Alligator Records Showcase

Friday
01
May

Toronzo Cannon & Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues

  • Venue:Supper Club
  • Showtime:8:00 pm
  • Doors open:6:00 pm
  • All Ages, General Admission, $35 Limited Table Seating, $20 Standing Room Only, Dining Reservations Required
  • Canceled

The Blues had a baby, and they called it Rock n’ Roll.

 

Why you should see this show…

“Prestigious, scrappy independent Alligator Records has reached dizzying heights in celebrating the blues.” —Rolling Stone

“With muscular, no-frills production, Alligator catches the blues as it melds with soul, rock, gospel, country and zydeco, partying away the pains of love. Alligator is the leading record label for the blues, and has succeeded where the giants have failed.” —The New York Times
 

 

Toronzo Cannon Bio
ToronzoCannon
“Deep, contemporary Chicago blues…razor-sharp guitar and compelling, forceful singing” – The Chicago Tribune

“Cannon is at the front rank of Chicago bluesmen. He creates wide-screen modern arrangements for wry, thoughtful songs, molding an ensemble sound that’s both tempestuous and scrupulously controlled.” –MOJO

Chicago bluesman Toronzo Cannon defies all expectations. The blistering guitarist, soulful vocalist, singular songwriter and city bus driver fuses his muscular, rock-inspired blues guitar playing with his original, keenly detailed slice-of-life songs, blazing his own blues trail. With the 2016 release of his Alligator Records debut, The Chicago Way, Cannon burst onto the international stage as one the most electrifying bluesmen to emerge from Chicago in decades. His live performances unfailingly earn him heaps of critical praise and hordes of wildly enthusiastic fans. Cannon has played major cities all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe. He recently performed for the first time in Japan, delighting and surprising audiences with one unforgettable gig after another. Now, with the release of The Preacher, The Politician Or The Pimp, Cannon builds upon the foundation he’s laid, creating and defining his vision of contemporary blues.

The Preacher, The Politician Or The Pimp features twelve Cannon originals, ranging from the burning social commentary of the title track to the wryly told, up-to-the-minute truths of “Insurance” to the trademark Cannon humor of “Stop Me When I’m Lying” and “Ordinary Woman.” He gets serious on the haunting “The First 24,” the Martin Luther King-inspired “The Silence Of My Friends” and on the moving final track, “I’m Not Scared.” Cannon’s blazing guitar and soul-baring vocals are front and center. His songwriting is inspired by his deep Chicago roots, the wisdom of his grandparents and his years of observing the public while driving a bus. His songs tell timeless stories of common experiences in uncommon ways.

“It’s not about the solos,” Cannon says, “It’s about the songs. People get used to everyday life, so it’s easy to miss the things around them. I write about those things. I know the problems of Chicago, the hardship, ’cause we’re always a scapegoat. But I choose to love and respect the city because of the Chicago blues giants that came here from down south. I’m proud to be standing on the shoulders of every great Chicago blues musician who came before me.”

Toronzo Cannon was born in the Windy City on February 14, 1968, and grew up in the shadows of the notoriously tough Robert Taylor Homes. Theresa’s Lounge, one of the city’s most famous South Side blues clubs, was nearby. As a child, Cannon would stand on the sidewalk outside the door, soaking up the live blues pouring out while trying to sneak a glance inside at larger-than-life bluesmen like Junior Wells and Buddy Guy. He also heard plenty of blues growing up in his grandfather’s home, and listened to soul, R&B and contemporary rock on the radio.

Cannon bought his first guitar at age 22, and his natural talent enabled him to quickly master the instrument. Although his initial focus was reggae, he found himself increasingly drawn to the blues. “It was dormant in me. But when I started playing the blues, I found my voice and the blues came pouring out.” He absorbed sounds, styles and licks from Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Hound Dog Taylor, B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Jimi Hendrix, J.B. Hutto, Lil’ Ed and others. Although influenced by many, Cannon’s biting, stinging guitar sound is all his own.

Cannon began his rise in the intensely competitive proving ground of the local club scene, where only the best musicians reach the top. Iconic blues artists from Muddy Waters to Howlin’ Wolf to Koko Taylor to Hound Dog Taylor to Luther Allison all paid their dues in the Chicago blues bars before making their mark on the world. The same holds true today, as newcomers look to living legends like Buddy Guy, Jimmy Johnson and Lil’ Ed Williams for inspiration in taking their music from Chicago to fans across the globe.

From 1996 through 2002, Cannon played as a sideman for Tommy McCracken, Wayne Baker Brooks, L.V. Banks and Joanna Connor. But he was determined to prove himself. In 2001, while continuing to work as a hired-gun guitarist, he formed his own band, The Cannonball Express. By 2003, he was working exclusively as a band leader. Cannon’s first three albums—2007’s My Woman (self-released), 2011’s Leaving Mood (Delmark) and 2013’s Blues Music Award-nominated John The Conqueror Root (Delmark)—document his rise from promising up-and-comer to star-in-the-making.

