WHILE there are quite a few surviving bluesmen and women who might quibble with Bill Harris for having the presumption to call his one-man show "I Am the Blues," Harris' playing, singing and storytelling are enough to convince audiences at D.C. Space.
The 90-minute program is a relaxed whatchamacallit of an evening -- not quite theater, not quite a concert. Standing alone with his Chet Atkins classical electric guitar, the 60-year-old former owner of the now-defunct jazz nightspot Pig Foot, meanders through a few stories and quite a few more very bad jokes. But mostly he plays guitar and sings in a lived-in, honeyed voice, often employing a trademark vocal trick, a combination of yodel, laugh and moan.
"Classically trained and blues-bred," as he says, Harris performs in a curious amalgam of styles, blending jazz, flamenco and traditional blues voicings, and his program included tributes to such diverse masters as Andres Segovia (a deep, sensual "Variations on Malaguena"), Thelonius Monk and Duke Ellington, and a medley of hits by the Clovers, a '50s R&B group he arranged and coached.
The evening ends on a high note with a delightful shaggy dog story called "Booker T. Washington Brown, the Baddest Guitar Player for Miles Around and the Last of the Stradivarius Guitars, or, How One Monkey Don't Stop No Show." The selections may vary from performance to performance.
Nashville-born Harris rambles winningly as he relates his autobiography, his eyes fixed on some distant point above the audience. He doesn't dwell on tales of hard times; his songs, "about love and fools, mostly ," make it clear that he's seen his share of those. "I Am the Blues" is about his triumphs, and Harris makes singing the blues sound like a celebration.
I AM THE BLUES -- At D.C. Space, Thursdays through January; Thursday through Saturday, February through March 1.