As we have discovered over the past year there is a vibrant arts scene here on the Island almost out of proportion to the size of the population. There are any number of artists and studios covering every medium that I know and a few that I hadn’t realized existed (pin-point photography being one). Though theatre is most active in the summer there are any number of theatrical performances – professional, semi-professional, and amateur – throughout the year. And not just the “safe” stuff: a mid-winter run of The Laramie Project played to almost sold out houses and a production of The Dining Room played in various mansion venues throughout the city.
And when it comes to music the choice is not restricted to the expected traditional Maritime fiddle playing, though there is no dearth of ceilidhs featuring some remarkable artists almost every week. There seems to be something for every musical taste from operatic arias to pop standards to heavy metal. We had a chance to hear a fair spectrum of music this past weekend but the high point had to be an evening of Blues at the PourHouse with singer, song writer, and actor Guy Davis and the legendary blues harmonica player Fabrizio Poggi.
It was produced by the good folks from the Trailside Music Café and Inn out at Mt Stewart. The Inn won’t be in full swing until the end of April so they decided to open their performance season here in town. Davis is Blues and American Theatrical Royalty. His mother was Ruby Dee, the great American actress and his father Ossie Davis, the equally great actor, writer, and director. And his musical heritage stems from the protest movements of the last century and the earlier influences of likes of Leadbelly, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Big Joe Williams. But he admits that the one man he stole from and who influenced him most was Sonny Terry. Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train is his most recent album with Poggi and is a tribute to the partnership of those two legends of the Blues: Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. The two joined forces to remember these two greats in a concert that was simply two men, two harmonicas (though actually Poggi had a case of about 20 that he switched continually – sometimes in mid-tune) and a guitar.
Here they are doing Black Coffee – first recorded by Sarah Vaughan in 1949. It has since had covers by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Marianne Faithful. What I find remarkable in this live club recording is when Poggi lets loose and shows what has made him a master of the harmonica.
Davis prefaced this song much the way he does on this clip – and then asked us to join him in the chorus. More than one of us in the audience sang it with a sense of recognition that there had been times when we earnestly wished we had not stayed away so long.
A remarkable and more than memorable evening!
On this day in 1928: The Bremen, a German Junkers W 33 type aircraft, takes off for the first successful transatlantic aeroplane flight from east to west.