Almost immediately upon the release of The Chicago Way, Chicago media helped launch Cannon toward blues stardom. He was the subject of multiple newspaper and magazine feature stories and appeared on every local television station. National and international media soon took notice. CNN filmed Cannon leading a tour of Chicago blues clubs and then broadcast the piece around the world. England’s MOJO magazine declared The Chicago Way the #1 Blues Album Of 2016, as did the readers of Living Blues magazine in their annual poll. The album and Cannon were also nominated for four Blues Music Awards (the Grammy of the blues) in 2017. And the world champion Chicago Cubs invited Cannon to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the September 13, 2017 game. All the attention only makes Cannon more focused. “I feel like I’ve become an ambassador for Chicago blues. People expect a lot from me,” he says. “But it’s good, because I’m forced to keep upping my game.”

Cannon has played the Chicago Blues Festival on ten separate occasions, initially as a sideman, then as a special guest, a sidestage band leader and finally as a main stage headliner. When he’s home, he drives a Chicago Transit Authority bus by day and performs by night. Using every vacation day and day off and working four ten-hour shifts a week, Cannon arranges his schedule to gig out of town as much as possible. It isn’t easy, but, like all of the Chicago greats who have come before him, blues is his calling. Blues Music Magazine declares, “His guitar playing has all the fire and spontaneity of the Chicago legends he carries; his songwriting is a timely and original look at the world he sees by day on a bus and in blues clubs by night, and his assertive voice is the perfect vehicle to deliver the message.”

Now, with The Preacher, The Politician Or The Pimp, Toronzo Cannon delivers his messages loud and clear. Between his searing chops, soul-satisfying vocals and vibrant and distinctive original songs, Cannon has grown from being a local attraction to become a world-renowned torch bearer for the blues. PBS Television’s Chicago Tonight sums it up like this: “Cannon is just your typical CTA bus driver who moonlights as a sought-after Chicago blues musician. As a guitarist, singer and songwriter, he drives the sound of Chicago blues from the city to blues clubs and festivals around the world.”

 

 

Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues
BillyBranch
“A potent blend of rootsy integrity and exploratory zeal.” —Living Blues
“Branch has a warm, open vocal style and a full command of the blues harp, from wailing notes to chugging rhythms.” —The New York Times

Blues giant Billy Branch is among today’s greatest harmonica players. With his inventive, deeply rooted playing and gritty, soulful vocals, Branch carries on the Chicago blues tradition that he learned first-hand from icons including Big Walter Horton, James Cotton, Junior Wells, Carey Bell, Willie Dixon and many others. His famous teachers made it clear to anyone who would listen that Branch was the heir apparent to the Chicago blues harmonica throne. With his instantly recognizable sound and his band, The Sons Of Blues, Branch has traveled the world, creating living, breathing and evolving Chicago blues for over four decades. In addition, he’s dedicated years of work to the Blues In The Schools program, helping children—the next generation of blues artists and fans—develop a love for and understanding of the genre.

Branch is among the very last living bluesmen to have been tutored and mentored by the original blues giants. The young bluesman was able to absorb the tradition and over the years develop a style and sound all his own. With a huge blues vocabulary and dynamic versatility, Branch brings elements of soul, funk and rock to his playing. His upper register licks and his emotional, melodic ballad playing define his sound even further. He is a gruff and potent vocalist, a groundbreaking solo artist, an in-demand session player and consummate band leader. He is a three-time Grammy nominee, a three-time Blues Music Award winner, a two-time Keeping The Blues Alive Award winner (for Education) and a two-time Living Blues Critics’ Award winner. Branch has recorded eleven albums under his own name and has appeared on scores of other recordings.

The new Alligator album, Roots And Branches–The Songs Of Little Walter, finds Billy Branch & The Sons Of Blues doing what they do best. Branch and the band breathe life and fire into their reimaginings of the renowned songs of Little Walter Jacobs, one of the principal architects of the Chicago blues sound and one of the most influential blues harmonica players who ever lived. Roots And Branches, recorded in Chicago and co-produced by Billy Branch, Rosa Branch and longtime Sons Of Blues pianist Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi, features 15 songs written by and or made famous by Little Walter. Each song is played with equal amounts of Branch’s deeply rooted reverence and up-to-the-minute innovation. The songs seem to jump out of the speakers and come alive. They are as timeless in Branch’s and The Sons Of Blues’ reinventions as in Walter’s feral originals. Along with Branch and Ariyoshi, the band features guitarist Giles Corey, bassist Marvin Little and drummer Andrew “Blaze” Thomas. At the end of the album, Little Walter’s daughter, Marion Diaz, shares a few anecdotes of life with her legendary father.

