Danny Kalb’s one of those players who just has to keep returning to Woodstock. Expect a crowd to come out and soak up his journeyman chops Saturday, November 17 at the Bearsville Theater, where he’ll be luxuriating in the ambitious display of his talents inherent on his latest 2-CD release of borrowed and self-penned items, old and new blues, solo and band mixers — as well as a few straight-out rockers. Plus, there’ll be the added attraction of his sharing the stage with what remains of his most-famous outing as The Blues Project back in the mid-1960s.
Kalb was around, a Brooklyn kid with good instincts on the acoustic and then electric guitar, back in the West Village, where folk music was butting up against out-there modern jazz, blues artists getting the royal treatment, edgy comedy acts, and the professionalism of Brill Building pop rock seeking out new territories. He was valued as a sit-in player by the likes of Dave Van Ronk and Phil Ochs, Judy Collins and Bob Dylan…as well as the various ambitious pickers ready to try their chops out showing the real thing their own interpretations of old blues stylings in an electric set-up.
When The Beatles hit, fast-followed by the rest of the British Invasion’s fresh versions of our own blues, r&b and soul, Kalb was ready…and started putting together The Blues Project as what many now see as one of the first of the great jam bands (along with the Bay Area’s Grateful Dead, Britain’s Yardbirds, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band out of Chicago). They had a classic line-up of two guitars (with Steve Katz of Blood, Sweat & Tears fame taking on the other axe), organ, rhythm section. For a spell, Artie Traum — late of Woodstock — filled the Katz spot, and Al Kooper — who went on to co-found BS&T with Katz — played the organ. They lasted a short two years in their original line-up, then meandered with comings and goings for a few more as the whole music scene shifted away from New York City and the Village.
Kalb, now described as an aging Jewish lumberjack sort, has maintained his chops in a quiet way, occasionally stepping out to produce or engineer others (including some time with the uberkind Beck), and has reemerged in recent years as something of a grand wizard of earnest, honest blues playing on a series of albums released on his own Sojourn label for a decently-sized connoisseur’s market.
This Saturday’s concert will be something of a Blues Project reunion, with original members Katz and drummer Roy Blumenfeld on hand…and it being Woodstock, the promise of special guests stopping in.
Expect plenty of sterling interpretations of great songs, past and present, as well as some BP-fueled rave-up jams…maybe even a return to their great version of “Two Trains Running,” or the eternal dance-motivating “Wake Me, Shake Me.”
Who cares if these folks are nearing or over 70? There’s something eternally strong about those who have given a lifetime to their artistry… and blues.
Danny Kalb & The Blues Project at The Bearsville Theater, Tinker Street, Woodstock. Saturday, November 17, 8 p.m. Admission is $30. Call 845-679-4406 or see www.Bearsvilletheater.com for tickets or more information.