Buddy Whittington and his band took the stage at Sheldon Hall Saturday to satisfy hungry fans of Southern Blues and Rock.
An onslaught of precision and blistering riffs persisted throughout the night in a display of spot-on craftsmanship. Much is to be said of improvisation, but when a style of innovation and color is ablaze upon descendents of an American heritage, all but sweet sentiments are left to flitter. Whittington’s fingertips stood to test his tone, frying his fret-board.
Texas-born and raised on rhythm, Whittington’s stint with John Mayall is not considered modest among fans of the blues. A long 15 years among Mayall’s Bluesbreakers provided him well. He expels an ingenuity containing forcefulness and smooth phrasing, leaving no one to second guess his humbled skill.
Accompanied by Wayne Six (bass guitar), Michael Mayes (guitar & vocals) and Mike Gage on drums, the band filled out nicely. It is not at all surprising that the four had played together numerous times before, displaying an effective chemistry of kinship.
The audience received them well, even though the band felt them to be quite tame for the given genre of music. There were hoots and hollers amidst the applause but no dancing, and no one dared to leave their seats to gather around the stage. Knowing the various joints that the Bluesbreakers played, the given circumstances gave the performance an awkward formalness.
“Ya’ll are too quiet,” Six said. “Where we’re from we’d have to dodge the beer bottles by now.”
“Yeah we play behind chicken wire,” Whittington replied; conjuring an image in reference to the notorious “Blues Brothers” movie, inciting laughter from the audience.
This concert did not forget to give appreciation and regards to ARTSwego and the music department for their support.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Rick Balestra, a professor of guitar at Oswego State.
Balestra had met Whittington at a Syracuse Blues Fest years ago and have been friends ever since. At this time Whittington was playing with the Bluesbreakers. So in tribute to Balestra and his support, Whittington and the band invited him up on stage to play a few numbers and shred some licks. His improvisation clashed well as he and Whittington traded riffs, expressing a warm and subtle tone. Special guests seemed to be the theme of the night.
As Balestra left the stage another bombshell visitor arrived. The U.K. based rocker Kim Simmonds, slung a Gibson to duel the other well-defined guitarists. Simmonds is noted for his fame of four decades with the British Blues band Savoy Brown. The three guitarists decided to do a little communicating, trading improvised phrases back and forth, creating a landscape for awe-struck listeners. Even Gage and Six contributed to solo opportunities.
Whittington’s set list proved to be impressive. The band covered tunes by well-known artists ranging from B.B. King, ZZ Top and The Allman Brothers. Each song was re-done to make it their version. Of course the list of songs was sprinkled with original tunes from Whittington’s most recent release, “Six String Svengali,” now available for purchase. Saturday night’s performance was Whittington’s kick-off for his current tour to promote the Texas-recorded compilation.