The John O’Leary Band

The Running Horse - 15 October 2005

Not much to add to my earlier review, really. Except to say that they are even better with an audience. Best quality musicianship, great grooves and good feel.

Roger dealt out a funky solo, working over his own sequences and playing some exceptional high passages. Joachim delivered a polished solo replete with wizardry and japes, eventually bursting into his own splendid variant of Art Blakey’s heavenly groove from Night in Tunisia. Jules’ guitar playing was staggering with every delicious delicacy in place and plenty of stabbing and soaring (and some good wrenching, too). John’s harp playing was superb, and he obviously enjoyed a properly appreciative audience (which we all were). Lorna guested again bringing equal proportions of silk and smoke to the microphone.

The friend I had invited had spent the morning fixing a deal at CD UK having to listen to tiresome teenie music. The JOB lifted his exhaustion clean away. A splendid time was had by all. And congratulations to The Running Horse for being the perfect place to see a band — good acoustics and a great atmosphere.

19 October 2005

Nottingham University - 14 July 2005

dvd: Alexander Sokurov - Russian Ark
In a wonderful scene in The Russian Ark, the camera wheels from a showy theatrical performance to its audience — Catherine the Great. By gate-crashing an IBM function, Viv and I managed to see the marvellous John O’Leary Band as if we were royalty at a command performance. Most amazing, they managed to give an exuberant show despite the almost empty room. The IBMers were probably too mesmerised by their recitations of the Deep Blue binary to find their way from the conference to the concert.

The John O'Leary Band - Sins
Actually, this band should be headlining at Buddy Guy’s in Chicago. Purists will nod sagely at John O’Leary’s assured place in the lineage of Little Walter and Junior Wells. John O’Leary shows why the harp was the dominant instrument in blues soloing before the advent of the electric guitar. His perfect phrasing at times sounded like a horn accompaniment. Up in heaven, or down in the bar below the two Sonny Boy Williamsons would hush their quarrel to listen to this man blow.

Jules FothergillMarc Le Guerrannic
Guitarist Jules Fothergill would stand out at any blues gathering — as he did at the Astoria Dick Heckstall-Smith tribute in June. His solos ignite like a sparkling fuse and explode like a sky-full of fireworks. Jules was paired by his co-guitarist in Funkydory, Marc Le Guerrannic. Now, I was sure that a talent like Jules’s would have to be unique, so it was a joy and a wonder to see another player with the same level of technique and assurance, and most importantly feel. They swapped solos with both intensity and individuality.

If you want to hear how it should be done, listen to drummer Joachim Greve and bassist Roger Innis providing the immaculate rhythm section. Joachim can tell a radamacue from a paradiddle in the dark with both eyes closed, and he keeps them elegantly in their proper places. The six-string bass of Roger Innis is the lynch-pin of the band, smoothly egging every solo further.

Lorna Reilly
Lorna Reilly, Funkydory’s singer, was guesting. She has an earthy passion unknown to the glitzy divas of urban soul. She reminded me of Maggie Bell back in the days of Stone the Crows. She could tear the casing from the hardest heart at fifty paces, in the process making shy boys smile and the angels blush. Go and see Funkydory to hear her take on T-Bone Walker’s Stormy Monday Blues.

All this to a tiny and mainly jaded audience. Imagine what they’ll be like when you see them with an enthusiastic crowd. Better yet, don’t imagine it, go and see them!

22 July 2005