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Jared Corgan's Photo I'm a volunteer KDHX music writer living in St. Louis.

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Concert review: Johnny Winter roars at the Wildey Theatre, Wednesday, September 12

johnnywinter.net

At the Wildey Theatre on Wednesday night, Johnny Winter took the stage and proved without a doubt that rocking is in the soul of a person and doesn’t depend on age.

Winter has definitely not let anything get in the way of living up to his guitar hero status. He and his brother Edgar have been playing rock and blues since their early teens. Edgar went off in the direction of rock while Johnny has always had a greater focus on the blues. While growing up in Beaumont, Texas, Johnny taught himself electric slide blues by listening to Elmore James and Muddy Waters and other blues greats. He was able to play with B.B. King at the age of only 17 and has since been a principal player in keeping the blues alive.

This was my first experience being in a movie theatre for a concert. The Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville, Ill. is a blast from the past with popcorn and soda available at the concession stand on the way to your seat. On this evening, Samantha Fish from Kansas City took the opening slot. She can play guitar with as much fervor as she can belt out soulful blues with her commanding voice, which belies her physical stature. She certainly helped get the night started in a blaze, kicking her shoes off as she urged the crowd to keep up with her guitar playing. She ended her set with her song “Runaway” — a fast groove that won over the house immediately.

Johnny Winter took the stage with the haste and deliberation you would expect from most 68 year olds, but as soon as he started playing his guitar and singing there was a transformation: A wall of guitar hit me and I was floored by how hard he could still rock. Winter opened his set with his rendition of “Johnny B. Goode” then followed it up with “Good Morning Little School Girl” and “Got My Mojo Workin’.” When he played “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” the audience intensified their cheers and the song went into an extended jam during which Johnny traded solos with the rhythm guitar player, playing a medley of rock tunes in the process. This brought the house to its feet in an ovation.

To my horror, as Winter and the band filed of the stage, I realized that he had not yet played a single song with a slide. A couple of minutes passed, and the crowed began to chant “Johnny, Johnny…” The legend reemerged, carrying his Gibson Firebird, which had also been missing from the act up to this point, and dived right into “Dust My Broom.” There is nothing like hearing Johnny Winter play slide; I was certainly far from disappointed as he ran the pipe down the neck of the Firebird making it scream and howl.

Johnny finished the night by playing Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” before again proceeding off stage at the same pace he had taken the stage. It’s not often that one gets to experience a blues legend, let alone a blues legend in a movie theatre. There is no substitute for the real thing when it comes to the blues — and Johnny Winter is most definitely one of the all time greats.

88.1 KDHX DJ Spotlight: Josh Weinstein of All Soul, No Borders

Photo by Roy Kasten

“All Soul, No Borders” is weekly proof of why Josh Weinstein is sometimes described as a musical holy man and shaman.

Every Sunday, 10 p.m.-midnight Central, Josh plays what I would describe as a record, historical or otherwise, of what great musicians were saying from many places, at many times, and from many perspectives. This results in what could be described as very much like getting a soul recharge for the low, low price of paying attention. Josh has honed the skill of finding the commonalities between what musicians are saying; as a result, there isn’t a single genre, era or time that could be associated with what is played on his show.

If you listen, Josh will play it — where “it” is something you needed to hear.

In this email exchange he and I discussed the finer points of programming music on KDHX and why music makes life worth living.

Jared Corgan: Would you say that you first approach your show’s music analytically then aesthetically or some other method? How does that work?

Josh Weinstein: No, I do not analyze the music first. Just as I don’t initially approach a beautiful sunset analytically. I take it in as it is. I let it affect me how it will. I try not to bring any expectations to it. That’s a good way for me to experience what it is and what it does to me on different levels. Of course, there’s an intellectual level, too. That’s a different state of listening for me.

How long have you been a volunteer with KDHX and how much of that time have you been a DJ?

I have been a volunteer at KDHX since the spring or summer of 2000. I became a DJ in the fall of that year.

How would you describe yourself as a person outside of the role of DJ?

