Reelin’ in the Years

400537561_05d296bd3e_zThere is a thoughtful post on No Depression regarding B.B. King, whose 88 years of living the blues has really started to show in recent years. The man is a living testament to American music history and a national treasure, but I have to agree with the gentle suggestion of the post’s author — that B.B.’s inner circle should be nudging him toward retirement from the road. The first time I saw King in 2002 was inspiring; the man electrified the house with an extended set of his signature urban blues, coaxing syrupy bends from Lucille and commanding a first-rate road band. By stark contrast, the last time I caught B.B. in 2010, he only barely made it through a forty minute headlining set, at times rambling through tired schtick and only strangling a handful of halting notes from his Gibson. I walked away from the show with a sad realization that it was probably the last time I would hear King in person; it was like seeing a family member slowly fading, and wishing you could have one more opportunity — however brief — to experience their former self.

At the same time, it’s pretty clear that B.B. truly loves the life he lives, and it must be exceedingly difficult to set that passion aside, no matter how much your body and mind resist. At the end of the day, the decision is his to make — I just hope B.B. opts soon for some well-earned rest and relaxation, before the road life finally catches up with his health.

On a more uplifting note, a series of short interview clips with jazz guitar legend Ed Bickert recently cropped up on Vimeo; the clips appear to be previews of a larger project in progress. Bickert, now 81, retired from the jazz scene more than a decade ago. Interviews with the tele-wielding master of harmony are rare, and much of his catalog is now out of print. In the clips, Ed discusses his development as a player, technique, career highlights, and even spends a little time with his signature guitar in hand. It’s reassuring to see that someone is collecting some oral history from Bickert, who has quietly inspired the comping of many a jazz picker.

Photo: Daniele Dalledonne