Jerry Douglas at Blue Note

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Last night we saw Jerry Douglas play at the Blue Note in NYC. We saw him and the same band (with the exception of the drummer) on April 23rd at BB King. I wrote a long post about that show the next day. Every word in that post applies to last night’s show as well (other than the drummer being different), so I’ll try not to go on too much in this one.

Jerry is considered by most to be the world’s greatest Dobro player, and I am a giant proponent of that view. His fingers mesmerize as they pick and his left hand glides effortlessly up and down the neck placing the slide bar wherever it’s supposed to be. It’s no surprise then that the title of his new (current) CD is called Glide.

In addition to being an incredible musician, he’s also a helluva nice guy (more on that at the end). Rather than go on and on about Jerry, or repeat specific things I said in my previous post, I’ll provide a link here to an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal profiling Jerry Douglas. Last night Jerry sang incredible harmony on two or three songs with Luke Bulla (the fiddle player). It made this quote from the WSJ article all the more real to me:

“I’m a singer at heart,” Mr. Douglas admitted during a recent interview in Nashville, “but when I started playing dobro, I stopped singing — because it took that space in my head. At times I’ll feel strongly about hitting a harmony note with Alison’s voice, accenting the line, and it gives the illusion of there being a harmony singer.”

Jerry Douglas Dobro

Jerry Douglas Dobro

Left-to-right on the stage:

Guthrie Trapp played the guitar (or more accurately, an acoustic guitar and an electric one, roughly 50/50). I place guitar players in two major categories: Solo style artists, where the entire song is really about the guitar (e.g., Andy McKee, Antoine Dufour, Don Ross, Craig D’Andrea, Phil Keaggy, etc.) and ensemble artists, who support a band, taking extraordinary leads whenever appropriate (e.g., Bill Cooley, Cody Kilby, Tommy Nash, Buddy Miller, etc.). Guthrie is in the second camp (not that any of them lacks the talent to be stricly solo guitarists!). He’s one of my all-time favorites (as I pointed out in my previous post).

Last night was magical, in nearly every respect, but if I had to nitpick one thing, it would be that the volume on Guthrie’s acoustic guitar was too low. It was perfect for his electric guitar, but someone even yelled out to him to raise the volume on his acoustic one, and he said that it was at the maximum level. I could hear it, and see his fingers flying, but it would have been even better up a few notches.

Guthrie Trapp

Guthrie Trapp

Chad Melton played the drums (the only change in the band from the BB King show earlier this year). He did an excellent job all night and seemed to be having a blast playing at the Blue Note (actually, they all seemed to be enjoying the experience).

Chad Melton

Chad Melton

Todd Parks played the bass (mostly upright, one number, an electric). He’s extremely solid, just like at BB King. We thoroughly enjoyed his play the entire show.

Todd Parks

Todd Parks

Luke Bulla played the fiddle (and the acoustic guitar on one number) and sang lead on three numbers. Just like at BB King, every time Luke took a fiddle lead, or sang, the applause went through the roof. He’s a genuine crowd pleaser.

Unfortunately, since Luke was the furthest away from us on the stage, Lois was unable to get a good shot of him given the lighting. Sorry Luke!

Luke Bulla

Luke Bulla

They came on stage at exactly 8pm, and left the stage at exactly 9:40pm, for a 100 minute show (including a one-song encore, thankfully without leaving the stage). It was a fantastic show, in every respect.

We wanted to sit right up against the stage, so we got to the Blue Note very early. The doors don’t open until 6pm for an 8pm show, but we were outside at 5:25pm. The weather in NYC was spectacular yesterday, so it was quite pleasant to stand outside. We were the 4th and 5th people on line, and at exactly 6pm, they let us in.

From the BB King show, I knew that Guthrie stands on the left side of the stage (though you could see the instruments laid out anyway, so I would have figured it out even if I hand’t seen them before). I wanted to sit close to him so we chose the table just to the left of center stage, so that we could be right between Jerry and Guthrie (that turned out to be right in front of the drum set).

That worked out perfectly, as Jerry spent a good portion of the evening facing Guthrie, putting him roughly two feet from Lois, and three feet from me. Guthrie was three feet from me, but when he took a solo, he stepped toward Jerry (and therefore toward me). At those times, his guitar was roughly 18 inches from my nose, which was as good as it gets for watching his fingers fly up and down the frets!

Guthrie’s set list was about 10 inches from me. It was also 10 inches from the woman who sat back-to-back from me. I knew she was interested in it, because she took a photo of it before the show even started. When Guthrie took the solos that he stepped forward for, he often stood right on his set list. I couldn’t help thinking that if I snagged it, I could ask a CSI person to make a plaster cast of his footprint for me as a souvenir. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The instant the show was over, the woman behind me grabbed the set list before I could even blink. Lois had to lean over on the stage to grab the one Jerry was using. So, we got one, used by the master himself, but without a shoe print on it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Set List 20081009

Set List 20081009

Before the show, Lois went upstairs to buy the new CD. We both knew that we overpaid (dramatically) from what it costs at Amazon.com, but we did it anyway, for two reasons: 1) We believe (or rather hope) that the artist gets more of the sale when it’s at a show, and 2) We hoped to get it signed after the show.

Thankfully, at least #2 came to fruition. After the show, Lois went upstairs and Jerry was kind enough to sign the CD and chat with her for a minute or two. At the BB King show, he signed our copy of his American Master Series CD, and chatted with us for a bit as well. He’s simply a super person! Here’s a close-up of Jerry right after signing our new CD:

Jerry Douglas

Jerry Douglas

Typically, the Blue Note fills up earlier than many other clubs that we go to. Even though it seats 250 people, the layout isn’t the greatest (for seeing the performers), as it’s long and narrow, with the stage at the center of the long part. So, if you’re at either end of the club, you have a tough angle at best (even though the sound is great in all parts of the club). So, I believe that many people show up early, trying to get a better seat.

Last night, the club was nearly empty even at 7pm, which was shocking. We immediately thought that it was a combination of two things: 1) The economy (stupid!) and 2) Jerry is a traditional Bluegrass artist, and this is one of the purest Jazz clubs around!

By 7:30pm, the place was nearly full, and when the show started, there might have been a handful of empty seats, but the place was clearly packed and energized. For us, this has obviously been a very depressing week watching the markets and the dire economic predictions. Last night was a respite from the doldrums, clearly for many others as well.