Here’s someone else’s description of myself on and off air: “Hey you know that I truly meant the things I said about you on the show — I think you are a musical holy man and I feel I learn just being around you and picking up on what spills off — as a human being you are just as flawed as the rest of us but as a musical shaman I really believe you might even be able to heal.” (recent email from KDHX DJ Bob Reuter.)

So, let’s just go with “flawed.”

What do you want your audience to take away or get from your shows?

Firstly, I’m grateful that there is an audience. This reinforces my belief that there is a need here for The Music. What I want is for this need to be satisfied. I hope that it does for you what it does for me. Has your ear ever been so thirsty that you cupped and aimed it at a source to get as much in as possible? That happens to me sometimes. I’ll try to really get inside the sound of a ride cymbal, for example. I just noticed it again yesterday at an outdoor concert at Laumeier Sculpture Park. I was listening to Thollem McDonas, Arrington de Dionyso, and Eric Hall and I realized I had my hand around my outer ear and my head cocked to the side. Then I visualized/experienced my ear as a deep void being filled with the sound waves. This felt so good. It was like a metaphysical itch being scratched. Or my brain being massaged. I want to rub your brain.

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Concert review: Alan Evans Trio and the Rhythm Section Road Show throw funk fiesta at the Old Rock House, Saturday, May 5

facebook.com/alanevanstrio

The opening act went on an hour later than announced; presumably waiting for the Cinco de Mayo crowd to bring their fiesta to the Old Rock House with them. Once the party got started though, there was funk for all.

Alan Evans is the drummer from the band Soulive, which was founded by his brother Neal Evans and himself in the late 1990s. Their upbeat, power grooves gained them notoriety on the funk/jazz scene, and Soulive still has a strong following. The Alan Evans Trio is Evans’ own offshoot project consisting, again, of an organ, guitar and drum lineup but with Evans in a leading role with Danny Mayer on guitar and Beau Sasser on the Hammond organ.

It’s a comfortable setting for Evans and that comfort shows in their music, which never falls far from Evan’s roots. Mayer comes from the On the Spot Trio, which has an established position of its own on the funk scene. Sasser has played with no less than Maceo Parker, Melvin Sparks and Medeski, Martin, and Wood among many others. Currently, when not playing with Alan Evans, Sasser leads his own organ trio.

Led by 88.1 KDHX DJ Andy Coco, the Rhythm Section Road Show opened with a set of jam rock funk, that brought everyone off their feet and onto the dance floor. The Roadshow this night was Teddy Presberg on guitar, Coco on bass, Kyle Honeycutt on drums and Chris Stevenson on organ. Songs featured in the set included “Flash Mob” by Teddy Presberg and a funkified rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Your Time is Gonna Come.” They did a great job of opening the night and warming the crowd up for the Alan Evans Trio.

Once the Alan Evan’s Trio hit the stage and were ready to play, Evans called out to the crowd: “Do you want us to play quiet or loud?” The audience yelled out, “Loud!” in reply, which brought on a drum fill opening and the trio’s first song. They followed the opening song with “Authoritay,” the first track from their new album “Drop Hop.” This was followed by the crowd getting together and dancing while the grooves propelled a meager but very-involved audience while being blasted by some very loud funk.

The night went on and we were bombarded with explosive drumming, soulful guitar solos and masterfully orchestrated organ playing. The Cinco de Mayo spirit seemed to be in effect among the crowd as well as on stage. My initial expectations going into the concert were to find a serious funk jazz trio laying down some serious music. It being Saturday and Cinco de Mayo it seemed they might have sacrificed the seriousness a bit to bring the party to the Old Rock House. Not particularly my cup of tea, but it’s what worked for the crowd so I cannot fault them for it. It was definitely a fun night for everyone there.

Concert review: Béla Fleck and the Flecktones reunite at the Sheldon, Thursday, March 29

facebook.com/TheFlecktones

The lights dimmed to darkness in the Sheldon Concert Hall to signal the Flecktones making their way to the stage. A moment of quiet settled in.

A couple of whoops rang out, an audience member yelled, “God Bless Earl Scruggs!” and Béla Fleck was off in a flurry of rolling picking on the banjo. Soon Howard Levy followed and the rest of the Flecktones joined in, beginning their set in an exciting whirl.

