The Orange County Blues Society hosted the “Let's Meet up at the Orange County Blues Society Jam” on February 10 at the Main St Restaurant in Yorba Linda, California from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Created by Orange County-based bluesman harpist/vocalist Jeff “Papa J” Hudson last April, it was founded in order to give blues music and Orange County-based blues acts their presence.
Hudson elaborates: “I started the OCBS basically because while the Los Angeles Blues Society, Southern California Blues Society and the others here in Southern California all do great work, most of the shows and events they put on are at venues either in L.A., Ventura, or Santa Barbara County. There are many great Blues players in the Orange County area and I thought it would be cool if we could have our ‘own’ voice, so to speak.”
The house band for the jam, Kingtime, kicked things off right on time with some nice solos by individual members included. Before Kingtime closed their set, the partially-enclosed patio was packed. It became quickly apparent that the blues genre is gaining a strong, diverse foothold in the OC with a variety of followers.
There through a field of fedoras one witnessed a blend of blues aficionados and dissimilar diners from their twenties to their seventies. There were graying guys and gals and groovin’ gumbas, multiple races and young, pretty faces, old coots and armadillo boots, baseball caps and cowboy chaps, those with long locks and those with short shocks.
Regular readers are already well aware that if not for sexy sidekick Sparks, your rather reclusive reviewer would never venture out into the real world to witness live gigs. Even now, when he does it is to truly experience it rather than document it in detail. So don’t expect your all too often penned-in penman to publish a playlist. Be happy to hear the highlights which included an impromptu performance by Bill Grisolia, co-founder, lead singer and keyboardist of New Blues Revolution and a swag (as my 15 year-old son would say) set by Jeff “Papa J” Hudson and friends.
(Thanks to our willing waitress Lissa, your rascally writer even discovered cherry-flavored vodka!) But seriously, folks, what really made the event memorable was the way in which the musicians were rather randomly grouped together based mainly on a sign-in sheet and what each artist played. Every song was automatically unique as each mix of musicians often unknown to each other somehow magically managed to meld together to make old blues standards new and vital. Every grouping of participants produced results that were fresh, raw and even occasionally unexpected.
The event’s participating performers included: Scott Morris and Gene C. (bass and vocals), Steve Headron, Bill Bonham and Tony H. (keys), Arnold Cruz, Rex Kiphut and Carlos (guitar), Bill Sornstein and Corby Morris (trumpet), Bill Petpus, Felix Flannagan, Roger F. and Lance (harp), Paul F., Sandro E., Pete DeMarzo, Randy H., Corey Edwards and Romeo Maxx (guitar and vocals), Kelly Chappue, Lee Godden and Maile Alday (vocals), Rich Hebert (trombone), Albert W. (drums), Tony A., Mike N., Claudio and Nick (drums), Greg S. (drums and vocals), Bob (saxophone), (trumpet), Super Harry (bass and vocals), Joe F. (guitar, bass, keys and vocals), Gary Stutts, Jim, Gil, Dan Malouin and Scot Campbell (bass) and Bobby Cooper (harp and vocals).
Proceeds from the jam benefited the Orange County Food Bank. Hudson recalls: “I grew up very poor, so giving back to the community is very important to me. There were many times when there was not enough food.”
Hudson has high hopes for the OCBS stating: “Our goal is to make the blues not only great, but very relevant again in Orange County.” Clever closings aside, this OCBS was exceptional. The spontaneity and originality made experiencing the decades old genre exciting and new.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that's the bottom line.