In the fall of 2014 poet, blues/jazz historian, and Amsterdam resident John Sinclair visited New York for a series of readings and performances. One of them at Brooklyn’s Beast of Burden venue in Bushwick was recorded live. The result is an audio document of a magical night of spoken word and music Keeping the Blues Alive.
The focus that night in New York was on blues music and its rich history in America. Sinclair read from his published collection of poems Fattening Frogs for Snakes while the band (Phil Gammage – guitar, harmonica; Don Fiorino – lap steel guitar; Kevin Tooley – drums; Johnny Cement – bass; and Seaton Hancock – saxophone) provided a firm yet always shifting musical foundation. John Sinclair was introduced and he took command of the stage performing the epic “The Delta Sound” with just lap steel player Don Fiorino. The full band then joined them on stage and everyone eased into playing “Cross Road Blues.” They went on to perform several lengthy pieces, each with its own twists, turns, and mood swings. Throughout the night everyone took risks, and that sense of danger and improvisation only served to give the performance a timeless edge.
What transpired on that stage was a perfect example of what kind of dynamic power a collaboration of spoken word performance with music can create. It was a truly remarkable live concert event which evoked a unique mojo vibe that fortuitously was captured through this recording.