie Wright for a celebratory ‘Good Rockin’ Daddy’. Lamb is even better on a cover of Robert Cray’s ‘Smokin’ Gun’, on which the band grooves mellifluously.

JOE JAMMER'S ALL-STAR CHICAGO BLUES REVUE – London Jazz Festival,

Both ‘Red House’ and the Bramhall/Vaughan favourite ‘House Is Rockin’ finds Joe shooting from the hip with incendiary solos that remind us that his professional career was shaped by the likes of Page and Hendrix.

Lamb returns for a trio of canine related songs, of which ‘No More Doggin’ features some deep tone harp from Tom Brundage, before the full ensemble joyfully power their way through the show stopping ‘Sweet Home Chicago’.

JOE JAMMER'S ALL-STAR CHICAGO BLUES REVUE – London Jazz Festival,

Joe Jammer breathes fresh life into classic Chicago blues with such passion, conviction, commitment and fun that every person in the room leaves with a spring in their step. It’s the healing power of the blues in front of your very eyes, Joe Jammer style!

Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Jennifer Noble

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00


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