A wild, absolutely mad evening at the Tennessee. When it rains the puddles collect water and grow, right? That’s how it seems to be happening at the Tennessee bar these days as Reign Morton has a growing contingent of fans, groupies, and above all fellow musician friends following him to the open mic and turning the place into a happening of unforgettable dimensions.
I first wrote about Reign Morton two weeks ago today, so you can get the biographical details there. Last night, in tow – it seemed – Reign had another couple of great singers. But let me take a brief break to say that the evening at the Tennessee was, in fact, not ONLY about Reign and the gang.
I showed up there in a toss up between there and the Galway. I arrived too late and thought I’d have to wait for hours to play, so I cut out and went to the Galway. Fortunately, I got to play immediately at the Galway, and fortunately, because Stephen, the MC, had to change a string on his guitar and there was no other singer around, I got to do five songs in a row. Unfortunately, the small group of people at the bar was not in the least bit interested in listening (either to me or to Stephen). So I just sang for myself, and then decided to leave without finishing my Kilkenney.
I returned to the Tennessee, thinking I probably would not get up on stage, but that the level of the performers I had seen so far was high. And indeed, it went on and on. Among the interesting acts were a French duo consisting of two young guys, one on guitar – a beautiful Taylor guitar, no less – and the other on the piano. The one on the piano I suddenly realized looked almost exactly like Fernando Alonso, the Formula One driver. They did a fine song called, “So Let Me Go.” Another act was the trio with a guy on vocals, another on piano and the third on cello. I liked this a lot, but it was just a little too much “Star Academy” for me. Then there was Sood, from South Korea, who played his Yamaha guitar like a metronome, and did some pretty fierce vocals too. He also accompanied another singer, and that is the one I did a video of, but I should have done Sood on his own.
Another trio went up second to last, and that was some kind of French trio with a woman on vocals, a man on guitar and vocals and a man on bongos. Unfortunately they were a very “world music” together act and I was elected as the last act, the man to follow them. Just me and my guitar after this trio. I took to the mic and said the cards were loaded so my only choice was to try to do something, real, something true. Somehow penetrate the truth. Otherwise, musically, I’d be roasted. I did not know my first choice was going to be dead on the right one. I chose “Crazy Love,” and it turned out that not only was I in better shape than at the Galway – having had another beer or two – but Reign and his gang all knew the song and so they provided the choral backup, especially between the “Love, love, love”s… It turned out Reign told me he knew the Brian McKnight version of “Crazy Love,” not Van Morrison’s.
So just when I thought the show was over, the stage was opened up to Reign and his friends. And we never looked back. Mostly a question of improvisation, they came up with some fabulous stuff. In fact, Reign had previously done one Ray Charles song, sounding just like Ray Charles and throwing in the movements to boot. Now, he went on to a Marvin Gaye sound, a bluesman sound, and then a Reign-rap-and-I-don’t-know-what-sound with a funny improvisation about making up a song. A couple of groupies stripped down to bras and neck-scarf-over-the-chest-only attire, and the night went mad with dance, drink and music.
Reign gave over the stage to a guy from Senegal who calls himself Mr No Name, and who is damned good too, and I thought he was from Brooklyn or somewhere else in the U.S. Very cool. And then another great addition was the fabulous Sue Giles, who IS from Brooklyn, and who joined Reign and did some great back up and lead vocals. James Iansiti played rhythm guitar and Karim played his splendid lead again.
In all, it was a mad delight. Man, who’d have thunk it at the Tennessee?