Nathan and The Zydeco Cha Chas

Official Website: www.zydecochachas.com

Nathan formed The Cha-Chas back in 1985, and since then has brought his unique take on this
regional South Louisiana music to all corners of the globe. From Lincoln Center in New York to
The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Nathan’s music has crossed all barriers to speak to the very
heart of his audience.

Inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and honored in 2015 with the Zydeco
Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The Cha-Chas have been voted the top
Festival Band in the country according to the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and
Tourism and USA Today and have won the coveted Big Easy award for Best Zydeco Band for
several years running.

Nathan and his band have been featured in the New York Times, Essence and People magazines,
and on the cover of USA Today. They’ve appeared in films like In The Electric Mist as well as the
soundtrack sharing credits with Michael Doucet and Buddy Guy and The Kingdom of Zydeco,
and worked with artists as diverse as Cyndi Lauper on the album Creole Bred.

Keepers of the Zydeco Flame, they are committed to keeping their Creole heritage alive.

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats

Official Website: rickestrin.com

Every night that award-winning harmonica player, singer and songwriter Rick Estrin and his cohorts The Nightcats perform live— wherever in the world that may be—a crowd of dancing, shouting, laughing and cheering people will be enjoying some of the best live music they’ve ever heard. On one of these nights —October 5, 2013, at San Francisco’s Biscuits And Blues—the proceedings were captured live. The result is Rick Estrin & The Nightcats’ irresistible new release, You Asked For It…Live!. The band was, as they always are, on fire. The hometown, sell-out crowd was ready to explode, and the front man was celebrating his birthday. According to Estrin, “Cutting loose and stretching out in an intimate, nightclub-type setting is the natural environment for the Nightcats to kick maximum ass. The fact that it was my birthday, in the town where I was born and raised, only added more fuel to the fire.”

You Asked For It…Live! has the immediacy, feel and fun of a true Rick Estrin & The Nightcats performance. “No matter how much fun we have and how relaxed we can be in the studio, there’s still nothing like being in front of, and interacting with, our live audience,” Estrin says. The album features some of Rick Estrin’s best-loved and most-requested songs, dating back to his days as lead singer, songwriter and harmonica player of Little Charlie & The Nightcats (featuring Little Charlie Baty on guitar). The album is an up-to-the-minute and totally accessible slice of original, wry and witty blues with a simmering, funky rock edge fueled by Andersen’s blazing genre-hopping guitar and Farrell’s and Hansen’s dazzling keyboard and rhythm work. One listen makes it clear that this is a group comprised of four world-class musicians, who together form one of the tightest and most original bands in any genre.

 

“Infectious, captivating, powerful blues….Intense Chicago-style harp playing, witty songs and tough-as-nails grooves” –Living Blues

 

Rick Estrin, who holds the 2013 Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist– Harmonica, is, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, “an amazing harmonica player, a soulful lead vocalist and a brilliant songwriter.” He ranks among the very best harp players, singers and songwriters in the blues world. His work on the reeds is deep in the tradition of harmonica masters Sonny Boy Williamson II and Little Walter Jacobs, while at the same time pushing that tradition forward with his unforgettable original songs. And his hipster, street-smart vocals are the perfect vehicle for driving those songs home. Blues Revue says, “Estrin has created some of the finest blues songs of any artist on the planet. His carefully wrought lyrics penetrate human weakness with the precision of a boxer, though more often than not, he chooses to leave you laughing after the blow’s been struck.”

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats— jaw-dropping guitarist Chris “Kid” Andersen, singing drummer (who plays standing up) J. Hansen and dynamic multiinstrumentalist Lorenzo Farrell (electric and acoustic bass, organ and Moog synthesizer)—serve up fresh and modern original blues injected with a solid dose of gritty roadhouse rock ‘n’ roll and Estrin’s trademark philosophical wiseguy humor. Since the 2009 release of their celebrated Alligator Records debut Twisted and the 2012 follow up One Wrong Turn, the band has toured non-stop, sharpening their musical telepathy to a razor’s edge.

Estrin won the 1994 Blues Music Award for Song Of The Year for his composition “My Next Ex-Wife” and has written songs for a growing legion of other musicians. Three of his songs found their way onto Grammy-nominated albums: “Don’t Put Your Hands On Me” (on Koko Taylor’s Force Of Nature), “I’m Just Lucky That Way” (on Robert Cray’s Shame + A Sin), and “Homely Girl” (on John Hammond’s Trouble No More). Estrin cites Sonny Boy Williamson II, Percy Mayfield and Detroit bluesman Baby Boy Warren as his major songwriting influences. Besides Estrin’s streetwise songwriting and musical skills, he is among the most entertaining and colorful showmen around. His quick wit (as heard to great effect during the introductions to “My Next Ex-Wife” and “That’s Big”) and his signature look—coifed hair, pencil-thin mustache and sharply pressed, custom made suits—add even more color to his performances. “People don’t go out to see people who look like themselves,” says Estrin. “They want to see something special. I was schooled in this business to be a showman, and that’s what you get when you come to see me perform.”

