One of the Hudson Valley’s hottest nights for blues in 2015 took place this last week as Joe Louis Walker paid special tribute to the King with the help of Jay Geils and some newly inducted members of the NY Blues Hall of Fame at Paramount Hudson Valley.
A different kind of induction ceremony kicked off the evening, one far from a yawn-filled series of speeches. With Michael Packer at the helm, an all-star cast joined together on stage to do a five-song opening set with members of this group inducted into the NY Blues Hall of Fame between songs. For a group of musicians who may have only had limited time rehearsing with each other, the sound was solid and energizing. The inductees this year included Michael Falzarano (guitarist for Hot Tuna and New Riders of the Purple Sage), Rick Knapp (bassist for Walter Trout and Jimmy Thackery), Juma Sultan (percussionist for Jimi Hendrix), and producer Osten Harvey Jr. (a.k.a. Easy Mo Bee).
If the roof of the Paramount wasn’t smoldering after Joe Louis Walker’s first song it wasn’t long before it was on fire. As a tribute to the late B.B. King, the setlist included several of King’s songs along with some of Walker’s originals. The set started off with “Friends” and included “Let Your Hair Down,” “She’s Got Eyes Like A Cat” and “Come Back Baby.” Aside from Walker’s incredible mastery of the blues guitar whether screaming at the 24th fret or playing slow and heavy, the rest of the talent on stage combined for an even compliment, especially Vanessa Collier’s sax solos received by standing ovations.
About halfway through the set Jay Geils joined the set, a guitarist well-rooted in the blues despite his more well-known musical persona with the J. Geils Band. Educated as an engineer, Geils took up a career in music instead and had plenty of stories to share about his start in the blues after accepting his award in a surprise induction into the NY Blues Hall of Fame including some anecdotes about Buddy Guy. In the spirit of the tribute to B.B. King, Geils did not hesitate in saying that the way today’s blues is played can be attributed to King’s style.
Before an encore, all of the performers from the induction ceremony set joined Walker and Geils for a call-and-response shuffle tune. It was a true display on stage of what lies at the base of being a musician, getting together with a bunch of others and having nothing but fun in making music. The encore brought just Walker and his band along with Geils back. Reeling on the power of the end of the set, the crowd took advantage of the Paramount’s coziness and gathered on their feet close to the stage. Possibly an unplanned encore, Walker and Geils took a moment to discuss the structure of what they were about to play. Planned or unplanned, it closed out the night with a strong finish.
As one of only four of these B.B. King tribute shows Walker and Geils were touring with, it was truly a treat to have one of their stops in the lower Hudson Valley.