|By: Ellis Jones|
Tuesday, October 2
Jimmy Herring Band - Newby’s - Memphis, TN - September 28th, 2012
Jimmy Herring’s mystifying fingers have dazzled countless fans throughout his accomplished career. His impeccable chops first blinded the scene playing guitar for Col. Bruce Hampton and The Aquarium Rescue Unit in the early nineties, before catching Phil Lesh’s attention with the specialized cover band Jazz is Dead. Since then, his resume is legendary, as he has filled giant shoes with iconic bands ranging from Phil and Friends, The Allman Brothers and The Dead. He always left his own unique imprint along his path of destiny. Currently he has reinvigorated Widespread Panic as their lead guitarist. With W.S.P. on a well-deserved hiatus, he is scratching his musical itch with The Jimmy Herring Band and touring in support of his celebrated excursion , “Subject to change without Notice”.
This rainbow of sound made an unexpected stop in Memphis at an intimate club within throwing stones of the University. Surrounding himself with familiar friends, this was an ideal situation to experience this virtuoso up close and personal. The magic that followed was full of music many did not expect, but surely will never forget. The band strolled onto the featureless stage around ten and brilliance began to rain immediately.
The opening number certainly set the tone of the evening with an obscure instrumental cover of Patsy Cline’s, “Sweet Dreams”. The show was a consummate mixture of originals and forgotten gems. It was clear these tunes were attached to Jimmy’s musical soul, as the melodious notes seemingly played themselves. Any misgivings that this was a one man show were erased immediately as each member of the band established themselves early and often. Jimmy McGriff’s, “Miss Poopie” followed and gave keyboardist Matt Slocum ample space to show off his impressive chops, throwing musical jabs at Herring only to be answered by right hooks to the delight of the crowded dance floor.
Nobody was having more fun than the band and that synergy flowed outward, engrossing the mesmerized devotees into an emotional state that few expected. Jeff Sipe has a long history playing with bassist, Neil Fountain and Jimmy Herring, as they have been involved in countless projects over the years. They played like kindred spirits as this awe-inspiring night continued to unfold. The overall climate of this band is clearly jazz, with ascending melodies and just enough shredding by Herring to keep the frat boys involved.
Jeff Beck’s cover of, “Sophie” soared from the start and gave Jimmy fanatics those sixteenth-note, mesmerizing display of picking they have come accustomed to. But as proven with The Beatles cover of, “A Day in the Life,” this night was more about the notes Herring did not play than the ones he did. He handled his stick in a way that conjured up fantasies of listening to a jazz band in some opium den in the fifties. A consummate take on George Harrison, “Within You Without You” gave way to the roaring number, “Scapegoat Blues” off of his first album, Lifeboat. Proving no genre is off limits with this mystical band, if any of the Memphis ghosts were present, they were surely smiling. They capped off this supernatural evening with a touching version of, “Georgia on my Mind”.
On this night, Mr. Herring proved why he is considered one of the best guitar players to ever grace a stage. No vocals were heard, for his guitar sang where no voice dares to soar. Many worlds have come and gone since Jimmy first graced this stage over twenty years ago with the aforementioned bands. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Left in his wake was a faction of his soul as he is still the same unassuming guitarist that lets his playing do the talking and leaves jaws plastered to the viscid floor in the wake of his achievement.
Words: Kevin Long
Photos: Ellis Jones IV
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