 

“These are serious musicians out to have a hotter than hot good time. It’s tough to stay in your seat when Estrin and his musical cohorts get cooking.” –Chicago Sun-Times

 

Estrin was born in San Francisco, California in 1949, and grew up following his own path. He discovered an entirely new world when, as a 10-year-old boy, he made his way to the tough Market Street area and befriended many of the neighborhood characters. He had another revelation when his older sister gave him a copy of Ray Charles’ The Genius Sings The Blues when he was 12. Albums from Jimmy Reed, Champion Jack Dupree, Mose Allison, Nina Simone and others soon followed. By the time he was a teenager, Estrin had completely identified with the urban, African-American culture surrounding him. He got his first harmonica at age 15, and by age 18 was proficient enough to begin sitting in at black clubs around the city. He first jammed with blues master Lowell Fulson and almost immediately was hired to open five shows for R&B giant Z.Z. Hill. He worked five nights a week for almost a year with guitar legend Travis Phillips in a band fronted by famed pimp/bluesman Fillmore Slim (who was the centerpiece of the acclaimed Hughes Brothers documentary American Pimp). Slim introduced Estrin to Rodger Collins (“She’s Looking Good,” “Foxy Girls In Oakland”), the man who would become Rick’s first real musical mentor, and who schooled Rick on the finer points of songwriting and show business. Estrin moved to Chicago when he was 19 and worked with South Side bluesmen Johnny Young, Eddie Taylor, Sam Lay and Johnny Littlejohn before meeting and jamming with Muddy Waters, who told Rick, “You outta sight, boy! You got that sound, boy! You play like a man, boy!” In fact, Muddy wanted Estrin to go on the road with him, but due to nothing more than a missed phone call, it never happened. Rick eventually moved back to the Bay Area, met Charlie Baty and formed Little Charlie & The Nightcats.

For more than 30 years and nine albums, Rick fronted the band, featuring Baty’s one-of-a-kind guitar acrobatics. The band won international acclaim and toured the world repeatedly. They were nominated four times for the prestigious Blues Music Award for Band Of The Year. With Charlie’s retirement from touring in 2008, Rick rededicated himself to his craft. Hansen and Farrell wanted to keep the band going. Estrin knew the only way to replace Baty’s crazed and unique guitar style was to find someone with an equally insane and individual approach, and he knew that would be a tall order to fill.

 

“Fabulous, remarkable original material” –Billboard

 

As luck would have it, Kid Andersen, who had been working with another harp legend, Charlie Musselwhite, became available. “Kid’s a fearless nut on the guitar,” says Estrin. “He’s really the only guy who could fit in with us.” With an unpredictable, no-holds-barred style that perfectly meshed with Estrin’s wildly imaginative original songs, the new band charged out of the gate with Twisted in 2009 and One Wrong Turn in 2012. Blues Revue raved, “Rick Estrin & The Nightcats are one of modern blues’ most versatile and original bands.”

As a testament to their talent, audiences at their performances are often peppered with musicians wanting to glean a lick from these dynamic musical masters. Fans ask to go home with a CD that reflects what they just witnessed. Now, with You Asked For It…Live!, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats can satisfy their fans’ demands. Estrin recalls, “After shows, people are always asking, ’Are any of these CDs live? Which of your CDs is most like what you did tonight?’ Now, I can tell them, ‘This one right here. Thank you. We’ll be happy to sign it.’”

THE NIGHTCATS:

Kid Andersen (guitar, background vocals)
Chris “Kid” Andersen was born in Telemark, Norway in 1980. A blues fan since childhood, Andersen fell in love with the music of Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Junior Watson, and the Kings (B.B., Albert and Freddie). By the time he was 18, he was backing all the American blues stars who came through Norway, including Homesick James, Nappy Brown and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. He moved to California at age 21, eventually earning himself a green card as an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability.” Andersen released four solo albums before joining blues harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite’s band in 2004, a gig that lasted until he joined Rick Estrin & The Nightcats. Andersen runs his own recording studio, where he has produced and mixed recordings by artists including Elvin Bishop, John Nemeth and Finis Tasby, as well as all three Rick Estrin & The Nightcats CDs.

