Review by Fred Rudofsky
A Tuesday night of some New Orleans rhythm and blues was just what the doctor ordered for this music fan. Severely sprained thumb in a splint, hectic brain trying to fathom how to grade a few dozen essays in the next few days, soul trying to figure out if Miss Right even exists in this lifetime – yep, I needed to hear something salubrious, transcendent and funky. And just like they had the year before, the Joe Krown Trio delivered big time at Red Square in Albany.
The trio – legendary guitarist/singer Walter “Wolfman” Washington, drummer extraordinaire Russell Batiste, Jr. and Hammond B-3 maestro Joe Krown – played two outstanding 70-minute sets to an appreciative, decent-sized crowd on a school night.
Eschewing any though of a set list and simply going with the flow, these virtuoso musicians played whatever they wanted from the heart, mixing instrumentals of serious funk (“Triple Threat,” “Twelve,” “Rollin’ with Big Pat” were on par with anything by the Meters) with inspired covers (“I Feel So Bad,” “Last Two Dollars,” “Can I Change My Mind?”), ballads (“Only You”) and blues to showcase the soulful vocals and on-the-money guitar of Washington, who during the best version of Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years” to be heard in this life, stepped out into the audience and played chorus after chorus on his Gibson 335 with his teeth.
Songs often stretched past the ten-minute mark, but everything felt fresh and natural: exuberant Batiste sliced and diced time like he was preparing onions and peppers for some cosmic gumbo; Krown’s B-3 riffs soared, bass pedal shaking and quaking every atom in the room; Washington’s finger-picking teased the blues in playful, often unexpected ways. These musicians were telepathic and radiating good vibes; smiles and laughter abounded late into the night and early morning as they surprised each other and the crowd with what can only be called the grooves of Crescent City alchemy.
Closing out the night with Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s ode to good times, “You Can Stay but the Noise Got to Go” (a vocal showcase for Washington to engage the audience in a spirited call-and-response), the band left Albany’s serious music lovers spent and clamoring for a return of the Joe Krown Trio soon.
Walking out into the street energized, I mused that those essays were not going to correct themselves, and Miss Right was still nowhere to be found. Looking at my thumb, though, I realized the splint was missing (probably lost while clapping along to the righteously funky blues I had witnessed) and so was the pain.
Be sure to check out the Joe Krown Trio’s excellent CDs, “Live at the Maple Leaf” (2008) and the aptly-named “Triple Threat” (2010), as well as Walter “Wolfman” Washington’s essential “Blue Moon Risin'” (1998) and “Doin’ the Funky Thing” (2008); Russell Batiste, Jr.’s inspired collaboration with George Porter, Jr. and Brian Stoltz on “Expandin’ the Funky Universe” (2007); and Joe Krown’s wonderful, just-released solo piano set “Exposed.”