Swung hard and soft and at virtually every tempo in between, the blues were given full expression at the Wax Museum Saturday night. More than two dozen local musicians took part in the Brass Monkey Blues Bash, one of several concerts sponsored recently by Heublein Inc., with the proceeds benefiting the National Park Service.
The show didn't attract much of a crowd; a few hundred people attended. But it did tap a wealth of area talent, including emcee Nap Turner, whose ad lib vocals and ad hoc band, The Wild Bunch, brought the evening to a successful close.
Made up of well-known musicians like saxophonist Byron Morris and upcoming talents like trumpeter Keith Holmes, The Wild Bunch combined polished ensemble work with well-crafted solos, and underscored Turner's droll commentaries with tasteful economy. As usual, Turner brought a sharp sense of identity to each song, including a poignant version of "God Bless the Child."
The mood was considerably lighter, however, when the Don Watts sextet performed earlier in the evening. Watts, a veteran keyboard player, has a real flair for creating a late-night groove. But thanks to the talent and versatility of singer Warren Magruder, the band also managed to keep the dance floor busy by revitalizing several R & B classics.
Opening the show was Kenny Definis and the Q Street Band. Definis is a young, talented guitarist whose playing displays an obvious debt to T-Bone Walker, B. B. King and, to a lesser degree, Wes Montgomery. Definis and his equally young band have yet to forge a distinctive style, but they hold considerable promise.
All of the concerts in this series are leading up to the biggest bash of them all, starring J.B. Hutto and the Nighthawks, at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre on May 29.