The Flecktones are a six-time Grammy-winning band — and a many more time nominee. Their original music continues to evolve around the talent of ever-changing members. The current band is comprised of the original Flecktone members who have not toured together since 1992. Béla Fleck is a prodigious banjo player as well as the band leader. Victor Wooten is the renowned bassist whose ability to play expressive and technically challenging parts has made him a bass hero to musicians globally. Roy “Futureman” Wooten plays an instrument of his own design: the drumitar, which in essence comprises all of the group’s percussion. Howard Levy, who has returned to the group after an almost 20-year hiatus, is on piano and harmonica.

The Flecktones followed the opening number with a beautifully melodious song allowing for bit of release from the tensely engaging introduction, and then their odd-time signature song “Life in Eleven,” which is in different 11-count time signatures. Of course this might only be noted by frustrated musicians trying to count it since the song is aesthetically pleasing as well as the 2011 Grammy Award winner for Best Instrumental Composition. It is definitely one of my favorites.

Victor Wooten amazed the audience with a performance on bass and loop pedal. At this point in our culture looping is no longer a novel product; overdubbing dates back several decades. So what Wooten was performing was well understood by the audience, yet remained a fresh component of the performance overall. Wooten composed a medley of songs and his own improvisations; at one point we were surprised with the bass line to the theme music of the movie “Shaft.” Later in the performance he played each note in a melody, delayed by the time for the overdub loop to come full circle, adding a single note to the previous each time around. All during Wooten’s solo performance I felt in awe of how technically challenging yet musically satisfying the performance was. His ability to push the boundaries of the possible with his performance and keep it feeling musical was inspiring.

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Concert review: Andy McKee redefines the art of the guitar at the Old Rock House, Monday, March 5

facebook.com/andymckeemusic

Last night at the Old Rock House, Andy Mckee‘s exhilarating performance gave fans a sense of awe for both what can be played and composed on a guitar. It was incredible to see harmony, percussion and melody all come from the same instrument and person.

Andy McKee is a guitarist whose roots are definitely in the style of the great modern pioneers of finger-style guitar such as Michael Hedges, Don Ross and Preston Reed. McKee was first widely recognized in the music community when he placed as a top finalist in the National Finger Style Guitar Championships of 2001. His YouTube performances, however, have garnered more than 100 million views with some having attained the first, second and third spots of the top-rated youtube videos of all time. When asked if YouTube was a component in why he tours, McKee responded “YouTube is absolutely why people are coming to the shows.” His fame is definitely the result of circumventing and redefining the normal channels of how music gets to listeners.

The Old Rock House was packed with a mix of young, old and everything in between. From the discussions of fanned frets and alternate tuning it was obvious that much of the crowd were guitar players with no predominate subculture making up the rest of the dedicated fans. McKee bounded on the stage and all the bubbling conversations dropped off as if coordinated by the crowd in advance and were promptly replaced by excited anticipation that grew into applause and shouts.

He began his set with the title track to his “Art in Motion” album and followed it with what is probably his most popular song “Drifting.” McKee then began the first of many retuning sessions between songs. My initial reaction was annoyance. But McKee’s personality resulted in being as entertaining as his playing and by the end of the night, I could not recall any other times he had stopped to tune, retune or detune.

McKee’s performance was a cornucopia of atypical guitar acrobatics. His songs were incredibly technical with bass lines, percussion and melody all coming out of the same instrument and same musician, yet they remained beautiful and moving. His performance of “For My Father,” which he wrote after his father passed away in 2005, was very evocative. McKee’s rendition of Don Ross’ “Tight Trite Night” was exhilarating and pushed the audience to be drawn back in as the concert was coming to a close.

McKee uses his guitar as an entire orchestra with thwacks, whacks, thumps and knocks played at the same time with many of the guitar’s melodic and tonal qualities. He has clearly come up with his own methods to realize the sounds and rhythms he hears within him solely on the guitar.

He closed his set with “I Will See You Again,” which incorporates a long portion during which the guitar is repeatedly strummed — something not seen too often during his playing. Once finished, McKee jumped off the stage and the fans made room for him to pass through, congratulating him for his performance as he passed on his way towards the entrance to talk and hang out near the merch table.

