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With little more than a piano, a pair of saxophones and years of hard work, the father and son duo of Ben and Tom Waters played an action packed set of boogie-woogie and rock and roll favourites to an enthusiastic crowd of music fans.
Ben Waters has had a storied career in music – Jools Holland describes him as a favourite piano player. He has played all over the world both as a solo performer and as a sideman, while he served a thorough musical apprenticeship working with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Shakin’ Stevens, and Ray Davies.
Fourteen-year-old Tom, a Jazz saxophonist of some technical skill and musical imagination proved a fine foil to the piano wizardry.
The set ranged from old early rock and roll favourites, to dazzling renditions of ragtime piano and classical pieces, although in terms of musical imagination, the most stylistically different piece was saved for the encore.
A Girl Up on the Hill and Oreo Cookie Blues both contained some fiery boogie woogie and blues piano to grab the audiences attention, while Jerry Lee Lewis’ St Louis Boogie included quite a lot of humour, with quotes from a wide range of music, including the Simpsons theme. Sam Cooke’s Bring it on Home to Me became a shuffle time blues piece, as opposed to the expansive ballad form in which it is usually delivered. An Uncle in Harlem looked at the misery caused by poverty, and married a heartfelt sentiment to stirring musical accompaniment to good effect, before Bluebrry Hill proved to be a popular song for the audience.
The second half included some audience requests and a more wide ranging and ecletic reportoire. The piano heroism of Ben Waters was particularly evident in Jelly Roll Morton’s Don’t Deny My Name and Professor Longhair’s Tipitina. A crowd pleasing Route 66 featured some fine throaty saxophone.
Ragtime featured in a medley of Scott Joplin’s music, which included snippets of The Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag.
The temperature was lifted with sterling readings of Chuck Berry’s C’est La Vie, and an inventive genre skipping and time signature hopping What I Say by Ray Charles. The time keeping of the two musicians was particularly evident in some of the faster songs and the lack of drums, bass and guitar meant that the audience could hear piano, vocals and saxophones very clearly.
An encore was almost inevitable, with a very different version of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode, re-imagined as a Russian ballad, complete with quotations from such songs as Eleanor Rigby, Live and Let Die and Aha’s Take on Me, the difficult time signatures and Russian counterpoints proving to be no obstacles to the two fine musicians.
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