We Were Taken To The River And Beyond

There is so much history in the Memphis music scene, and three of the elder statesmen of that scene headlined a stupendous show titled Take Me to the River at the Parker Playhouse over the past weekend.

These three gentlemen – William Bell, Bobby Rush, and Don Bryant – are 78, 84, and 75 years of age, respectively, but none of them show any signs of slowing. We were in the presence of music royalty and we knew it. And we appreciated it!

William Bell

Bobby Rush

Don Bryant

William Bell was the first (or one of the first) artists signed to Stax Records in the very early 60s as a songwriter; his pedigree is impeccable.

William Bell

At 78, he had the energy of a much younger man and his voice is as good as ever was. He is surely a living legend!

William Bell

Another living legend is Bobby Rush. At 84, he is the elder statesman of this amazing trio of musicians. We were told he is the only artist to get his masters back from Chess Records!

Bobby Rush

How many 84-year-olds do you know who can catch some air as easily as Bobby did in the above photo? His voice is still marvelous, and his performance style is terrific.

Bobby Rush

Don Bryant is the youngster in this group. At 75, he does not show any signs of slowing. He released an album of new music last year, Don’t Give Up on Love, that has given his career renewed life.

Don Bryant

Don and his now wife, Ann Peebles, penned the classic “I Can’t Stand the Rain”; the rest is history! Still making music 58 years after he began, he is as relevant as ever.

Don Bryant

Since one of the goals of the Take Me to the River Education Initiative is ensuring this music lives, there were younger artists on this tour as well. One was rap/hip hop artist Al Kapone who was terrific!

Al Kapone

Another rap artist, Frayser Boy, regaled us with his music. He was the only Oscar-winning artist on stage this night; he was one of the writers of “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” from the fabulous film Hustle and Flow. I remember that year thinking that the song should win the Oscar but would not because it was not a mainstream song and was never so glad to be wrong!

Frayser Boy

Seeing Al Kapone and Frayser Boy doing a duet was intriguing!

Frayser Boy and Al Kapone

Another young artist who stunned the audience was Ashton Riker, a graduate of Berklee College of Music and the Stax Music Academy. What a fantastic soulful voice he has! He is at the beginning of his career and should go far.

Ashton Riker

Another young Memphis singer and graduate of the Stax Music Academy was Sharisse Norman who was given the opportunity to sing lead at this show! What a voice she has!1

Sharisse Norman

Some of the songs performed were “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay”, “I Forgot to Be Your Lover”, and so many more!

At the beginning of the show, Martin Shore came to the stage and spoke with us about several things including the importance of music education about which the audience heartily agreed. Take Me to the River Education Initiative is the organization which is working toward connecting youth with older people in the creative arts. He stressed the importance of community, and went on to introduce a clip from the Take Me to the River documentary.

Martin Shore

Musical Director Boo Mitchell, son of Willie Mitchell who was a powerful force in Memphis, emceed the show (as well as played keyboard).

Boo Mitchell

The show opened with the Hi Rhythm Section (who last year won a Lifetime Achievement Award as Instrumentalists from the Americana Music Association).

Hi Rhythm Section (with Ashton Riker and Boo Mitchell)

Charles Hodges on the organ, Andrew Saino on guitar, Edward Cleveland on drums, Leroy Hodges on bass, Martin Shore on percussion, Mark Franklin on trumpet and Jamel Mitchell on saxophone comprise the Hi Rhythm Section.

Memphis may be known for soul music, but there are other styles being made there which are just as important to the fabric of American music. Blues and rap were well represented at this revue as well.

The Ensemble

The show ended with all performers singing “Take Me to the River” which was a fitting end to this marvelous show at their last performance on the tour. I hope they bring this review on the road for many years to come! I will see it over and over again – and now I want to take a trip to Memphis!

Thanks to Don Bryant for the ticket; all opinions are my own.

About suze72

I've loved the arts all my life... I go to a lot of concerts, take lots of photos and want to share them. Every once in a while I do something other than a concert, too. The Boston area is full of opportunities to indulge my passion - I'd like to help make it yours too!

Posted on February 10, 2018, in concert photos, concert reviews, music, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Cynthia Williams-Morse

    Thanks for such a great review of these talented people. I am Ashton’s mom. He is so blessed to have been a part of this tour. The Take Me To The River tour should continue. Thanks, again.

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