Words and Images by: Joe Koch
Ryan Shaw :: 04.10.08 :: Water Street Music Hall :: Rochester, NY
It has been about one year since the release of Ryan Shaw's debut, This is Ryan Shaw. In 2007, Shaw had a successful year, proven by numerous appearances on television and a Grammy nomination, but mostly due to grinding it out on the road, gaining one fan at a time. The throwback soul singer performed at clubs, jazz festivals and even at Bonnaroo. Shaw believes his live show will win over any music enthusiast. Shaw has said, "I was surprised to find out we were closing the Montreal Jazz Fest on the main stage. That put us in front of 60,000 people. So we got up there and did our thing, just like any other night, never losing confidence. It was a huge success."
In 2008, Shaw and his band hit the road again. Touching down in Maui, Jamaica and even the wonderful city of Rochester, New York, home of the infamous "Garbage Plate," a concoction of burgers and hot dogs, mac salad and home fries covered with a secret meat hot sauce. Many famous musicians have sampled this local favorite and they always request it when returning to Rochester. This was a rescheduled performance from a cancelled date last month because Shaw landed an opening gig on Van Halen's tour.
As the stage darkened, Shaw approached the center microphone with Big Tiny on bass (Tiny is 6'5"). The two of them opened the set with a very moving performance of the Jimmy Cliff classic "Many Rivers to Cross," which cut right through the crowd. As the enthusiastic fans cheered the band's arrival, Keith McCray took the drums while Robert Guariglia grabbed his Les Paul. They immediately blasted into Bobby Womach's "Looking for Love." Some have criticized Shaw for changing a few lines in this classic but not tonight; the diverse crowd was here to dance and hear the 27-year-old crooner belt out his renditions. Next, Ashford and Simpson's "I Am Your Man" allowed Shaw to showcase his smooth, vintage R&B vocals; which gained him a Grammy nomination for his version.
Early in the set, we got a taste of how talented his bassist is. Tiny attacked the four string instrument like Victor Wooten. I'd say he could even give Wooten a run for his money. Earlier in the evening, I'd found Tiny admiring a photo of Wooten on the club's wall. I mentioned that he had just given a clinic in town at the House of Guitars. As I was telling him about Wooten's way of approaching the bass, he pulled from his bag a weathered first edition of Wooten's instructional book.
Guariglia & McCray :: 04.10 :: Rochester, NY
Shaw is known for having many cover songs in his repertoire but some of the highlights were his originals, notably "Nobody," "We Got Love" (featured in the film My Blueberry Nights), "Choosin" and "Ready to Rock," which was inspired by a Grammy performance by Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard that Shaw witnessed firsthand. Shaw said, "I wasn't the same after that performance. It was just explosive energy coming from that man's voice." After a quick impersonation of the flamboyant piano rocker, they ripped into "Ready to Rock," savoring the up-beat giant of a song. I can only hope this is what we will hear on the next record.
Bob Marley and Otis Redding both made their way into the night with "Redemption Song" and "A Little Tenderness," respectively. Shaw and the band do a fantastic job of incorporating a bit of themselves into both songs, which again made it impossible to sit still. The band left the stage but returned moments later with a vocally impressive version of Wilson Pickett's "I Found A Love." Guariglia, the rocker of the band marked by the sleeve of tattoos running up his left arm, broke into the Janis Joplin staple "Piece of My Heart." They closed the night with The Sharpee's "Do the 45", where both Tiny and McCray took the spotlight during the ten-minute cut. These guys are no strangers to extended versions of a song, and Shaw shared, "One of my highlights from last year was being asked to come onstage with Robert Randolph, which turned into a 23-minute jam. I'm pretty confident that I can hold my own with anybody on stage. You just gotta believe in what you are doing. If I can just get them to my show, they will instantly get it."
JamBase | New York
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