James Wheeler’s Blues Jam – Rosa’s Lounge, Chicago 19th June 2008

Chicago Rosa’s Lounge

If you’ve never tried it, go! Don’t expect anything grand like Buddy Guy’s Legends, this is more like going down to your local. Perfect in my opinion. Get some rest beforehand and plan to arrive between 9.30 and 10.00 pm local time (yes that’s six hours behind the UK….!). If you are a musician, take your instrument and sign up at the door. You’ll get in for free and Tony will call you up once the house band has finished its intro set (around 40 minutes). And don’t be nervous – this is a really cosy, cosmopolitan, genuinely friendly establishment. Everyone will speak to you and Tony will make you feel very welcome. The jam carries on till 2am officially, but with jet-lag and time difference I was totally knackered by around 12.30am…I guess others were too as the crowd started to thin.

The house band comprised James Wheeler in stetson and waistcoat on the lead guitar, Sumito ‘Ariyo‘ Ariyoshi on piano, Tony Mangiullo on drums, Vic Jackson on Bass, guest Matthias (from Ecuador) on harps and a great second guitarist from Israel (whose name I have sadly forgotten – and that’s after a long chat outside when he told me about his time in London, visiting Ain’t Nothin’ But and seeing band like Pete G and the Magnitones).

The house band struck up just after 10pm in true Chicago style; crisp and pumping. After a warm-up shuffle, they ran through Early In The Morning, Key To The Highway, Mojo Working and I’m Trying – the first three of which had a lovely twist to the rhythm. Until the lyrics kicked in, you might not have guessed what was coming. Levels were great on the ear; clear and not too loud.

After a ten minute pause, Tony invited me up with two Japanese girls on lead guitar and drums, a Pole on second guitar, and a local young Chicagoan on piano. Vic Jackson, also from Chicago, remained on bass. We played around three numbers, with the piano taking the vocals and musical directorship. I know the last number was Long Grey Mare in A minor, but I can’t remember the others, apart from the fact they were in A minor and C major. For the harps this meant 3rd position on a G harp and a Low F. Not the best keys for showboating but the chance to pop a few blow bends!

And so it is, with great delight, that I can say ‘been there, jammed that.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.