In the Aisle Seat: Keeping Blues Alive! Letting It Live in Brooklyn …

New York City (The Big Apple) is internationally known as both the financial and cultural capital of the world. In recent years, its borough of Brooklyn has become one the hottest spots in town to live and play. During this year’s Columbus Day holiday weekend, it got a lot hotter when an all-star lineup of Blues singers and musicians performed at the 9th Annual Big Eyed Blues Festival.

The festival’s founder and producer, Blues Empress Beareather Reddy stretched out this year and presented a two-day event, onstage at two Brooklyn venues – JAZZ966 and Long Island University’s Kumble Theater. The audiences were treated to an abundance of the music’s earthy lyrics and soulful sounds – performed by accomplished and well known Blues artists.

Opening night (Friday), classy Madame Pat Tandy, animated Bette Stuy, stylish Cynthia Holiday and smooth singer/musician Ayodele Maakheru, kept JAZZ966’s happy audience members entertained and up dancing at the intimate and unique performance space. Earlier in the evening, a panel of Blues writers, scholars and performers discussed “The Blues in the African Diaspora”.

In association with the Big Eyed Blues Festival, L.I.U.’s Kumble Theater hosted the second day of nothin’ but the Blues” – from the charming Big Eyed Blues Youth Ensemble (composed of 10 and 11 year old girls and a boy) to the Chicago Bluesman Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater closing the festival with his legendary showmanship and hard driving Blues guitar and songs.

Saturday’s program of all-stars also included Vinnie Knight’s sassy renditions of “St. Louie Woman”, “CC Rider”, and the upbeat “He’s Yours and Mine and Somebody Else’s Too”. Beareather & The Brown Liquor Sounds heated up the night with a few down home Blues from her songbook. Among the many musical treats that evening, the audience was mesmerized by 15-year old Christone “Kingfish” Ingram from Clarksdale, Mississippi. The young man amazed everyone with his electrified playing (and singing) … including fellow musicians Stanley Banks (bass), Christopher Almeida (drums) and Rudy Mwongozi (piano), who were the band for he, Knight and Beareather.

From the woeful “My Man Done Left Me” to the rocking “Got My Mojo Working” to the magical wailing of rhythm guitars, the annual Big Eyed Blues Festival continues to “Keep Blues Alive … Music of the Soul …Let It Live in Brooklyn!”

BY AGNES E. GREEN