The Orange County Blues Society hosted their “End of the Year Holiday Blues Jam” on December 15 at the Main St Restaurant in Yorba Linda, California from approximately 2:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Created by Orange County-based bluesman harpist/vocalist Jeff “Papa J” Hudson, it was founded in order to give blues music and Orange County-based blues acts their presence.
Papa J and a group of musicians had already taken the stage as your Christmas chronicler and seasonal sidekick Mary Sparks took their seats. Due to schedule conflicts it had been awhile since yours truly had attended one of the monthly open jams. The audience included some new faces as well as regulars both on and offstage. It quickly became apparent that the fun and spontaneity were still very much in evidence as Papa J and company broke into their tuneful take of Freddie King and Sonny Thompson’s “Someday After a While (You'll Be Sorry)”.
Since your rather reclusive reporter and his femme fatale “photog” actually always enjoy these jumping jams, don’t expect an in-depth analysis or even a perfect playlist. It’s all about the overall experience and not a detailed documentation. Just be happy to hear highlights, mmmkay?
Memorable moments included the inclusion of a new number by Papa J and pals tentatively titled “Gotta Move On”. It’s an original song with classic blues elements. Also included was their cover of Big Joe Turner’s 1955 jump blues-style tune "Flip, Flop and Fly" and their version of T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday” once made famous by B.B. King.
Romeo Maxx led another group in a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride And Joy”, and there were more noteworthy numbers as random artists were called to replace those who had already performed including a blues shuffle version of Carl Perkins’ 1956 tune “Matchbox” and a The Steve Miller Band’s “Rock ‘N Me” as a blues rock bit in “B” led by Ryan George (lead vocals and guitar). Chase Walker (guitar) and Matt Fyke (drums) of The Chase Walker Band also appeared onstage.
It remains impressive to see random groupings of musicians—individuals who often appear quite different from one another-- almost immediately musically merge together in a generally cohesive and entertaining unit. They almost always seem capable of rolling with the punches of playing live and are always willing to share the spotlight so that everyone can show the audience what he (or she) has got.
It’s not about individual egos. It’s about sharing the limelight. It’s about sharing a genuine love of the blues.
The event’s participating performers also included: Ray Moreno (drums), multi-instrumentalist and singer René Mente (guitar, bass, drums and vocals), Mike Dotson (guitar), Mr. Blues (harp), Andrew (harmonica and vocals), J. Hawk (guitar), John P. (bass), Don (vocals), Nick (drums), Mike C. (guitar and vocals), Buck (guitar), Scott (bass), Don H. (harp), Harry Rattleman (bass), John Iozzi (guitar), Eric Castillo (drums), Maile Anela Alday (vocals) and Sandro Eristavi (guitar).
Papa J would once again take the stage for the final set singing such selections as Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell’s 1952 slow minor-key blues bit “The Thrill Is Gone” and one of your rascally writer’s favorites “Laundromat”. (Yeah, there’s a reason why this rascally writer doesn’t own a washer and a dryer.) He also reminded everyone that "the blues is America’s only original art form”.
He would also add that “the blues is about telling a story”. He further stated: “I was born a long time ago but I wasn’t born in the (19)30s. So my story’s gonna be a little different.” Having been raised just outside of Chicago, Illinois it was quite apropos that Papa J and the boys in blues closed things out with Robert Johnson’s classic twelve –bar blues tune “Sweet Home Chicago”.
Indeed, a song so close to his home worked well here since the Orange County Blues Society’s Blues Jams always have a relaxed, friendly atmosphere to them. As Sparks observed: “It’s like a big family get-together”. (As always, mention must also be made of the service provided by willing waitress Lissa and the Main Street staff.)
The Orange County Blues Society Blues Jam: spontaneous, cool blues, strong drinks, hot food and servers to match. What more could you want?
My name is Phoenix and . . . that's the bottom line.