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Legendary Joe Beard @ Knickerbocker Cafe

I had the pleasure of attending the Legends Live performance with Joe Beard, guitar/vocals, Greg Piccolo, saxophone, Sugar Ray Norcia, harmonica, Al Copley, piano, Tom Ferraro, guitar, Mike Law, bass and Bobby Christina, drums -- a live recording performance held 10/16 at the Knickerbocker Cafe. The band was tight and the grove was right!

A little about Joe Beard...Born and raised in Ashland, MS, guitarist Joe Beard grew up with the Murphy brothers, one of whom later found an international following as Matt “Guitar” Murphy. Beard moved to Rochester, NY, and from time to time would visit one of his brothers in Chicago. He quickly became enamored of the blues being played in clubs there by people like Jimmy Reed and Sonny Boy Williamson. Beard sat in with John Lee Hooker one night and received encouraging words from Hooker. Joe befriended classic blues guitarist Son House, who was a neighbor in Rochester. Beard worked as an electrician by day and would occasionally play out at night and on weekends for most of the ’60s on through to the ’80s. At Rochester’s famed BK Lounge, Beard and his backing bands opened for Bobby Bland, Albert King, and others. Joe has played many major festivals in the US and Europe and was inducted to the Rochester Music Hall Of Fame in 2017. He has released 4 albums to great critical acclaim. One album featured Ronnie Earl and two others featured Duke Robillard.

A little about Sugar Ray Norcia....Sugar Ray and the Blue Tones have been playing their unique style of blues the world over for almost forty years. Not limited to one style, but able to play Chicago Blues in the style of Muddy Waters. Little Walter and Billy Boy Arnold; Kansas City Swing in the style of "Big" Joe Turner; Texas Blues like "T" Bone Walker and Freddie King; and the swampy Louisiana sounds of "Lazy" Lester-all played with distinctive originality .

All of the members of Sugar Ray and the Bluetones have been featured on other Artists recordings which include Roomful of Blues,Hubert Sumlin, John Hammond, Johnny Winter, J.Geils, Otis Grand, Pinetop Perkins, The Mannish Boys, Sugaray Rayford, Debbie Davies, Duke Robillard, Ronnie Earl and many more.

A little about Al Copley....Pianist and singer; arranger and co-founder of "Roomful of Blues" - the renowned American jump band nominated for two Grammy Awards while he was with them. After 16 years with Roomful, relocated to Europe in 1984, and back home to the US in 2010. Al has been performing extensively in Europe and the northeast US for the past few years, appears regularly in NYC and Paris, and continues to develop in style and taste, always noted for energy, versatility and impeccable harmony. He has been included in Chapman Roberts' 2018 "Broadway Jazz Festival" in Manhattan with stars from Chapman's hit plays "Blues in the Night," "Smokey Joe's Cafe," "Five Guys Named Moe" and "Bubbling Brown Sugar." In 2016 Al instigated a reunion recording of the 1970s version of Roomful of Blues, which has recorded a tremendous disc to be released in 2021. The goal, according to co-founder Duke Robillard, was to "make a record equal to or better than our first record." They have succeeded in this ! Stay tuned. In June 2002 and 2009, Al Copley performed four of his own full symphonic orchestrations before an audience of more than 25,000 with the Boston Festival Orchestra at Summer Pops.

A little about Greg Piccolo....At age nineteen, Duke Robillard recruited Greg as one of the earliest members of what became the Rhode Island based powerhouse, Roomful of Blues. The unifying magnet within the group in its early years, 1969 -1971, was focus on the rootsy, retro, danceable, swing sound of the ‘40s and ‘50s. This “new” sound to teenage ears and the recall of this music to the older folks, filled dance floors all over the band’s New England home-base and eventually on the global stage. For the next twenty-four years, Greg Piccolo had amazing experiences playing with and/or recording with such music legends as Big Joe Turner, Earl King, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson”, Pat Benetar, Red Prysock, Stevie Ray Vaughan, to mention only a few.

As Roomful players would come and go, Greg’s twenty-five year contribution evolved to lead singer and bandleader, all the while being noticed world-wide for his signature “fat” tenor sound, unique sax style, and distinguishable vocals. After nearly twenty-five years with Roomful of Blues, Greg sensed a calling to go back to his roots and develop his “heavy juice” sound. This “less is more” approach gave him the freedom to cover the gamut of his musical longings, which include traditional jazz, r & b, and rock’n roll. He had compiled a well of songs which demanded their own arrangements and band configurations outside of the classic “Roomful sound.” In 1994 he stepped away and officially formed his own band, Heavy Juice, which led to his first solo release, self-titled, “Greg Piccolo Heavy Juice,” on the legendary Louisiana-based Black Top label.

Following were two releases, Red Lights and Acid Blue, on the famous California-based Fantasy Label (now Concord), and his first all instrumental tenor sax release titled “Homage” on the Pennsylvania-based Emit Doog label. His most recent release, “Who Did This?” is a tribute to his favorite sax recordings and includes an original recorded tenor instrumental. Now at seventy years of age, Greg Piccolo is still practicing his horn every day, writing his own material, and traveling the world with Heavy Juice. Piccolo is an example of someone who has always played from his heart.

A little about Mike Law....Mike Law is a Blues Bassist from Connecticut-USA. Upright bass is ALWAYS preferred but he also ‘doubles’ on electric bass as well. Mike is a first call bass player in the American blues and roots scene. Most specifically he prides himself on playing with blues harmonica players, some of the best players of all time. Mike grew up always playing blues, he started on drums, then harmonica and vocals, then guitar. It took him over 20 years of playing to realize his true calling was upright bass. He has studied with some of the best blues bassists of all time and learned under their wings. Players like Preston Hubbard, Marty Ballou, Ronnie James Weber, John Bazz, Larry Taylor, Mudcat Ward and more. In just a few years Mike has played some of the biggest blues festivals in the world with some of the best players on the scene.

A little about Bobby Christina....a Westerly, RI local who’s one of the tightest natural-sounding shufflers on the East Coast. Brother Fran made a name with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Bobby keeps busy behind the best local bands, and is the regular drummer for Chris Leigh.

A little about Tom Ferraro...I couldn't find a bio on Tom Ferraro, but I can tell you that he is an outstanding guitar player that is very gifted. He was snug as a button with his shuffles, and was a pleasure to listen and watch. Tom is from Warwick, Rhode Island and has played with Nick Moss, Charlie Baty, and numerous others. His influences include Cliff Gallup, Albert King, Les Paul, B.B. King, Danny Gatton, Muddy Waters, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Billy Butler, Freddie King, T-Bone Walker, and Charlie Christian.

Below are some photos and videos from the evening:

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