Thursday, April 30, 2015

Happy International Jazz Day!

Today is the official International Jazz Day, so to celebrate, I'll be hearing my playlists all day (I do that everyday but now with emphasis). I live in Kuwait so there's not much jazz going on around here.

If you are in Lebanon check out tonight's gig in Downtown Beirut.

If you want to watch the official Jazz Day concert in Paris, check out the live webcast!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Beirut Speaks Jazz 3rd Edition

The 3rd iteration of the famed 'Beirut Speaks Jazz' festival is coming soon to you!

On May 5, at Music Hall, prepare for a huge night of amazing musicians from across the local spectrum! Visit the official event page [here].

This year the artists will be:

Chady Nashef
Edd Abbas (from Fareeq l Atrash)
Issa Ghandour
Ranine Chaar
Rayess Bek (from Aksser)
Tania Saleh
Wassim Bou Malham (from Who Killed Bruce Lee)
Ziad Ahmadieh

Tarek Yamani: Piano 
Raffi Mandalian: Guitar 
Ruedi Felder: Bass 
Khaled Omran: Bass
Paolo Orlandi: Drums 
Dani Shukri: Drums 

Tickets available at Virgin Ticketing Box Office
01 999 666

Zone 1 - Free Seated: 60 000 LBP
Zone 2 - Free Seated: 45 000 LBP

Monday, April 27, 2015

'Low Society Blues' - Lowell Fulson

Lowell Fulson was a highly influential bluesman, who was widely known for being a major force in West Coast style blues, but also for writing several standards such as '3 O'Clock Blues' and 'Reconsider Baby'. He died in 1999.

In 1949, he released this instrumental called 'Low Society Blues', which clearly shows the style and influences of jazz and jump blues. It features Ray Charles' sax player Stanley Turrentine. 

If you feel like sipping some moonshine and smokin' a fat cigar this is the track to do so with:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Beirut International Jazz Day 2015

(click to enlarge)

In celebration of this years International Jazz Day, Beirut Souks will host the Beirut chapter on April 30. I wish I could be there to support my friends Ruby Road, and seeing the great Monday and Real Deal Blues Bands. It will be a free event in the heart of Downtown Beirut. 

I urge everyone to go and support the local music scene!

As described by the official Facebook page

For the third consecutive year, Beirut joins other cities around the globe in celebrating International Jazz Day under the patronage of the UNESCO. This year, the free event takes places in Youssef El Rami street (Behind the Municipality of Beirut) and showcases the best in local jazz talent.


RUBY ROAD : 7:00pm
XANGO : 11:00pm
IKLIL : 12:00am

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Response to's Article on Blues in Beirut

Yesterday, Mario Jamal wrote an article on called 'The Thrill Is Gone: Thoughts on a Blues Malaise in Beirut'. 

As a self-professed bluesman, who has performed in Beirut, Kuwait, and Dubai, I have to add my 2 cents in.


You seem to particularly know some blues music, but neither BB King, Bobby 'Blue' Bland nor Albert King are considered "Chicago Blues", and early delta blues players are more considered to be Robert Johnson, Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson etc. RL Burnside was only a youngster when these bluesmen were at their prime. 

The White Stripes (through Jack White) and the Black Keys are not part of a blues-rock revival (if such a revival really exists). We know Jack White has shown interest in the early blues, even performing 'Death Letter Blues' by Son House live. But his overall music, including the Black Keys, have little to no commonality with early delta blues.

With that out of the way, let's move on to the Beirut scene:

During the 5 years I spent in Lebanon during my AUB years between 2000-2005, I performed in my own blues band, regularly I may add, back when Monot St. was active, and we played several music festivals in Hamra and Hadath, etc. Check more out [here] and [here].

At the time, only The Wanton Bishops were not in the blues scene. The rest you already mentioned. By the time I left, Shady Nashef & Band were unfortunately becoming a covers only band (not just blues), even though all on his team are amazing musicians. 

When I recently heard that the Real Deal Blues Band still plays till today, and that Quadrangle still stands, I think you then realize what the problem is.

The blues is a much highly regarded genre in Lebanon. Not only are the Lebanese more generally knowledgeable about blues and jazz compared to other places in the region, but they are also active band supporters and live music enthusiasts.

We fantasize about the history and imagery of what blues music is; and indeed in that sense the blues is evident in Beirut and Lebanon; isn't there poverty, destitution, and even more worse things going on?

The answer is simple; it's not popular ENOUGH to generate enough money for musicians to make a living, nor for the establishment to generate enough revenue to pay the band or to cover their costs.

I give you an example from my experience:

From 2003-2005 my band Evergreen Blues Band, was performing weekly at Roadhouse Blues pub in Monot. We were getting $100 a week FOR THE WHOLE BAND. 

How do you expect a 4 piece group to survive this? Granted we were college kids and we didn't care. But for someone older, with a family and responsibilities, this is ridiculous. 

So what did musicians have to do? They adapt. 

Either they perform other kinds of music, be a party / wedding / TV band, or end up taking regular jobs. I perform a lot of blues music today. but it's not enough to sustain me and my family (I have a daughter now).

That alone is enough cause for the blues; however just as Jazz is now the least popular genre in the US, where it was created, we have to always add the economic factor into it.

As much as I talk and discuss and preach about the blues, for 15 years now, I always have to remove my romantic fantasies and must embrace reality. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

2015 Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame - Blues Roundup

As discussed previously, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band were inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame yesterday.

For SRV, John Mayer inducted him, saying:

“I’m a Stevie Ray Vaughan wannabe,” he concluded, “because I wanted to be Stevie and I still want to be Stevie. And if you ever pick up a guitar, is there anybody better to want to be than Stevie Ray Vaughan?” 

