Summer's here and the time is right for free music on the streets of Arlington. The annual Arlington Arts al Fresco series provides free outdoor concerts featuring a variety of musical styles at various sites around the county through September.

This week's case in point: the lunchtime concert series at Metro Park, which will feature funk, classic jazz, zydeco and ragtime, among other musical blends, 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each Thursday through Aug. 19.

Today's show offers the cool rocking blues of Tom Principato and his band. To call Principato a local guitar hero is to limit the range of his appeal, for he has established a fan base that spans the globe. In fact, he is scheduled to tour Italy and Spain this fall and estimates that he has toured in Europe 50 times since 1986, taking advantage of the Europeans' ongoing love affair with American blues. "They're definitely more oriented toward what's good rather than the flavor of the month," Principato said in an interview.

During his decades-long career as a guitarist/singer, Principato has led a legendary Boston-based band named Powerhouse, played with the Assassins (with former Nighthawks guitarist Jim Thackery), Billy Price & the Keystone Rhythm Band, Big Mama Thornton and Sunnyland Slim. In 1984, he launched a solo career that has allowed him to jam with musical legends such as Albert Lee, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Based in his native D.C. since 1981, Principato has held a virtual monopoly on blues guitar awards from the Washington Area Music Association -- a total of 19 Wammies at last count. He has released 13 albums, including "Blazing Telecasters," an album recorded with the late, great Danny Gatton in 1984 and released six years later; "I Know What You're Thinkin' "(1988), which Guitar World called "one of the best guitar-oriented rock and blues albums since Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'Live Alive' "; and 1992's "Tip of the Iceberg," co-produced by keyboard master Chuck Leavell, who has played with Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers, George Harrison and the Rolling Stones.

Principato's most recent CD, last year's "House on Fire," was recorded with stalwart musical companions John Perry (bass and vocals) and Joe Wells (drums), who will accompany him at today's lunchtime performance. And in April, he released the "Tom Principato Anniversary DVD: Celebrating 40 Years of Roots Guitar Playing," a collection of no-frills live performances, including some shot at popular regional venues such as the Birchmere, Tornado Alley and the Cellar Door.

With so many big name arena tours coming through the area this summer, it's easy to take our own local music scene for granted and the intimate performances that sometimes happen just blocks away from where we live and work. Enjoy.


Metro Park is between North Moore and North Lynn streets, across from the Rosslyn Metro station. Admission is free. Cancellations due to inclement weather (including official heat advisories) are made one hour before the event. For up-to-date information, call 703-228-1850. For more information about the al fresco series, call that number or the 24-hour hotline, 703-228-6966; e-mail; or visit the Web site

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Local-based guitar hero Tom Principato, left, and his band will perform today in Arlington. Over the years, Principato has played with John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Ray Vaughn.