Moses Oakland (a.k.a., Leonard Shapiro) is probably the most recognizable, yet best kept secret, in the Twin Cities blues scene. Oakland has been leading the Monday night jam sessions at The Blues Saloon in St. Paul for the past twelve years and, until very recently, had conducted a similar jam session on Sunday nights at Famous Dave's BBQ & Blues in Uptown Minneapolis.
On this particular Monday night at Famous Dave's, Moses Oakland did not have to do anything but perform. There were no ongoing cries for "Crosscut Saw" or Moses putting unsuspecting jammers through their paces at the Monday night jam session. Along with his band, including Bill Brown (keyboards), Charles Fletcher (bass) and Donald "Hi-Pockets" Robertson (drums); Moses Oakland offered a side of his performing skills that most people don't get a chance to see or hear.
During the Monday show at Famous Dave's, Moses Oakland and company treated the audience to a mix of songs that included blues (of course), jazz, soul, gospel and a little bit of rock n' roll. More importantly, the show allowed Oakland to demonstrate that he is a well-schooled and versatile guitarist who is just as comfortable playing west coast jazz as he is playing blues or rock n' roll.
The band opened the first set with a nice instrumental number that allowed Brown, Oakland, Fletcher and Robinson a chance to solo and "strut their stuff" for the crowd. During the evening Brown moved easily between the Hammond B-3 organ and electric piano. Robinson and Fletcher kept a solid backbeat that was punctuated by some interesting use of special effects by Fletcher on the bass guitar. Finally, Oakland offered numerous well done solos throughout the evening on his 1965 Gibson L5 guitar, with his distinctive long salt n' pepper beard (ala Z.Z. Top), blue denim bibbed overalls and flannel shirt.
As I mentioned earlier, Moses Oakland offered a side of himself to the Twin Cities that it is not accustomed to. This was clearly exemplified by his choice of songs during the evening. Among the varied and entertaining songs offered during the evening were a trio of songs by an obscure West Coast band named the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood. As Moses related it to me, the band's single recording was a poorly engineered affair with some fantastic songs on it written by a gentleman by the name of Laine Tietgen. Among these was what turned out to be my favorite song for the evening, "Captain Bobby Stout," a very cool tune that offered some interesting sounds from bassist Charles Fletcher and great solos by Brown and Oakland.
All in all the Moses Oakland Band was an entertaining and refreshing new change from the other fine local bands in the Twin Cities area. Hopefully, other club owners in the area will take note of the music offered by Moses Oakland, granting many more Twin Citians an opportunity to experience the "other side" of Moses Oakland.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.