By Jeremy Miles
If you’re the kind of person who tends to get picky you might just raise an eyebrow at the fact that the British Blues Quartet currently appears to sport six members... and one them is German.
But there’s no need to get pedantic about these things. The fact is of course that brilliant Bournemouth-born keyboard wizard Zoot Money and the two Colins (Allen on drums and Hodgkinson on bass) are regularly joined by special guests - vocalist Maggie Bell and slide guitar wizard Dave Kelly. Meanwhile previous BBQ guitarist Miller Anderson has been replaced by Hamburg-based Frank Diez. The result is phenomenal.
With Bell strutting her stuff and delivering magnificent soulful blues vocals and Kelly and Money playing and singing their hearts out too, the band has an awesome front line. With superbly powerful and rhythmic bass from Hodgkinson, rock solid drumming from Allen and soaring lead guitar from new boy Diez, this is an outfit to be reckoned with.
Heaven knows they’ve had enough practice - the combined age of the band is around 400. They’ve played with everyone over the past 40 plus years. Zoot and Colin Allen (also a local boy) have played together since schooldays in the late 1950s. They headed to London together with another Bournemouth friend, Andy Summers, eventually destined to become guitarist with The Police.
They soon found themselves employed as a house band at the Flamingo Club in Soho. Within a couple of years Zoot was one of THE faces on the London scene ( Hendrix crashed on his sofa - how cool is that? ). Meanwhile Colin would go on to become the drummer with Maggie Bell’s band Stone the Crows as a career that would eventually include playing and recording with Bob Dylan began to seriously flourish.
The other members of BBQ - Colin Hodgkinson (Alexis Korner), Dave Kelly (Howlin’ Wolf, the Blues Band etc) and Diez (Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Little Richard) - are extraordinarily seasoned professionals who paid their dues in apprenticeships with the masters. It’s all clearly been experience well used. The band that played The Tivoli on Friday night were really something special. They delivered a set that was rich in vintage blues, rock and R&B. Great arrangements and inspired moments of improvisation breathed new life into numbers like Son House’s Death Letter Blues, Jimmy Reed’s Bright Lights, Big City, Muddy Water’s Hoochie Coochie Man and Al Green’s Take Me To The River. Brilliant stuff!
As Zoot said: “If only we can spin it out for another 10 years...” I really hope they can but Allen is 73 this year and Zoot has already celebrated his 67th birthday. For a bunch of musicians who back in the 60s hit the big time reckoning they had a couple of years at most to make their mark before going back to the day job, they haven’t done too badly.