Guitarist Johnny Copeland's performance last night at The Door sparkled like the rhinestone Lone Star badge he wore pinned to his western-cut lapel. Copeland's music cut deep into the heart of Texas blues, the big, brassy sound popularized by T Bone Walker and later brought to Memphis by B.B. King, among others.
A disappointing turnout didn't prevent Copeland and his sextet from putting plenty of muscle into their music or from displaying their affinity for jazz as well. Virtually everything they played was powered by the guitarist's sharp, incisive solos, the pumping brass of trumpeter John Pratt and reedman Joe Rigby, and the rock-hard rhythms laid down by drummer Julian Vaughn, rhythm guitarist Joel Perry and bassist Mike Merritt.
On the ballads, particularly his old hit "One More Time," Copeland's raspy baritone and anguished delivery recalled some of Bobby "Blue" Bland's finest recordings.
Of the jump tunes, Copeland's "Big Time" stood out. Like most of pianists Ken Vangel's arrangements, it made the band sound much larger than it really was, and gave each member in the group Texas-size space to stretch out.
The Johnny Copeland Band returns to The Door (formerly the Cellar Door) tonight.