Mike Madriaga 11:30 a.m., July 22
Billy Thompson plays the blues at Jazz Live
Blues guitar virtuoso Billy Thompson, a former San Diegan who has since relocated to West Virginia, returned to play Jazz Live at City College, the excellent concert series sponsored by KSDS Jazz 88.
Thompson was supported in this endeavor by a crack SD back-up band, featuring Michael Leroy Peed on piano and keyboards, Dave Curtis on electric bass, and Danny Campbell on drums.
Thompson is a wild, fearsome guitar-slinger who specializes in slide-guitar about half of the time. His slide technique, which involves an ability to mix up the glass tube with standard fingerings is very impressive. He's also a serviceable singer — gritty, decent range, and good intonation.
Tuesday's concert was hampered by sound-issues. Like many guitar players — Thompson simply was too loud. The volunteer sound crew at Jazz Live was unable to mitigate the sonic inequality, and, as a result--much of the excellent keyboard work of Peed was hard to pick out, and the veteran Curtis on bass was inaudible the entire night. On the bright side, Campbell was easy to hear, and this guy can play the drums. His contributions were spot on.
Featuring mostly original material, Thompson and company roared through self-penned titles like "Noreen," which featured a lyrical Peed acoustic piano solo, "Johnny Is A Cloud," which had some nice , out-of-the-box changes, and "If My Memory Would," which was greasy and funky.
The highlight moments for me, however, were a couple of covers. Thompson had an inventive and technically assured arrangement of Van Morrison's "Into The Mystic," on hand, which was sweet from top to bottom, and his version of the Bill Withers classic, "Aint No Sunshine," brought the house down.
Also excellent was the concert-ending, "As If," which reached outside the blues convention with a golden set of original chord changes.
Photo by Thomas Westerlin