He certainly struck me as a very amiable person whose stellar ability to play guitar is also reflected in his persona.

Concert review: Darrell Scott engages devoted fans at the Old Rock House, Friday, February 17

flickr.com/photos/24365773@N03/5136857592 / Phil King

Without regard for cold starts or protocol for warming up the crowd, Darrell Scott began his set last night with “River Take Me,” and immediately turned the entire Old Rock House audience attention to the stage. For the reminder of the night we were rapt by his song stories of life and love.

Scott not only stands out as a solo performer but also as a musician and songwriter called upon to contribute by some of the greatest performers of our time. He has performed live or in the studio with the likes of Robert Plant, Joan Baez, Del McCoury and Guy Clark to name a few. His songs have been recorded and performed by Brad Paisley, Keb Mo, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw and a slew of other artists who could be considered the who’s who in country and Americana music. His album “A Crooked Road” received the 2011 Independent Music Award for Best Country Album and his performance of “Willow Creek” on the same album received a Grammy nomination for best country instrumental performance.

Darrell drove to St Louis from his home in Nashville for this show making it possible to bring along a bouzouki — or as Darrell put it, “an octave mandolin if you’re in the TSA line” — and a fretless banjo in addition to his guitar. The bouzouki went unused until the encore was performed but the banjo did come out about mid set for “Banjo Clark.” The familiar percussive banjo sound was present but the fretless banjo added sliding and lilting accents adding a dimension to banjo with which I was completely unfamiliar. It will definitely remain in my memory as some of the most interesting and enjoyable banjo playing I have witnessed.

The crowd at the Old Rock House was nothing short of devoted to Scott’s music, calling out requests and carrying vinyl copies of his new album “Long Ride Home.” From my balcony perch I had an exceptional view and felt as close enough to the stage to hold a conversation with Scott. His moving performance of “Mahala” was preceded by recounting how he wrote it when his daughter Mahala was about one and half years old and how he had recently visited her, now twenty one and living in New York. Darrell had the audience join in for the last chorus of the song. It was a wonderful experience being part of an audience who truly loved his music.

Darrell set about wrapping up his set with the hilariously funny and engaging “Spelling Bee Romance.” Before the song began we were given instruction on how to go about inciting an encore once he had finished. So we all clapped immediately — an entire song too early — and then repeated this immediately after the song and again after the following song and were thanked by Scott with two encores — finally using the bouzouki for the last song.

The night closed with Scott standing near the exit and engaging any of us who wanted to speak with him as we passed to leave. Fans lined up to buy albums and everyone was happily buzzing with excitement. I couldn’t help but feel it was a great night to be alive.

88.1 KDHX DJ Spotlight: Mark Silverstein of Louisiana Stomp

Sara Finke

An 88.1 KDHX volunteer for more than 17 years and KDHX radio personality for 14 of those years, Mark Silverstein hosts Louisiana Stomp on Sundays 5-7 a.m. Central. He specializes in playing music that will get you moving, including Creole, Cajun, zydeco, Texas swing and everything in between.

Mark — who when not spinning records on the radio, works for the U.S. Postal Service — has been a proponent of Cajun, Creole and zydeco music in St. Louis for about as long as anyone can remember. He spreads this musical gospel wherever he goes. Some people appreciate music from the areas surrounding and including Lafayette, La. Mark truly loves it, and every week on KDHX he delivers a diverse sampling of the best the region has to offer.

Jared Corgan: When I think of music from Louisiana the first thing that comes to my mind is the Preservation Hall Jazz Band — sousaphones, a snare drum and funeral marches. Where does Louisiana Stomp fall in the mix?

Mark Silverstein: New Orleans is blues, jazz, and like you mentioned, brass bands. But when you go out west it’s Cajun. Cajun is more than just music; it’s a culture, a lifestyle. They’re out there in houseboats with a whole other way of life including their Cajun language, Cajun food and Cajun music. New Orleans captures the big city lifestyle while incorporating the Cajun food, Cajun music and Zydeco.

