OK folks, here is the ultimate review of this show, by not just a die-hard, but by someone who writes well and knows his stuff. He is actually an infrequent member of the Zone (he probably has all of 2 posts here) and his name is Emile, but some of you may know him as Tophat, from the one he almost always seems to wear. He also signs his reviews as "The Fossil". So do yourself a favor and read all about this show from someone who got it 100% correct on the set-list, who played on which songs, as well as his overall commentary. Enjoy!
Date: Wed, 16 Jan 2008 09:41:05 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Jimmy Vivino's Birthday Bash @ BB Kings - 1/10/08
From: "Emile" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "MuleBall" <email@example.com>
Growing up in NY in the 60's was a music junkie's dream - besides the British Invasion sounds that were all over the AM airwaves - those of us living in the Northeast were also subjected to the blue eyed soul of the Young Rascals - Felix Cavaliere's band, and the good time music of the Lovin' Spoonful - John Sebastian's band. Later on as the FM airwaves took over, the sounds of The Blues Project - Al Kooper's band as well as a group of musicians housed in upstate NY just known as The Band became etched in my consciousness along with their vocalist drummer - Levon Helm.
Moving into the mid 70's - a guy from Jersey caught my attention - this singer songwriters marathon performances helped to spawn a new group of singing songwriting performers based out of the Northeast - one of which was Willie Nile - referred to by some as a poor man's Springsteen. Forward fast years later to the late 90's - early 2000's, all of the above mentioned still favorites of mine and still performing either as solo artists or with new accompanists. One of the constants at all of these artists’ performances was a familiar looking guitarist - who seemed to be at every New York show I attended.
Whether it was the aforementioned artists or others who I also followed (Buzzy Linhart, Sam Moore or even bands of today like Gov't Mule) there was Jimmy Vivino. After seeing each other at almost every show I attended it became a joke between us as to who was following who around.
When it was announced that Jimmy's Birthday tribute to Bill Graham was now also being billed as a birthday celebration for the man himself - I knew it was time to forgo the warm comforts of my apartment and head into NYC and join the celebration. With a list of special guests representing a big part of my music collection and having made the acquaintance of many of the friends who were listed as possible guests - I knew this had the potential of being a piece of music history that I needed to be a part of.
My friend Joe and I arrived at the venue just as the guest of honor was. After a brief hello, and a happy birthday - Jimmy headed backstage and Joe and I headed to our seats. No sooner had we arrived at our seats that I bumped into Willie Nile - another performer whose acquaintance I had made through his many sit-ins with Jimmy.
After a few pleasantries - the lights were dimmed and out walked former WNEW- FM jock Ken Dashow - although still working in FM radio to me the format died the day they replaced Scott Muni with Opie and Anthony. After some brief remarks we were introduced to John Sebastian. The years have not been kind to John's singing voice - but he can still spin a story and plays wonderful harmonica and jug band guitar.
One of my favorite Sebastian performances was one I had an indirect hand in setting up. Years ago I had been in attendance at a duo show of John and Jimmy at the Towne Crier - speaking to Jimmy one night after a Turning Point show - I mentioned to him that this was one of my favorite shows - and asked why he and John hadn't played together more often - and he said they hadn't had the opportunity - I mentioned in passing to Jimmy that John had a solo gig scheduled in White Plains in a few weeks. Arriving at that John Sebastian gig I was pleasantly surprised when after the first song - John told all of us in attendance that he was sitting at home and got a call from his friend Jimmy who said he happened to have a night off - so without further ado he introduced "my friend Jimmy Vivino". The two of them proceeded to weave magic for the next 2 hours when at the end John thanked Jimmy for joining him - at which point Jimmy took the mic and thanked me from the audience for letting him know about the gig. I hung around after to thank Jimmy for his kind words and to also get an old picture signed of John and I which John inscribed "Thanks for telling Jimmy about the gig" - so I got my first taste of booking a show.
Enough for the digression - John told a few brief stories and kicked off the night with a song he and his father (who is a classical harmonica player) wrote called "Blues for JB and His Happy Harmonica" which appeared on John's wonderful solo album "Cheapo Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian". After some well deserved applause - John introduced the birthday boy.
Jimmy, who has worked with a who's who of the music industry - dedicated the next song to the artist who wrote it his friend the late Laura Nyro. "And When I Die" was performed in the style it was written on acoustic guitar with John's harmonica accompaniment. Next up "The Prisoners of 2nd Avenue" - as John Conte (bass) and Rich Pagano (drums) joined Jimmy for a trifecta of classic rock tunes - Derek & The Dominoes "Tell The Truth", Bloodwyn Pig's "See My Way" and a funked up version of Dylan's "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" which segued into Zeppelin's "In My Time Of Dying" jam.
