The Knickerbocker All-Stars - Open Mic at the Knick

By Lady K.
August 2015

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This truly phenomenal album was produced by John Paul Gauthier, Robert Christina and John Paul Sheerar, in an attempt to provide listeners with some of the same blues, R&B and soul music excitement that the Knickerbocker Café used to provide to their patrons, beginning in the 1950s. The liner notes indicate that the album is ‘in memory of Thomas Enright, Bob Burnett and James “Mitch” Christina’, and that all proceeds from sales have been gifted to the Dana Farber Hospital.

Since the album was recorded, it has also become somewhat of a memorial to the late pianist David Maxwell, who played keyboard on 5 tracks – his last recordings. David passed way too soon, in early 2015.

The Knickerbocker All-Stars are all extremely talented blues musicians who have been in the business for decades, and include Bobby and Fran Christina - drums; Ricky King Russell – guitar; Nick Adams – guitar on “Love Disease”; Bob Worthington – bass electric/stand-up; Doc Chanonhouse – trumpet; Bobby “Breeze” Holfelden – trombone; Rich Lataille – tenor and alto sax; Dennis Cook - baritone sax; and Al Copley and David Maxwell on keyboard.

The producers spent many hours/days/weeks researching and listening to vocalists, in an attempt to make each track sound as though it were being performed by the original vocalist. The chosen lead singers were: Willie J Laws; Malford Milligan; Johnny Nicholas; Sugar Ray Norcia; Mike O’Connell; Curtis Salgado; J. P. Sheerar; and Brian Templeton. All of the All-Stars have played with many, many blues notables (i.e., Freddie King, Robert Cray, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Roomful of Blues, as well as their own bands).

The playlist is perfect. Sugar Ray rocks on “You Upset Me Baby” (Josea/Maxwell Davis) and he does a little more rockin’ on “It’s Later Than You Think” (Roy Milton). Malford Milligan on the upbeat “Turn On Your Love Light” (Deadric Malone/Joseph Scott) and he’s got it bad on “Love Disease” (Brother Gene Dinwiddie) (with Nick Adams on lead guitar – hey Nick, long time . . .). J. P. Sheerar on “Somebody’s Got to Go” (Big Billy Broonzy) keeps Broonzy’s blues down and dirty. Willy Laws is amazing – you feel his pain on “Mother-in-Law Blues” (Gene Barge) and he wails his outrage on “Five Long Years” (Eddy Boyd/John Lee Hooker). Curtis Salgado gets all sexy on “Ain’t That Lovin’ You” (Deadric Malone). Brian Templeton does not disappoint on “I’m Tore Down” (Sonny Thompson) - he does some serious wailin’ – in all the right places. A soulful Johnny Nicholas seems to be the master of the slow, sexy, on “Jelly Jelly” (Billy Ecstine/Earl Hines/Trade Martin), “Reconsider Baby” (Lowell Fulson) and “Along About Midnight” (Eddie Jones). And to wrap up this terrific album, Mike O’Connell brings more down and dirty blues to “Going Down” (Don Nix)

So, yeah Open Mic at the Knick is, in fact, a compilation. But one of the best damned compilations that Lady K has ever heard. Hopefully you’ll feel the same way! Give it a listen (betcha can’t play it just once).

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