THE SENSATIONAL KING BIZKIT BLUES BAND
Kings Hotel, Newport, Wales, 10/1/92
I suppose you could say that a historical precedent was set some two thousand or so years ago, as far as Kings travelling from the East are concerned; latest in this line could be said to be Richard ‘King Bizkit’ Everitt, the Suffolk-based leader / organiser of one of the hardest-gigging and therefore most widely-travelled bands on the domestic blues scene today. Despite their “worthy-of-The Hamsters” work-rate however, (The SKBBB clocked up no fewer than 296 gigs in 1991 alone), a couple of rare cancellations and a last-minute dose of the lurgi on my part had put paid to my previous intentions of checking them out in person, and so with my appetite whetted by their “Live at Gossip’s” cassette, I was more than pleased to attend their long-awaited debut gig at the Kings.
As it turned out, the tape was still – ten months later – a good guide to the contents of the Band’s set list, but as the Band itself had undergone substantial line-up changes in the intervening period, there was little opportunity to match up the guys onstage here, with the names on the inlay card. I would venture to suggest, however, that despite the extreme youth of several of the current players, the standard of musicianship at the moment is, on the whole, even higher!!!!!!!!
Some would have been disappointed to discover that the legendary saxman Dick Heckstall-Smith is now only an occasional member, as is Big Roll piano man Zoot Money, and subsequently were’nt in the team that played Newport. To be honest, however, they were’nt really missed. Sharing the reed parts here were Dick’s 18-year-old protégé Ben Weston and, just one year his senior, the irrepressible Leo Green (the son, incidentally, of writer, broadcaster and jazz authority Benny Green). They make for fascinating viewing: the lanky, bespectacled Weston is obviously the introspective thinker of the pair, the straight man, if you will. His solos are quiet, economical and measured. Even on a number such as ‘Jealous Woman’, wherein he blows tenor and soprano at the same time, his playing remains understated and very impressive. There’s plenty of emotion here, nevertheless, and on seeing the Band perform Ray Charles’ ‘Hard Times’ at this gig, I realised that a passage which, in my review of the ‘Gossip’s’ tape, I’d taken to be a piece of vintage Heckstall-Smith must, in fact, have been the work of this young man all along. (Sorry, Ben!)
Green, on the other hand, is a pure showman, a real honkin’, wailin’ rock ‘n’ roll screamer, his knees ready to bend into a showoff stage-front solo at the drop of a hat. His performance, raucous and barely controlled, is the very antithesis of Weston’s, but is great fun and an obvious wow with the crowd. Despite having reservations at first, I must admit they work together very well indeed.
Guitar duties were similarly split between two prodigous talents. New boy Mark Stuart is also just eighteen and has replaced ex-Uriah Heep man Glenn Kendrick; he was joined by the hotly-tipped Adam Clarkson, whose playing really is coming on a treat. Between them these four young men provide the Band with a tremendous range of soloists, each already displaying a distinctive and surprisingly developed musical personality well in advance of expectations considering their youth.
Where, you may wonder, does an old hand like Everitt (his roots are in the British scene of the ‘60s) fit in here? He struck me as a sort of ringmaster, a real old-fashioned kind of jazz bandleader, keeping the whole thing ticking over nicely, attributing solo spots to his young henchmen and generally playing the whole Band as if it were his own finely tuned instrument. And when, seven numbers in (from ‘Kansas City’ on, to be precise), the group was augmented by having support band the Blues Sisters’ sax player Bev Green sit in, Everitt merely added her like an additional string. This is very much a free and easy musicians’ band, and there’s plenty of room for experimentation and good improvisation.
Previous reports have stressed the blues-rock tendencies of the group, but both in the structure of the performance and in the attitude of the musicians, I sensed far more of a jazz flavour. Solos of the standard of Weston’s and Clarkson’s on Otis Rush’s ‘Double Trouble’ or Green’s on ‘Lights Are On, But Nobody’s Home’ were certainly good enough to stand comparison with those found within the more snobbish confines of the jazz clubs.
However you pigeon-hole them though, there was no denying that their performance here was highly enjoyable, and I for one will be hoping to catch them again soon.
With just a word in praise of the ever-reliable Kings Hotel, I’d just like to congratulate them on another first rate Blues show.
Paul Lewis Blueprint February 1992