A large bearded, jovial man picks up a silver cornet and says “so you guys can swing” as he lets out a hefty laugh. The blues band just finished a few numbers, and a guitarist joins the stage with his blonde Stratocaster. Kalamazoo’s oldest blues band, 7th Son, kept Old Dog Tavern’s stage open this past Sunday night to let out any worries or woes. While 7th Son lacked variety, they played the blues with such precision that they sounded fresh with each song.
All six musicians knew the venue and the audience so well that the show felt like a conversation between the performers and the patrons. The singer wore a harmonica-holding belt, and when he wasn’t wailing out solos on the jaw harp he sang from the country-blues image of Willie Nelson. He sustains high note singing “I’m somebody else,” for eight bars.
The guitarist comped by picking close to the neck of his crimson semi-hollow Gibson. One moment he played choppy, Keith Richards chord-riffs, then as he transitioned into a different key he played a visceral solo that echoed the works of Clapton in Derek & the Dominoes. The guitarist and tenor saxophonist drove the band forward, but the bass and keys held them together.
An blue clad man sporting a pork pie hat holds a trumpet from 1905, he says his name is Jiovanni Di Vitto and he wants more jazz. He leaned out letting out a few deliberately timed toots, then he moseyed over beside the upright piano. When the singer hands him the next solo during Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” Di Vitto wails out a string of notes like Dizzy Gillespie.
7th Son only played the blues, but they played it with the provocative, soulful delivery of Ray Charles. Their keyboardist and guitarist executed each note with precision. The rhythm section regularly looked at each other, listening to each others’ solos to feel out when the band goes back to the head. While lacking variety, stand-in musicians coming and going between jams made the set more dynamic.
Trumpeter Di Vito talked to the crowed while he cleaned his horn, he said playing music “channels out the bad spirits.” Indeed, the individual musicians played with conviction without compromising common cause of the band. Whether they were playing Ray Charles, a reggae beat, or a funky, rhythmic “Hey, Bo Diddley,” 7th Son kept the blues far from being boring.