LIVE: The Bruce Katz Band @ Club Helsinki, 12/27/14

January 16th, 2015, 3:00 pm by Greg
The Bruce Katz Band

The Bruce Katz Band

Review and photographs by Wanda Callagy

During the past year, I had seen keyboardist Bruce Katz and guitarist Chris Vitarello at one of Club Helsinki’s regular Pro Jams, and after reading that they had been nominated for a prestigious Blues Music Award, I decided to attend their CD release party for their new album, Homecoming. I wanted to see and hear why they will be attending the awards show at Memphis’ Cook Convention Center and why they are part of this 36th annual event which hands out the highest accolades afforded to blues musicians.

Aside from the great attributes of Club Helsinki itself – which promotes a great atmosphere with a varied menu to enjoy the best of lighting and sound – I was very happy I ventured there.

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These thoughts come from a music lover who, in all honesty, has always thought of keyboard players (piano and/or organ) as “filler” – part of the backing band for a talented guitarist. I admit it.

Recently, a few musicians have changed my mind, including the Bruce Katz Band. In fact, their music amazed me that December night, and I did not want their second set to end.

I liked the communication I saw on stage between Katz, Vitarello and drummer Ralph Rosen. They gave me the impression that they not only had a great amount of respect for each other musically, but in general they were very comfortable working together. I could see frequent eye contact and moments of listening to each other.

Katz does seem very much at home on that keyboard. He bounced back and forth between the piano and the Hammond B3, often playing both, right hand on the keyboard while playing the bass line on the organ with his left. Vitarello came through with precise and fluid guitar skills and bluesy vocals. Rosen made his contribution on the drums look like child’s play. Effortless. And his voice is not a bad thing to listen to, either.

From “Homecoming” (the title track of the band’s new CD) to “Amelia” (written by Katz for his granddaughter) to covers such as “The Letter” played in honor of the late Joe Cocker, and finally, to Billy Preston’s “The Circle,” I wasn’t disappointed for a second.

My listen there encouraged me enough to buy their latest CD, and to want to do a little more research, jumping to the band’s website to learn more about these artists and their range of accomplishments. And yes, I will see them again. I hope you take in the opportunity, too.

Bruce Katz returns to Club Helsinki in Hudson at 8pm on Thursday, February 5 as part of the all-star band anchoring the ProJam #9. Joining Katz will be Sonny Rock, Slam Allen, Petey Hop, Rick Knapp and more.

NOTE: The Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards will take place in Memphis on Thursday, May 7. Bruce Katz has been nominated as Best Pianist of the Year.

Bruce Katz

Bruce Katz

Ralph Rosen

Ralph Rosen

Chris Vitarello

Chris Vitarello