Cajun music grew up, like porch music where people would get together and just jam and dance, whereas New Orleans music was more likely to be rehearsed and performed as entertainment. For example, there are quite a few recordings of the early New Orleans jazz musicians, while some of the best early Cajun musicians were never recorded. Cajun country is in and around Lafayette, which is an hour or so west of New Orleans. It’s where Cajun and zydeco music are found and can also be found typically to the west as far as the radio signal could have reached. That’s the music I focus on.

What is the difference between Howzit Bayou and your show?

Louisiana Stomp is primarily Cajun and zydeco music. Howzit Bayou is New Orleans and Cajun and zydeco music. I typically will not play jazz, Louis Armstrong, brass band music, Mardi Gras Indian music, etc…

How would you describe yourself outside of the role of a DJ?

I would describe myself on the music scene as a non-celebrity. I’ve been dancing since around 1985 and I’m a music aficionado from way back when.

What do you want your audience to take away or get from your shows?

I would like them to gain an appreciation of the diversity of Cajun, zydeco, and swamp pop. I want to help them to be able to recognize the differences and similarities between all the types of music that are played on my show.

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Concert review: Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers animate the Sheldon, Saturday, February 11

Chucho Valdés

facebook.com/valdes.chucho

A year and six months after the release of his Latin Grammy award-winning album “Chucho’s Steps,” Chucho Valdés continues to leave an indelible impression on Latin jazz.

His performance at the Sheldon Concert Hall was more than proof that he and his band the Afro-Cuban Messengers make music that will most certainly be recalled by future musicians as a landmark in the progression of Afro-Cuban jazz.

The 70-year-old Cuban pianist, composer and bandleader describes the Afro-Cuban Messengers as being between Irakere and a quartet in size. This flexibility allows the Messengers to add members as the sounds they want go outside the immense talent and ability already present in the band. Such as the case with the addition of Dreiser Durruthy, who at one time toured with the French Young Ballet but was called upon by the Messengers for his vocal, batá and percussion abilities. Chucho himself is a an eight-time Grammy award winner (five Grammy awards and three Latin Grammys). The rhythm section is comprised of drummer Juan Carlos Rojas, percussionist Yaroldy Abreu and bassist Lázaro Rivero. The horns, or metals as they are referred to in Cuba, are manned by Reinaldo Melián Alvarez on trumpet and Carlos Manuel Miyares Hernandez on tenor sax.

As I drove home after the concert, I couldn’t help but think of the enormity of the task I had taken on. How would I be capable of describing what I had just witnessed? I was still in awe and felt as if I had been at ten concerts all wrapped into one.

The Afro-Cuban Messengers are most definitely Latin jazz with a focus on Afro-Cuban rhythms; however, the band seamlessly shifted between rock, swing, bop, classical and countless other styles throughout the set, while yet retaining their own sound. Every song they played had a particular feel, theme and style transitioning through several rhythm changes, none feeling odd or out place. Early in the set, during a softer portion of a song, the band halted and Dreiser leapt up from his stool and moved over the batá like lightning. When he finished, the house erupted in excitement. Jazz concerts are usually somewhat reserved, but in this case the audience could not sit still or contain themselves.

The night continued in similar fashion with each performance showcasing the amazing group Valdés has assembled. Not one song performed failed to hold everyone’s attention, and the only disappointment of the night was that it could not go on indefinitely. I left the concert feeling gorged with music, elatedly still trying to process it all and wanting to go back to hear more. This was a performance I will recall for the rest of my life; it redefined the borders of all music styles for me.

In the music of Valdés and the Messengers, the old, the new, the in-between and their boundaries are all present and accounted for. In a recent documentary called “The Making Of,” Chucho indicated (paraphrased from the Spanish), “This is our best work to date, which makes me very happy because I feel our music is still progressing and we have not stagnated.” Drummer Juan Carlos Rojas in the same documentary said (paraphrased from Spanish), “Between the percussionist and myself, we are doing new things in Afro-Cuban rhythms that the next generations of musicians will find and use.”

These claims were more than validated by Valdés and the Messengers’ astounding performance at the Sheldon.