Chris Duarte | 3.5.06

Whether it was a blues tune, an old Hendrix vibe, a reggae groove, a jazz exploration, or an unrestrained homage to punk, everything he played was done with all-out enthusiasm and energy of expression.

 

BB’s Jazz, Blues And Soups, St. Louis

Although virtuoso guitarist Chris Duarte’s unique style is based in the Austin Blues sound, he takes his music beyond just typical blues playing to a funkier, higher energy state. It would be like combining a little SRV with some James Brown, but adding a bit of Kirk Hammett, just kick it up a notch.

Duarte has a wide variety of influences and a seemingly unending repertoire of styles to draw from. Good thing, too, since he had a six-hour time slot to fill! Whether it was a blues tune, an old Hendrix vibe, a reggae groove, a jazz exploration, or an unrestrained homage to punk, everything he played was done with all-out enthusiasm and energy of expression.

Duarte also allowed the solid rhythm section—bassist Robert Kearns and drummer Jason Patterson—ample space to stretch out and show off some chops of their own, most notably during up-tempo versions of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee” (the one you might have heard performed on Jaco Pastorius’ solo album). Later they also did a raucous version of Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t.” Although Kearns is a monster on the bass, he’s also good enough to lay back and hold down the pocket.

This night’s performance was mostly focused on songs from his most recent releases, Romp and Love Is Greater Than Me. He also played some of his old classics like “My Way Down” from Texas Sugar/Strat Magik and a great version of “People Say” from Tailspin Headwhack.

It’s Duarte’s songwriting that has always set him apart from other blues players. He has an uncanny understanding of rhythm and harmony, with songs that always offer a strong groove or a chord change that hits just right. He makes you feel the honesty behind the lyrics—hard lessons learned along the way of a long and prolific career. And then he’ll turn around and lay down something so funky you can’t help but get up.

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