In the past three years, I have had two opportunities to see Greg Piccolo and
Heavy Juice perform live; in Vancouver, British Columbia and, most recently,
at The BamBoo Room in Lake Worth, Florida. Unfortunately for Twin Cities
fans, Piccolo has never performed in the area as a solo act. His absence
from Twin Cities' stages is a loss because Piccolo is a talented musician and
a charismatic performer.
During his 30 years as a performer, Greg Piccolo has proven himself to be a
profound musical force. As one of the founding members of East Coast blues
giant Roomful of Blues, Piccolo handled lead vocals and tenor sax duties
during the early years of the band. As the lead man for Heavy Juice, Piccolo
has demonstrated his versatility, switching between vocals, guitar and
tenor/alto sax during his shows.
Backed by the two other members of Heavy Juice: Shinichi Otsu on
keyboards/key bass and Jonathan Lichtig on drums, Piccolo performed two
exciting sets on the second of his two night engagement at The BamBoo Room.
The performance by the three talented musicians was greatly appreciated by
the audience who loudly displayed their pleasure during and after every song.
The band opened the evening with an instrumental that at times reminded of
the song "Route 66." This was followed by Piccolo's first vocal effort of
the evening, a tasty version of Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson's classic, "Kidney
Stew." Throughout the evening Piccolo moved effortlessly between his
powerful sax and guitar, even picking up the bass line on songs where
Shinichi Otsu took his solo turn.
One of the obvious crowd favorites was the title track from Piccolo's 1997
release on Fantasy Records, "Red Lights." During the break, several members
of the audience specifically picked up copies of the CD just so they could
take the song home with them. "Red Lights" was followed by two consecutive
songs from his recently released CD, Homage. Homage was released just three
days before Piccolo's Friday night performance at The BamBoo Room. Illinois
Jacquet's "You Left Me All Alone" and the Lester Young tune, "Lester Smooths
It" were among several songs played from the new CD on Saturday night.
The evening ran a musical gamut, including the sounds of guitar-based blues
("Let Me Be Your Rocking Chair"), New Orleans r+b (Earl King's "Sexual
Telepathy") and soul on the gospel-flavored Ray Charles' composition "What
Would I Do," along with the previously mentioned jazz tunes. Piccolo's
versatility was totally amazing throughout the night. On a song called "Mr.
Bad Luck," Piccolo even used a guitar synthesizer to make the guitar sound
like a violin during the solo. The entire combo stood out on "The Other Side
Of Night Train," with each band member taking a solo. Shinichi Otsu was
dazzling on keyboards and Jonathan Lichtig rock steady on drums.
In an evening filled with the eclectic, far flung moods created by Greg
Piccolo and Heavy Juice, it was hard to imagine that anyone could have left
The BamBoo Room disappointed in what they heard and I doubt anyone did.
Piccolo was gracious and friendly, indicating that he was having such a great
time that he couldn't wait to return to The BamBoo Room as soon as he could.
It was a great evening for me and I hope that my next experience with Greg
Piccolo and Heavy Juice will be somewhere in the Twin Cities.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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