Saturday, February 14, 2015

Masters of the Telecaster: Superb Rock, Blues, Country & Soul at The Kate

Masters of the Telecaster: photo by John V
True musical artistry is a rare thing in these days of reality TV pop stars & manufactured music. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see a show like “Masters of the Telecaster,” featuring G.E. Smith, Danny Kortchmar & Jim Weider. On Friday, February 13, at The Kate in Old Saybrook, this trio of guitar virtuosos, along with drummer Randy Ciarlante & bassist Byron Isaacs, treated us to an electrifying night of music. The concert was excellent from start to finish, with a fantastic mix of rock, blues, folk & country performed with passion & energy by a group of supremely talented musicians. The diverse set list ranged from rock & roll classics like “Suzie Q” to country standards such as “Sweet Dreams” and a touch of blues: Son House’s “Empire State Express,” with fantastic lead vocals & guitar from Smith, was one of the high points of the night for me.

The night was filled with wonderful music: “Mercury Blues,” an often covered track probably best remembered for David Lindley’s version, sounded superb, as did a percolated rave up on Little Richard’s “Lucille.” The band members traded off doing leads on the songs, and you could genuinely feel their joy at performing together. One look at Smith’s ecstatic face during the show spoke a thousand words. He burned up the stage with his enthusiasm and smokin’ licks; Kortchmar rocked & jammed like nobody’s business, and Weider was tight and fluid, especially during his stunning take on Roy Buchanan’s “The Messiah Will Come Again.” Ciarlante & Isaacs also contributed heavily to the show’s success, providing excellent vocals and solid playing throughout the night. Other high-water marks: Smith’s emotional reading of “Arrowhead,” Richard Schindell’s folk tune set during the Civil War, and Kortchmar's scorching interpretation of Al Green's "I'm A Ram."

If you’re a dyed in the wool music fan, this terrific trio needs no introduction, but here’s a brief look at their resumes: Smith was Saturday Night Live’s bandleader/musical director for 10 years, and has played with Bob Dylan, Hall & Oates and many others. Wieder was a member of The Band (replacing Robbie Robertson) from 1985-2000, and has also performed with many other artists, including Dr. John & Keith Richards. Kortchmar was part of the legendary group of session musicians known as The Section, and worked with James Taylor, Jackson Browne and Carole King. He also collaborated with Don Henley on the albums Building The Perfect Beast & The End of The Innocence. In fact, another cool moment during the evening was the band rocking out on “All She Wants To Do Is Dance,” which was written by Kortchmar.

For real music aficionados, this show is as close to nirvana as it gets. A band of brothers jamming on classic rock, blues, country & soul the way it was meant to be played; with passion, joy & energy. Two amazing sets of music, concluding with a rousing encore performance of The Bottle Rockets’ “Thousand Dollar Car,” led by Smith, that left us wanting two more sets by this extraordinary group. If you get a chance to see them live, don’t hesitate. It’s a powerful night of music you won’t soon forget. The “Masters of the Telecaster,” will be performing tonight, February 14, at Infinity Hall in Hartford. If you can get a ticket, I highly recommend attending the show. For more info on the band and upcoming concerts, you can visit G.E. Smith’s website at 

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