The Turning Point Cafe in Piermont New York has a restaurant upstairs with good food at reasonable prices. However, the real attraction of this cafe/bar at 468 Piermont Ave. Piermont, N.Y. Voice: (845) 359-1089 Fax: (845) 359-3219 is downstairs…an intimate venue in which to experience great blues and jazz. In fact, there are 34 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musicians that have played at the Turning Point: Charlie Thomas of the Drifters; Les Paul; Mick Taylor, David Thomas From the Kinks, Dave Davies, John Entwistle, Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, Noel Redding, The Door’s Robbie Krieger, Eric Burdon, Rick Danko, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson from The Band, the Grateful Dead’s Vince Welnick and Tom Constanten, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, John Cale from the Velvet Underground, Pete Seeger, Richie Furay From Buffalo Springfield, Bill Monroe, Michael Shrieve from Santana, Charles Brown, Bonnie Raitt , John Sebastian, Johnnie Johnson, Andy Summers, Traffic’s Dave Mason and Jim Capaldi, Buddy Guy and Ronnie Spector. Check the web site today:
http://www.turningpointcafe.com/ and you’ll see bands scheduled that are as varied as the The Persuasions, Marty Balin, The Chapin Sisters, and the Electric Prunes. There’s a large, comfortable bar, and the rest of the downstairs features long tables, but the room isn’t a concert hall, and no matter where you sit you are close to the musicians.
One of the greatest, not to mention hardest-working of the blues musicians is the legendary Guitar Shorty, who makes his way back to The Turning Point a few times a year to delight die-hard fans, and charm new ones. Throughout the years, Shorty’s band has seen some changes. Since Shorty’s latest album “We the People” was released, Shorty changed all of the band members and assembled new musicians with a more “Texas” sound, that infuses Shorty’s blues songs with a different, but fresh, “Rockabilly/Austin ” vibe. The band name: “We The People,” coordinates with the album of the same name. That album won the 2007 Blues Music Award, for “Contemporary Blues Album of the Year.” Shorty also won a Blues Music Award for an album he released while on tour in England called: “My Way Or The Highway.” It won for “Contemporary Foreign Blues Album Of The Year” in 1990.
The “We the People” band is not just window dressing, they are serious, skilled, musicians in their own right. The talented keyboard player Matt Farrell (to the left in this photo) has now been with Shorty the longest. I remember his first concert with Shorty at the Turning Point a year ago. Matt was fairly new and was still finding his way a bit cautiously with his accompaniments. But at this most recent, early February 2008 concert at the Turning Point, the “McDreamy” keyboard player did a lively solo as part of the opening act, and continued to add complicated, complimentary background through the evening that really made Shorty’s standards, even more exciting. Behind him (wearing the hat) is Sam Pemberton. He’s an accomplished musician who effectively backs up Shorty’s lead guitar.
Tall, lean, John Morris is fairly new with the band. I watched Shorty throw him a song he had obviously never played before and he picked it up without seemingly any nerves or difficulties. His base is a welcome addition to the overall sound. There’s also a drummer, of course. I have seen several come and go in the past year. The one I heard at the Turning Point a few weeks ago is no longer with the band, and the newest (according to a phone call to Shorty after the concert) is Bruce Logan. I’ll be eager to hear how he fits into the overall sound, next time Shorty’s in town.
But the main man, the one the fans clamor to see, is Guitar Shorty himself. A living legend whose enthusiasm for hard-hitting blues and rock&blues is so powerful, once you’ve heard him you’re hooked for life. He generally plays a variety of songs from the half dozen or so CDs he’s made, including crowd-pleasing versions of “Hey Joe” and “the Star Spangled Banner,” and one of my personal favorites :” I Wonder Who (is Sleeping in My Bed) which my friends and I call “the underwear song.” In any case, Shorty doesn’t just play songs, he puts his entire being into them. As a young showman he’d do backflips onstage (playing “The Thrill Is Gone” while spinning on his head won him first prize way-back-when, on the Gong Show). But today, Shorty still amuses with his antics as well as play amazing blues, backed up by a strong, gravelly voice that is distinctive for it’s authentic intensity. Shorty plays every concert as if it’s going to be his last, often playing for hours without a break. He’s known for leaving the stage, going into the audience, and playing right in front of an amazed (and lucky) group of fans. And while Shorty doesn’t do backflips anymore (I won’t divulge his age, but he’s old enough to know that keeping your bones in one piece is paramount), Guitar Shorty still…..
….and regardless of the weather, if the club’s conditions are right, Shorty will not only leave the stage, he will leave the building, entirely, walking and playing his guitar. We have seen him walk around an entire building in a blinding snowstorm in New Jersey, dance with a woman outside the Turning Point at an earlier concert, and connect with two girls eating Ice Cream who just happened by on the street in New Hope.
During this recent concert at The Turning Point, Shorty left the building and ambled down the street, taking more than half the Turning Point Patrons with him, even though it was cold and there was snow and ice on the ground. We all followed him as if he were the Pied Piper, down the street…….…………to the local Police Station, where Shorty went inside and played in front of the intake clerk’s window! …………………………………. …………Then, out of range of his band (but still playing his Guitar) he headed back the street towards the Turning point…. went back inside, and finished his song!
Shorty always takes the time to connect with his audience not just through his incredible music, but in a personal way. He signs autographs and CDs, and even once signed my friend Howard’s arm (wish I had a photo of that to include here)! Here, he’s posing with former NFL Football player for the Seattle Seahawks, Carl Ditmars (who also happens to be my personal trainer, and since that night, a true, new Guitar Shorty fan).
To learn more about Guitar Shorty and see where he’s playing next on tour, visit http://www.guitarshorty.com/ . To buy CDs and other “Shorty Stuff,” and listen to clips from his album “We the People” visit: (http://www.guitarshorty.com/store.html
….filed by Alison Blackman Dunham on 2/28/08