Montrealstar 02

 

King of blues boogie in full-tilt form

By DAVID FREESTON

John Lee Hooker, one of the pre-eminent exponents of the city blues, is back in Montreal at the “Rising Sun (286 St. Catherine West) with yet another hot backup group.

Hooker, a 60-year-old native of Clarksdale in the Mississippi Delta region, never ceases to astonish audiences with his persistent vitality and author­ity.

But what is no less amazing is his faculty in finding excellent groups to tour with… on the other hand; there is nothing amazing about it — if you were a blues artist, who would you want to play with?

His group, called the Coast To Coast Blues Band, is comprised of Steve Gomes on bass, Larry Martin on drums, John Garcia on first lead guitar and Bill Master on second lead.

From the moment they took the stage, they acquitted themselves as a superb blues outfit, doing considerably more than merely setting the stage for Hooker.

Gomes’s punchy bass and Martin’s crisp drums crackled with energy and John Garcia and Bill Master proved a formidable guitar team with their alternating solos and tightly meshed boogie frenzy.

Garcia, in particular, established himself as a master of the technically refined genre of Bloomfield et al. Either storming into his leads, wailing and stinging away as he does in Little Walter’s Boom Boom, or teasing the audience with muted fretwork in Movin’ Down the Line, he consistently commanded the attention of the overflow audience.

By the time John Lee Hooker himself took the stage, the audience was primed for nothing less than the finest in blues and boogie and that is exactly what he delivered.  Looking to be in fine spirits the diminutive singer-guitarist, dressed in his trademark   fedora  and a cream-colored suit, proceeded to boogie his way through furious things like Roll Me and slower, smoldering blues laments such as Whisky and Women.

While his band filled things out with their expertise and fire, Hooker clawed out his rough succinct guitar tones and held forth in his gritty, resonant voice.

Singing — not guitar playing — has always been Hooker’s long suit and while the band saw to it that the sound was tight, Hooker anchored things with his incontestable feeling and energy.

Through the sexual bravado of I’m A Crawling Kingsnake and the boogie fury of Rock Steady (imagine owning one of the most identifiable of all riffs, as Hooker does) Hooker led the smoke-filled room to an ecstatic grand finale, when the whole house rose to its feet to stomp and shake along with him.

John Lee Hooker continues tonight at the Rising Sun, to be followed by Nat Adderley John Lee Hooker continues, tonight at the Rising Sun; to be followed by Nat Adderley (May 11-16); Archie Shepp (May 17-22) and Ahmad Jamal (May 24-29).

The Montreal Star,
Tuesday, May 10, 1977