Vandercook Honors Blues Masters in Evening Called “Blues - the Common Ground”
In his seventh annual concert for Hawaii Public Radio, singer–guitarist Chris Vandercook and his band take a stroll through the many shadings of the blues in a concert he calls “Blues - the Common Ground.” It’s set for Saturday, May 25th at 7:30 pm in HPR’s Atherton Studio. Vandercook blends his guitar style, which descends from past heroes like Magic Sam and Freddy King, with the distinctive “soul-jazz” sound of the Hammond organ and tenor saxophone, buoyed by a contemporary bass-and-drums rhythm section. The music ranges from jazz-inflected tunes by Stanley Turrentine and Kenny Burrell to songs by soul legend Sam Cooke and songwriter John Hiatt. Band originals are part of the mix as well, including a new tune that marries blues styling to James Brown-style syncopation. Tickets are $30 general admission, $25 for HPR members, and $15 for students with ID. For reservations, call 955-8821 during business hours.
The Chris Vandercook Band includes keyboardist Marshall Kaniho, a veteran musician who has played with ensembles all over Hawaii and has mastered the “B-3” Hammond sound of people like Brother Jack McDuff and Jimmy McGriff. The saxophonist is Billy “Billy P” Popaka, who has played with the band on several past Atherton concerts. He is a Hawaii rarity: a skillful interpreter of the tenor saxophone style laid down on hundreds of soul and R&B recordings by King Curtis (with Aretha Franklin) and David “Fathead” Newman (with Ray Charles). It’s a style that emphasizes a big sound and a bluesy melody over pyrotechnics – one that Billy P has refined through decades with Hawaii bands. The group is rounded out by longtime bassist Ed Canto, a solid player of both blues and funk rhythms, and drummer Scott Shafer, who can shift effortlessly from shuffle blues to New Orleans “second line” patterns.
“Blues is everywhere in American music, and we can be confident it will never die,” Vandercook says, “but it shouldn’t be seen as a relic to be preserved in amber. The music has evolved rapidly throughout its history and there’s no reason for that process to stop as long as artists remain true to the spirit of the music.” For him, the spirit is strongest today in the few blues heroes who remain: people like Bobby “Blue” Bland, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Otis Rush. “It’s unlikely we’ll ever again see as many grand masters flourishing within the same era as we did in the days when Muddy and the Wolf were still with us,” he says, “but we can certainly honor their legacy; that’s the goal of our music.”
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