by Kimberly White & John Fernandez
In the midst of a 15-day whirlwind road tour of Spain, we purposely find ourselves in the Harlem Jazz Club, located on one of the ancient back streets of Barcelona.
They’ve advertised a blues jam, but we’re not really sure what to expect. After being in Spain for 10 days or so, we are seriously jonesing for some live music, especially blues. Sexy jazz music plays in the background as people wait expectantly for the live music to start. The jazz piano tinkling in the background like wind chimes on a breezy day. Standup bass humming with a smooth sound that touches your heart deep inside. John and I order our drinks, vino blanco y una cervesa – white wine and a beer. We hear the sound of the beautiful lilt of Spanish coming from the clientele, young and old alike, there to enjoy the evening’s music. “Hola, Si, Claro”. John walks to the front of the stage to take a quick look at the equipment. The bass player is playing a small Fender bass and the guitar amp is different than anything he’s seen before. Custom build? It’s 10:44 and John is growing impatient as we wait for the music to start. It’s steamy in the bar, especially for a cool October night. But we wait. The club grows quiet as the small crowd waits for the jam to start. Some people order drinks and find their seats.
Ok, here we go!! The band saunters on stage. The drummer – young, looking cool in sunglasses that are more appropriate for a sunny motorbike ride than a shadowy blues club. The background music abruptly stops and the guitar player tunes his ax. He’s playing a sonic blue Jazzmaster and counts off, looking more like Elvis Costello than any blues icon. The twangy sounds of country blues come from the stage. More like Johnny Cash than BB King. I ask John what he thinks, but he says, “the jury is still out.” He’ll chime in after a few songs he says. The bass player is moving with the groove and an almost Elvis beach-themed song comes up next, the engine room keeping a strong rhumba beat and the twangy guitar playing along. I’m feeling like dancing of course, but nobody else is moving.
The lead guitar player/singer plays a combination of slide and standard guitar… “different” John says. He kicks the volume down low, almost like its acoustic. You really have to listen hard just to hear it as the sound of the bartender seems louder than the guitar. Listen carefully or you might miss it. Then suddenly another count off and it all comes back in full force. Ahhh … the T bone shuffle. Finally a song John recognizes.
Now they’re really rocking… lows and highs. Quiet and loud. Strumming and picking. The engine room just keeping it going. Nice… Johns says “he kinda looks like Sonny Kenn… on acid.” I think that about sums it up. The club’s really crowded now and people are starting to move and sway a bit. I’m dancing of course, but that’s what I do. There are all sorts of people here, Spanish, German, American, White, Black, Hispanic. Music knows no national or racial boundaries. Love that.
After a slow song and a bunch of Spanish that even John can’t understand, they call up a couple of friends from the crowd. Ears prick up as we hear a harp warming up and a guitar player playing slide on a national steel guitar. Shows some promise but they are singing American Blues standards phonetically, with a Spanish accent. Gotta give them credit, they’re trying hard to do it right!
The style, we notice, is very laid back, almost country blues… not really tearing it up like we do at the Jersey Shore, but good, solid musicians. Good music, but I yearn for some serious kick-ass blues. My feet need to move.
Some guys get up and play. New singer, add the piano with a cool vamp. Harmonica singing along… all good.
All in all, it was so great to finally hear some live music after 10 days in Spain. Especially cool to hear some good blues, but it’s 11:30 and WAY past my bedtime. However, a good fast shuffle would do me good. All in all, I’d say it was a successful night of blues in Barcelona… after all, it is only Tuesday…