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Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Bruce Katz Band at the Livery in Benton Harbor April 18

If there is one original music which has kept dance floors busy across this country it has to be the blues. We're speaking here of piano-based uptempo roots music sounds of New Orleans, sometimes known as early rock'n'roll. Musician Bruce Katz seems to understand this reality and, as such, tailored his live set at the Livery to include material from all the leading American songwriter sources. Whether sliding into a jazzy Professor Longhair tune or a Hank Williams honky-tonk, Katz is fearless when reaching into the well for treasures from artists whose ageless gems grow more valuable with time. Katz also has the foresight to include other home-grown keyboard influences which helped put this country on the musical map. All of this make for lively in-person presentation. The second song of the 2nd set was a nod to Katz's days with Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters. "Blues in D Natural" proved a perfect showcase for guitarist Chris Vitarello. After trading hollow-body jazz guitar for solid wood Telecaster, Vitarello absolutely delivered. His first guitar solo was searing. Meanwhile Katz was providing some serious organ, often using the double-fisted triple keyboard method. Katz even stood up to play the piano in a Jerry Lee-inspired moment. Vitarello also proved a soulful singer as heard on the Allman Brothers version of Muddy Waters' "Trouble No More." From there it was on to what Katz described as a "Huey 'Piano' Smith version of Hank Williams" and a Fats Domino-inspired version of "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)." Drummer Ralph Rosen was spot-on, providing an enviable pocket in which to lay back. Katz featured songs from his most recent release "Live from the Firefly" and a tune from his Mississippi Moan CD originally sung by Mighty Sam McClain called "Hanging on the Cross." Katz finished up the night with tunes from Billy Preston and Blue Note's Jimmy McGriff ("Talking About My Baby") completing a unique American odyssey across the keys. (Photo by Alan Bartlett)

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