SRV's brother Jimmie accepted the award and said:

Stevie Ray Vaughan was my little brother,” he began. “I know he would want to thank the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but most of all, he’d want to thank his fans, all 18 million of them, that voted for him to get in here. He would be so proud and so would my mother and father.” 

After that, John Mayer, Jimmie Vaughan, and Gary Clark Jr. performed 'Six String Down', which is a song Jimmie wrote in tibute to his brother.

As for The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Peter Wolf inducted them, and said:

"The Paul Butterfield Blues Band brought something different to the genre, and they kicked down the door, and showed others how to really do it real differently."

The surviving members, including keyboardist Mark Naftalin, guitarist Elvin Bishop and drummer Sam Lay as well as the late Butterfield’s sons, spoke after the induction. Naftalin said: “It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of something historical.” 

Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Zak Brown performed Butterfield's "I Was Born Chicago":

And the surviving band members performed Muddy Waters' 'I Got My Mojo Working" which was on their seminal self-titles album.

It was a good night and big exposure to some of the best bluesmen of our time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Study: Blues & Jazz Musicians Live Longer, are More Stable

The blues means living hard, living through the treacheries of modern life. However, though the tropes include homicide, drug usage, etc, in a recent study, it's shown that blues musicians outlive musicians from every music genre out there. This is also true of jazz:

The above table shows the causes of death from every genre; as you can see, blues musicians die from heart related issues above every other, indicating usual long life. Jazz musicians have the highest death rate when it comes to cancer, also suggesting longevity. Hip-hop artists on the contrary, usually die from homicide related causes, above the overall average.

"This pattern reflects, to some extent, a confound in the data: musicians who are dying youngest belong to newer genres (electronic, punk, metal,rap,hip-hop) that have not existed as long as genres such as jazz, country, gospel and blues. Consequently, they have not had the same opportunity to live a full lifespan."

So in conclusion, if you want to live a long life, play the blues!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hear the Full Podcast of my Radio Appearance on 99.7 RKFM

Last week, I sat in on DJ Maha's daily show on FM99.7 Radio Kuwait, discussing the roots of music, the best rock riffs of all times, and other things! We also heard the best of blues and rock on the show, from Muddy Waters, to The Rolling Stones, to The White Stripes and everything in between. 

Check out the full two hour podcast below, and let me know what you think! Thanks Maha for the great show and for having me! (Doesn't work for mobile users I'm afraid)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Standard of the Week: 'Key to the Highway'

In 1940, pianist Charlie Segar recorded 'Key to the Highway', originally in a 12-bar blues arrangement, which proved to be very popular:

A year later, Big Bill Broonzy recorded his version of it, but in a 8-bar arrangement instead. That version became the definitive song that became a blues standard:

The lyrical content draws images of the travelling bluesman:

I got the key to the highway, billed out and bound to go
I'm gonna leave here runnin', because walkin' is much too slow ...
Give me one more kiss mama, just before I go
'Cause when I'm leavin' here, I won't be back no more

Since then hundreds of musicians covered it, such as:






Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jazz & Blues Commentary from 1964

I have recently acquired two vintage issues of Down Beat magazine from August 13 and October 8, 1964. The ads, the fonts, the jargon... lovely stuff.

Reading through these issues I got a sense of the sign of the times back in the early 60's. Avant-garde and free jazz were taking swift advances at "old" jazz, and there was a folk / blues revival going on. 

Jazz (and to a lesser extent, blues) criticism was also just as harsh as today (see my article Blues Purism vs. Evolution on one angle of it). There's also some great commentary, especially if you compare it to the present time.

I tried to get approval to transcribe a full article for you but with no reply. So for this, I'm going to post some of the things I have seen in these magazines that sort of give you the impressions that still resonate with jazz and blues today. Remember, this is stuff written 50 years ago!

"Who could be surprised that Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie beat all other trumpeters by a wide margin? Polls simply give established names a recognition they do not need."

"Most people haven't the faintest idea of the talent in their own towns. Why aren't they being covered?"

"It is foolish to call music you cannot understand "garbage" as it is to call it "genius". Jazz has evolved with one essential objective- to make clearer and more musically accessible the individualism of the performer."

"If the 'new thing' (ed: Free/Avant-Garde Jazz) musicians have really succeeded in blowing their own problems out of life, then they have every artistic reason to exist."

"There is a definite increase in interest of jazz records. We expect huge increase in sales going forward. People are more and more turning to jazz."

"Actually, I haven't seen anything spectacular yet. The coming year's jazz picture looks pretty dismal, as it's been for the last three or four years".

"It's people like John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Cecil Taylor and others that jazz clubs are closing all over the country!"

"Is it good for the blues to change like this? I don't think so. Back in the day, that was the real blues. Everything now seems commercial."

"I think the blues, the old country-style blues, will die with the original players." 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Breaking: B.B. King Rushed to Hospital

Blues legend B.B. King has been rushed to a hospital in Las Vegas, according to his daughter who confirmed the news to the LA Times.

She has since said he was doing much better. He is currently suffering from Type II diabetes. 

B.B. King has recently cancelled shows in several places due to health concerns; in the Lebanon concert a few years back he also had some trouble performing during the show. 

We wish the King a healthy return; he is one of the last remaining old school bluesmen alive today.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Back From the Dubai Show

Every once in a while, there comes this fantastic journey into a new adventure. The stuff you dream about.

This trip, was such an example.

I'm currently on an alcohol withdrawal (thanks Kuwait), and as much as I would love to share the story of my journey, I'm gonna wait until I get my hands on some high quality pictures and videos.

In the meantime I want to thank Zahed Sultan for having me join him on stage, to Anthony, Ronodeep, Kiani, and Jackson, the great team that was sent from different parts of the world and created something beautiful.

Stay tuned!