According to Branch, “We were determined not to make this a ‘typical’ Little Walter tribute recording. We are proud to present an album with elements of soul, funk, and even a little bit of gospel. Our goal was to competently and respectfully produce a Little Walter-themed recording with a different twist, while preserving the integrity of Little Walter’s innovative style.”

Born William Earl Branch in Chicago on October 3, 1951 and raised in Los Angeles, Branch first picked up a harmonica at age ten and began picking out tunes on his own. In his words, “I’ve never been without a harp since.” He grew up listening to Motown and classic rockers like The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Beach Boys and folkies like Pete Seeger. But it wasn’t until he returned to Chicago in 1969 and enrolled at the University of Illinois that he fell in love with the blues. In August of that year he attended a blues music festival in Grant Park organized by legendary songwriter and
bassist Willie Dixon. That afternoon, Dixon and his all-star group backed up Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker and more top level artists. Billy was an instant convert (and only a few years later was playing in Dixon’s band). When not attending classes, Branch immersed himself into the local blues scene, spending time at many of the famous blues haunts like Theresa’s and the Checkerboard Lounge. Branch was “adopted” by Jimmy Walker, Homesick James and almost every older bluesman on the circuit. After learning from the masters, he developed
his own signature sound—powerful, melodic, funky, jazzy and contemporary.

Branch’s big break came in 1975 on the night he entered a harmonica battle royale against veteran Chicago harp man Little Mac Simmons at Chicago’s Green Bunny Club. Among the blues dignitaries in the audience that evening was Alligator Records founder Bruce Iglauer, who witnessed Branch besting Simmons at his own game. From that night on, Branch began regularly sitting in at blues clubs all over the city. He recorded his first track for an anthology on Barrelhouse Records in 1975. Willie Dixon then invited Branch to join his Chicago Blues All-Stars, where he was groomed to take the place of his friend and mentor, harmonica ace Carey Bell. Branch stayed with Dixon for six years, soaking up the lessons offered up by Dixon and the other band members—both musical and professional.

With Branch’s blues education well underway, his reputation as one of Chicago’s best harmonica players grew swiftly. In 1977 (while he was still playing with Willie Dixon), Branch was recruited by the Berlin Jazz Festival to choose and lead a band of “next generation” blues musicians. He gathered some of the top young talent in Chicago, including Lurrie Bell (Carey’s son) and Freddie Dixon (Willie’s son). They performed to a wildly appreciative German audience. This core group, along with drummer Jeff Ruffin, became the original Sons Of Blues. In 1978, they made their recording debut, cutting three songs for Alligator Records’ Grammy-nominated Living Chicago Blues series.

In 1990 Branch, along with his mentors Junior Wells, James Cotton and Carey Bell, recorded the Blues Music Award winning album, Harp Attack! for Alligator. “That,” Branch recalls, “was my diploma. My PhD.” He’s recorded several studio and live albums with The Sons Of Blues—most recently 2014’s Blues Shock (Blind Pig)—and has appeared on countless other releases as a session player with blues stars including Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, Lou Rawls, Son Seals, Willie Dixon and Johnny Winter.

In addition to his recordings, Branch is also a tireless educator. His Blues In The Schools program has earned him praise both inside and outside of the music world. Branch shares his knowledge of the music with students in Chicago and other cities around the world, where he teaches blues history as well as providing instrumental instruction to children. In 1996, members of his classes, with Branch at the helm, performed on the main stage at the Chicago Blues Festival, which was broadcast on NPR. He has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show and CBS’s Sunday Morning and can be seen in the feature films Adventures In Babysitting and Next Of Kin.

Billy Branch & The Sons Of Blues can be found performing in clubs, concert halls and festivals all over the world. From the United States and Canada to South and Central America, the Caribbean, China, Africa, Israel and all throughout Europe, Branch and his band soulfully deliver their music with a concentrated, raw Windy City authority. Now, with Roots And Branches–The Songs Of Little Walter, Billy Branch & The Sons Of Blues continue to spread the gospel of the blues, reigniting the magical, timeless power of the music of Little Walter Jacobs, and in turn the soul-cleansing power of the real, living, evolving Chicago blues, as only Billy Branch can play them.

 

Dining Option

Purchase of a ticket to a show in the Supper Club ensures you will have a seat for the concert. However, if you intend to dine before or during the performance, you also need to make a dining reservation. To make a dining reservation, click here or call our Box Office at (216) 242-1250. Click here to see Rusty Anchor menu.

If you are attending a concert in the Supper Club with a party of two or more, please have one person make a reservation for the whole group to ensure you are seated together. If you are attending with a party of eight or more, you must call the Box Office to make your reservation at (216) 242-1250.

To better serve all our customers, we require that you arrive on time for your dining reservation. Arriving more than 15 minutes after your reserved time will result in the cancellation of your reservation. You will be seated for the concert, but you may be put on a waiting list for dining.

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