By Uncle Mike
LINCROFT – Inside the Donald Warner Student Life Center, Brookdale Community College played host to the 15th Annual Brookdale Guitar Show last Sunday, and outside under a tent adjacent to the Center there were some very fine musical performances. None were finer than the efforts of Jersey guitarists, Chris Buono, Marc Muller and last, but certainly not least, “the dean” Sonny Kenn. I did manage to stick my head in some of the clinics and workshops and I was intrigued by the wares of some of the vendors like High Strung Guitar String Jewelry and Lazy B Cigar Box Guitars, just to name a few. But let’s face it, I was there for the music and believe me when I say I was not disappointed!
Since we mentioned him last why don’t we start with “the dean” and The Sonny Kenn Band? Taking the stage at noon (really quite early for these guys), Kenn (lead vocals/lead guitar), George Evans (electric guitar/backing vocals), Chris Plunkett (bass/ backing vocals) and Joe D’Angelo (drums) wasted no time in shaking off the effects of playing out the night before and treated their audience to rock ‘em and sock ‘em renditions of “Bright Lights, Big City” (classic Sonny guitar play), “Down The Road With Chuck” (way cool band jam on this instrumental), Chuck Berry’s “Down The Road A Piece” (band rocks as Sonny wails on lead g.), “Curb Service” (a little western swing thrown in for good measure), “Five Long Years” (Sonny at his best as SKB blues it up), “My Babe” (r & r hillbilly style), “The In Crowd” (owing more to the Ramsey Lewis Trio than Dobie Gray featured Chris on bass & Joe on skins), “I’ve Had It” (hot one from 1959) and “At My Front Door (Crazy Little Mama)” (band was tight Jack!). They played it all, from western swing to rock-a-billy and everything in-between. There’s a good reason we call Sonny Kenn “the dean.” He can blues it up, rock with the best of them or play it as smooth as silk. His all-around versatility and guitar virtuosity are just a few of the things that set him apart and make him so special. And this incarnation of the Sonny Kenn Band is right there with him.
Next up was Marc Muller, one of the more inventive, creative and inspired guitarists/multi-instrumentalists on the Jersey Shore. And if you like your music straight up sans vocals, Marc is your man. Joined on stage by bassist, Gerry Carboy and drummer, Dave Anthony, Muller (electric guitar/mandolin) delighted music fans with impressive renditions of originals like “Southend” (laidback & jazzed up with a touch of Dixie), “Top Speed” (crowd favorite), “Long Road Home” (big crowd pleaser featured Gerry on bass), “Adios Senor” (big d’s.), “Green Room” (wonderful ode to surfing), “Free Man” (a big hit with the Weather Channel crowd), “Colors” (another winner) and “Pop Corn” (featured Joe D on drums). And what made this performance even more outstanding is the fact that it was only the second time this trio had played together. That speaks volumes for the talents of Muller and his band mates.
Hands-down the highlight of the day for me was Jersey Shore guitar wiz Chris Buono as he paid tribute to Jimi Hendrix with The Jimi Fretless Experience. And just as he did last year with his all-out fist pumping, show stopping, tour-de-force tribute to Brit guitar legend Jeff Beck, Buono stole the show. Accompanied this time around by the outstanding trio of Eryn Shewell (lead vocals), Steve Jenkins (bass) and Tobias Ralph (drums/ backing vocals), Buono (Vigier Sufreter Excalibur Supra guitar) was at his risk-taking, boundary-stretching best as he offered up inspired fretless interpretations of material from Jimi’s classic albums Are You Experienced? Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland.
Opening up with “Fire” (Fretless Chris was a monster right out of the gate), Chris and the band rocked the tent with stellar renditions of “The Wind Cries Mary” (yes it did), “Little Miss Lover” (C.B. faster than the speed of light/Eryn nails the vocal), “May This Be Love” (haunting band #/simply beautiful), “Little Wing” (Chris a killer on fretless/Eryn soars on lead vocals), “Crosstown Traffic” (indeed), “Red House” (Eryn gets down & dirty/Chris just filthy on e.g.) and “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” (CB & ES on a roll/the whole band rocks). Look. When you combine the undeniable talents of Buono with the top-notch rhythm section of Jenkins and Ralph and the sultry vocals of Shewell, what you get is Big Time, baby! And when it comes to playing the electric guitar (frets or no frets), Chris Buono is the master craftsman. I know that somewhere out there Jimi is smiling from ear to ear. Because on this day, in this place, Chris Buono and The Jimi Fretless Experience were extraterrestrial! End of story!