The next song - the Yardbirds - "Shapes Of Things" featured NY Dolls lead guitarist Steve Conte on vocals - this song absolutely smoked. Things are now starting to roll – introducing Elaine Caswell - the Prisoners ripped off 2 Airplane classics "White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love" which evoked visions of Grace Slick in her prime. Picking up the pace - enter Al Kooper on keyboards, Steve Holley on the 2nd drum kit, Paul Shaffer on keyboards and Warren Haynes on guitar and vocals for Blind Faith's "Had To Cry Today" followed by "Why Does Love Have To Be So Sad" with Jimmy and Warren trading vocals as well as guitar licks. Now it's starting to get harder to keep track of who's on and who's off the stage - exit John Conte, enter Mike Merritt, enter Larry Campbell, enter Theresa Williams, enter John Sebastian, enter Levon Helm (who stayed put on the 2nd drum kit for the rest of the night) for a gospel tent like revival reading of Blind Willie Johnson's "God Don't Never Change".
The one musical collaboration that was the weakest of the night for me was Robert Gordon's mini Elvis tribute. Best known for his hit "Red Hot" as well as his top ten cover of Springsteen's "Fire" – Robert chose to do 2 songs off his Elvis tribute album - "Mess Of Blues" and "I'm Left Your Right She's Gone".
In Jimmy words - the Irish portion of the show was next as Willie Nile along with Frankie Lee joined the fray for a hard rocking version of Willie's own "Hard Times In America". Willie who I have seen perform with Jimmy many times was only allotted this one song which although it raised the roof - I was holding out hope for a Jimmy/Willie collaboration on The Who's "Substitute" or The Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated" which I have seen Jimmy and Willie nail in the past.
Exit everyone but Levon and enter The Fab Faux (Jack Petruzzelli, Frank Agnello, Rich Pagano, and Will Lee) joined by Andy York. The Fab Faux then proceeded to nail "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" with Will Lee dropping thunderous bombs which could probably be heard in the Port Authority Bus Terminal across the street. Paul Shaffer entered the fray on a 2nd keyboard as the band tore into "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" being joined by Warren Haynes halfway through to trade licks with the birthday boy.
My favorite configuration of all Jimmy's collaborations is the Rekooperators - (Anton Fig, Al Kooper, Mike Merritt and Jimmy) - never having seen the original Blues Project or Al's Super Session Band this is the closest thing to the real deal - with Jimmy reprising many of Bloomfield's classic riffs - they are a band not to be missed. One of my most memorable shows was the Mike Bloomfield tribute they did at this venue a few years ago - recreating some of the best music of that time period. On this night the Rekooperators with the addition of Paul Shaffer on 2nd keyboard, Elaine Caswell and Catherine Russell on background vocals and the addition of Will Lee on bass as Mike Merritt missed his cue - they performed a rousing version of Al's "Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" complete with Paul Shaffer's Letterman shtick - with Al and Paul trading verses and ending with the cape draping al la James Brown.
Exit Paul Shaffer and Will Lee; enter Mike Merritt for an audible of Donovan's "Season Of The Witch". Another audible followed as Jimmy noticed Mike Bloomfield's brother in the crowd and dedicated "Killing Yourself By Degrees" to him. For me The Rekooperators set was the highlight of the evening.
With the show approaching the 3 hour mark - the comings started to pick up with hardly anyone leaving the stage - joining the Rekooperators on stage for the next number were Hubert Sumlin, Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), Little Sammy Davis, David Johansen, Danny Louis for a killer version of Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" with Hubert shining on guitar. Halfway through the number Jerry Vivino walked out to add his saxophone to the mix. The same configuration stayed to tear up Willie Dixon's "300 Pounds Of Joy". For Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle" - Warren Haynes rejoined the fray along with all of the aforementioned artists.
At this point no one was leaving the stage - just more were joining in. For Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me" - Larry Campbell, Paul Shaffer, Theresa Anderson, Catherine Russell, Danny Louis, Elaine Caswell, John Sebastian (now on guitar), and Little Sammy Davis all joined in on Cooke's classic. With the stage literally teeming full of musicians Warren took the lead vocal for a show closing "I Shall Be Released".
After 3 plus hours of some of the best music to come out of the 60's - it was time for the musicians to depart and partake in a piece of Jimmy Vivino's Birthday Cake. As I headed out into the NYC night and looked up at the sky - I could have swore I saw the image of Bill Graham smiling down on us.
Complete Set List
Blues For JB And His Happy Harmonica
And When I Die
Tell The Truth
See My Way
A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall
In My Time Of Dying Jam
Shapes Of Things
Somebody To Love
Had To Cry Today
Why Does Love Have To Be So Sad
God Don't Never Change
Mess Of Blues
I'm Left Your Right She's Gone
Hard Times In America
I Want You (She's So Heavy)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Love You More Than You'll Ever Know
Season Of The Witch
Killing Yourself By Degrees
300 Pounds Of Joy
Wang Dang Doodle
Bring It On Home To Me
I Shall Be Released
Bill Graham didn't invent shows like this, but he knew to appreciate them and how to cultivate them, and this sounds like a classic old school show that he would have been proud to have his name associated with.
An aud of this show has been up the past week.