Curley Bridges – Live At The Silver Dollar Room

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Curley Bridges is not a long lost and forgotten Bluesman playing obscure songs, instead he harkens back to an era when men never left home without their hat, women go-go danced in cages, everyone enjoyed 3 martini lunches and perhaps most surprising of all, Blues music was part of the Popular Culture, particularly in Canada where Curley Bridges played a major role beginning in 1955, in introducing live R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll, as the vocalist and keyboard player for Frank Motley and his Motley Crew, the first African American unit to tour Canada playing this music, to both eager audiences and a whole generation of younger Canadian musicians. 
Born February 7th, 1934 in Fuquay Varina, North Carolina, Curley snuck out as a child to hear Big Joe Turner and Louis Jordan when they passed through nearby Raleigh, but it was not until after he attended a U.S.O. performance by piano titans, Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson, after being drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed in Washington, D.C., that he himself considered making music. Soon drawn into the Red Hot Jazz and Blues scene in D.C. then thriving around the Howard Theatre. He was soon gigging and recording regularly with Dual Trumpeter extraordinaire Frank Motley. Their Pre-Elvis Atomic powered version of Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” perked up a lot of ears, including those of Colonel Harold Kuddlets of Hamilton, who offered them a week of work in Toronto, which was soon extended to alternating six week stands between Toronto and the Esquire Show Bar in the then wide open City of Montreal. The success of the Motley Crew in Canada emboldened the Colonel to look even further south the next year and to next import Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins from Arkansas, whose locally recruited group The Hawks would soon evolve into The Band.
After touring the U.S. extensively through the late 50’s, Curley and Motley returned to the more racially tolerant Toronto permanently in the early 60’s, just in time to play a major role in the Golden Age of the Toronto Music Scene. The Coffee House’s in Yorkville featured Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and believe it or not transplanted U.S. bluesman Lonnie Johnson. Gordon Lightfoot worked the Taverns on Yonge Street. The Sparrow evolved into Steppenwolf. Oscar Peterson had a residency at the King Cole Room and Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, now featuring Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson, ruled the roost, with competition from David Clayton Thomas and The Shays. Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf were frequent visitors at the Colonial Tavern, and a steady wave of Jamaican immigrants sparked up a vital local Reggae and Ska scene presided over by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. In the midst of this musical melting pot thrived Curley Bridges, still working with the Motley Crew, as well as fronting his own band the Bridge Crossings, and guesting on a great sonic snapshop of the era 1968’s “Jackie Shane Live” LP.
Tipped off by Toronto Music aficionado Bill Munson in 1997 that Curley Bridges was living about an hour north of the city in semi-retirement, and having long admired his seminal R&B recordings from the 50’s and 60’s. I made the trek up to see him play a solo gig at an upscale supper club where the median age of the audience was about 80. After introducing myself to him at the break I enquired if he ever still sang the Blues, shaking his head Curley replied nobody had asked him to do that in over 20 years, but he  advised me to come back for the last set when the club would have emptied out of it’s elderly patrons, and he’d see what he could do. True to his word he launched into a set of Big Joe Turner, Lowell Fulson, Freddie King and Ivory Joe Hunter classics that made my head spin. That evening led to 1998’s “Keys To The Blues” and 2001’s “Mr. Rock and Soul” on Electro-Fi, his first new recordings in over 25 years. “Live At The Silver Dollar Room” was both a chance to celebrate the 75th Birthday of a dear friend and R&B icon and to share with you an evening of a consummate professional at work.   -   Andrew Galloway

Track Listing:
1. Where Did My Baby Go? - 3:39   2. Honey Hush - 4:50   3. Since I Met You Baby - 6:06   4. Walk On - 4:53   5. 3 O'Clock Blues - 6:12   6. Give Me One Reason - 4:59   7. Happy Birthday Curley Boogie - 2:43   8. Mr Rock 'N' Soul - 3:16   9. Caledonia - 6:20   10. Sloop John B - 5:51   11. You're the One - 5:21   12. Mojo Re:Worked - 6:13

Curley Bridges (vocals, keyboards, lip trumpet) , Chris Whiteley (guitar, vocals, harmonica; trumpet) , Omar Tunnoch (bass) , Bucky Berger (drums) , Julian Fauth (vocals & piano on 7)


1. - 27.10.2009
Op 17 januari 2009 keerde de 75-jarige r&b pianist/zanger Curley Bridges terug naar The Silver Dollar Room in Toronto waar hij in 1958 zijn eerste optreden had. Hier vierde hij zijn 75-jarige verjaardag met een live optreden waarvan ‘Live At The Silver Dollar Room’ het resultaat is geworden.
Met een collectie van voornamelijk covers afgewisseld met eigen werk zorgt hij voor een gemoedelijke en soms opzwepende sfeer in dit etablissement.  Samen met Chris Whiteley op gitaar, harmonica en trompet, Omar Tunnoch op de bas, Bucky Berger op drums haalt hij muzikale herinneringen uit het verleden op. Nog steeds bezit Curley Bridges een veelzijdige stem waarmee hij diverse effecten kan produceren en ook nog eens liptrompet speelt. Luister maar eens naar het nummer ‘You Talk Too Much’ en ‘Since I Met You Baby’. Nummers die toch weer de ouderwetse swing in zich hebben en dat nog eens wordt aangedikt met de ‘liptrompet’. Echter op het nummer ‘Walk On’ zijn die effecten net weer teveel van het goede. Naar mijn smaak komt het dit, overigens prachtige nummer, niet ten goede. Dat geldt ook voor het nummer ‘3 O’Clock Blues’ dat zo voortreffelijk begint met een lekkere harp, maar naar gelang het nummer vordert komen toch weer die overbodige effecten terug. Misschien is dit een kwestie van smaak, maar ik persoonlijk vind het niets toevoegen.
Een zeer swingende uitvoering van ‘Happy Birthday’ speelt special guest Julian Fauth, die daarmee Curley toch wel op een fraaie manier toezingt en speelt. Curley’s interpretaties van ‘Caledonia’ en ‘Sloop John B’ zijn er weer om je vingers bij af te likken.
Gezien de beresterke begeleidingsband weet Curley toch de spotlight op zich te richten. En dat is meer dan terecht gezien de prachtige uitvoeringen van de songs op dit album. ‘Live At The Silver Dollar Room’ geeft precies de sfeer en de stemming weer van dit optreden maar onderstreept ook nog eens duidelijk dat na al die jaren Curley Bridges nog steeds die goede pianist en zanger van weleer is.


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