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City of Glendale Gibson Jazz and Blues Festival - April 12-13, 2008

Review and Photos By Rob Paullin

Yes, Virginia, there is a blues festival in the Sonora Desert.  It’s called the City of Glendale Gibson Guitar Jazz and Blues Festival, and Blues Blast was there for much of the 25th anniversary event this past weekend in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

The mid-April weather—between what passes for winter in the Valley of the Sun and the upcoming monsoon and heat season—was perfect for the two day, two stage event in what the locals describe as “historic downtown Glendale.”  “Historic” apparently is in the eye and mind of the beholder as Glendale is only a few dozen years old, but the city has built a beautiful outdoor amphitheater combined into the steps of a sunken entrance to one of the public buildings included in their downtown square and park.  Several nice restaurants surround the square and trees abound, so even the dry heat of an Arizona spring was no problem for the many thousands of blues and jazz fans--and the curious--who attended.   With a quarter century of experience at this, the organizers have learned how to do it right.

And that includes knowing how to blend a perfect mix of national touring blues acts like Tommy Castro and Roomful of Blues, with an eclectic menu of new and established home-grown Arizona-based performers.  The line-up included Arizona Blues Hall of Fame inductees Hans Olson, Big Pete Peterson, and Bob Corritore, among the dozen-plus others scheduled to appear on the blues stage.

We’ll focus on a couple of the Arizona acts to help tell the story of the Glendale Gibson Jazz and Blues Festival.   And since Blues Blast focuses on, well, the blues, our apologies to the many fine jazz performers who graced the second stage in downtown Glendale.

Big Daddy D Darryl Portas and his Dynamites were among the first to catch the Blues Blast’s roving eye, with Anton Teschner belting out some sold sax work together with Steven Ayres on bass and Drew Hall on backing guitar, all in front of Carlos Jones on drums.  The highlight was when vocalist and guitarist Big Daddy D stepped off the stage to play slide guitar with the obligatory beer bottle, then even a lawn chair and finally one of those old fashioned record albums.  This performance drew the audience in for the Prescott, Arizona, based band, and helped set the stage for nightfall and eventually, headliner Tommy Castro.

It also made for a tough act to follow for Phoenix-based all-girl blues band, Sistah Blue.   But the 13-year Phoenix blues veterans followed brilliantly, behind the searing harmonica work of Rochelle Raya, the stand-out instrumental stylings of guitarist and song-writer Nancy Dalessandro, the driving rhythms of drummer Janet Daniels and the soulful vocals of Lila Sherman.  The songs—mostly written by Arizona Blues Hall of Famer Dalessadro—and the performance, had the band’s large local fan base up on their feet and dancing for the entire set.   And a sad note for our Arizona Blues Blast readers:  Sistah Blue is retiring after hundreds of performances and several CD’s over their dozen-plus years:  Their last public performance will be May 22 at Phoenix’ Rhythm Room, if you want to say “Good bye and good luck.”

We’ll note one other performance in brief, not because they were not good—they were—but because they are from San Francisco and not the Phoenix area.  That’s Mark Hummel and The Blues Survivors.   The highlight of their show was their original song, “The Big Easy Ain’t Easy No More,” a protest song over the way the current administration is dealing with the post Katrina crisis in New Orleans.   Regrettably, the powerful song drew only a smattering of polite applause from the huge audience.   I’ll say no more on that….

With 25 years of experience, the promoters and organizers of the Glendale Gibson Jazz and Blues festival know how to do it right!  Put it on your list for next spring in the Valley of the Sun.  And as if you needed any more incentives to attend next April….it’s FREE!!!

Two Lone Peak bottles up for the Glendale Gibson Jazz and Blues Festival!

Reviewer, journalist and educator Rob Paullin has worked and sampled the blues everywhere from Chicago, New Orleans and Memphis to Kyiv, Beijing and Venice.

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