Since 1991, Rhythm Room owner Bob Corritore has been providing Valley of the Sun blues fans with some of the best touring blues acts in the nation. He also blows a nasty harp and last year released Bob Corritore's All Star Blues Sessions, with 16 cuts featuring Bob Corritore and some of the well-known blues figures including Jimmy Rogers, Nappy Brown, Pinetop Perkins, Henry Gray and others. At the end of this year, The Rhythm Room in Phoenix, Arizona will close the doors of its current location near downtown Phoenix. Along with every other blues fan in the Phoenix area, I hope that Corritore quickly finds another suitable location for the club. Anyway, it was with great sadness that I visited The Rhythm Room for what would be my last time on Friday night to see the one and only "Shufflemaster," Sam Lay.
Among the many things that have made the Rhythm Room such a great venue for the blues are the atmosphere (very roadhouse-like) and the large number of avid blues fans that attend shows at The Rhythm Room. Friday night was no exception and included a crowded house, packed dance floor and vocal, appreciative fans.
In addition to the immortal Sam Lay on drums and vocals, the six-piece band included Tom Mann (keyboards), John Rapp (guitar), Patrick Rynn (upright and electric bass),Chris James (guitar/vocals) and guest harp by the esteemed club owner, Bob Corritore, who played for all three sets on Friday night.
After opening the show with a quick showcase instrumental, the band broke into their version of Jimmy Reed's classic, "Goin' Upside Your Head." Chris James handled vocals for the half of each set before giving way to Sam Lay's vocal prowess for the second half. With each song, the crowd grew larger and livelier, filling the dance floor and vocalizing their rabid appreciation of the band. On Robert Lockwood's "Take A Walk With Me," Sam demonstrated that he is still a very energetic drummer, while Bob Corritore proved himself to be an accomplished harp player, blowing hot and heavy on this and almost every other song.
When Sam took over on vocals, the sound of the band seemed to change with him. Lay, whose musical resume includes stints with Muddy Water, Howlin' Wolf and Paul Butterfield, to name a few, started with a trio of Muddy Waters' tunes; "Goin' Out Walkin', "King Bee" and "Rock Me Baby," seamlessly blended together. During the evening, Lay and company provided a good mix of tempos and sounds with songs from his latest CD, Rush Hour Blues , along with songs from his previous solo recordings and tunes popularized by Jimmy Reed, Eddie Taylor, Muddy Waters and Little Walter. Solos were spread across the band between guitarists Chris James and John Rapp, Corritore and Tom Mann on keyboards. Jams Wrenn an Sam provided a solid backbeat, propelling the band and energizing the large, very appreciative audience.
Sam's history as a founding member of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, along with his tenure as the drummer for both Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, have definitely placed him in the upper echelon of the blues community. His place in the history of the blues was definitely acknowledged by the audience at The Rhythm Room on Friday night.
Note: If you want to find out what's happening at The Rhythm Room through the end of the year and, hopefully, the eventual location of the new club, visit The Rhythm Room's website www.rhythmroom.com. Bob Corritore also has his own web page with several items of interest to the blues fan. You can visit Bob's website at www.bobcorritore.com.
This review is copyright © 2000 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.