Lorenzo Farrell (upright and electric bass, piano, organ, synthesizer)
Lorenzo Farrell was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, where he started playing piano at age five. During his high school years in California, he discovered jazz and made the switch to upright acoustic bass. After high school, Farrell took several years off from his music career to earn a degree in Philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley, and study religion in Delhi, India. Since returning to the San Francisco Bay Area, he has been a highly sought-after multi-instrumentalist, having returned to piano and mastered organ in recent years. A Nightcat since 2003, Lorenzo has also had the opportunity to perform and/or record with many other artists, including Collective Amnesia, the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, Noora Noor, Terry Hanck, and Steve Lucky and the Rhumba Bums.

Sugar Blue

Official Website: sugar-blue.com

TOUR DATES

Sugar Blue is known as the Jimi Hendrix and Charlie Parker of the harmonica for his astonishing technical mastery. His style is melodically fluid, instantly recognizable for its soaring trills, flamboyant flourishes and swooping glissandos that bring the tiny dynamo’s remarkable sonic and emotional range to life.

Born in Harlem, New York he spent his childhood listening to performances by some of the finest show people of the day, including Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon and James Brown, at the famous Apollo Theatre where his mother was a singer and dancer.

His fate was sealed when an aunt gave him a harmonica for his tenth birthday: it was instant love and he began playing along with Bob Dylan (with whom he would later record…) and Stevie Wonder songs on the radio as well as Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson. It was this diverse background that gave birth to his own unique sound.

A Greenwich Village street entertainer, Blue found his distinctive nick name amongst some 78s in a box thrown out of a window on hot summer night… . “The box almost hit me…I picked a record up,” he remembers, “and it said ‘Sugar Blues’ by Sidney Bechet. And I went -That’s it! ” He made his first recordings in the mid 1970s with pioneering blues figures Brownie McGhee, Roosevelt Sykes, Victoria Spivey and Johnny Shines.

…the man who took Little Walter’s innovations on that same instrument clear into the stratosphere

-Time Out Chicago

On the advice of pianist Memphis Slim, he moved to Paris, France where he met the Rolling Stones who used his unmistakable sound to good advantage on three of their albums: that’s Sugar Blue’s harmonica blasting on their ’78 platinum disco hit “Miss You”.

He waxed a pair of albums, Crossroads and From Paris to Chicago, in Europe before moving to Chicago to learn more from the giants of the blues harmonica. He toured with Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All Stars, formed his own band and won a Grammy in 1985 for his contribution to the album Blues Explosion recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival. He also played on Willie Dixon’s Grammy winning album Hidden Charms in 1989.

“…one of the foremost harmonica players of our times …”

-Rolling Stone

Blue has made a few appearances on the big screen too: he performed in the Cinemax special, Fats Domino and Friends, (with Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis and others) in the 1987 thriller, Angel Heart starring Robert DeNiro and in the recent years in “The Perfect Age of Rock’n’Roll” along with Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Ruby Dee and Peter Fonda.

After a brace of albums, Blue Blazes (1994) and In Your Eyes (1995), on the prestigious Alligator label, Blue took a 12-year hiatus from the studio, returning in 2008 with the highly acclaimed Code Blue., followed by Threshold and his latest work, a powerful live double album “Raw Sugar Live”.

Sugar Blue is currently working meticulously on a studio album always mindful of the advice of his mentor Willie Dixon to write about subjects you are passionate about. “That’s the key,” Blue says. “We all feel deeply; it’s part of the human experience. I just put music to it.”

The Milligan Vaughan Project

Official Website: milliganvaughanproject.com

It has been said that the sum is always greater than the parts. The parts can be good but together they are exceptional and that holds true in the case of MVP. The Milligan Vaughan Project or MVP is a musical partnership between Austin’s highly acclaimed vocalist Malford Milligan – and – guitar slinger Tyrone Vaughan both of whom have a rich musical history steeped in The Blues and Rock and Roll. It was at an early age that both were introduced to music that would become an integral part of their lives.

Some of Tyrone’s earliest memories go back to the early days of Antones, Austin’s legendary Home of the Blues. The legendary Muddy Waters gave him one of his harmonicas which he proceeded to blow on, and Muddy put cotton in Tyrone’s ears before starting his set. He found himself sleeping in Boz Skaggs guitar case and as a kid wearing out his toy guitars in no time. His first true guitar given to him on his 5th birthday by his uncle Stevie Ray Vaughan was an old Harmony scored at the local pawn shop. Later on it was Stevie, Lou Ann Barton and WC Clark all pitching in and buying Tyrone a Fender Musicmaster. Stevie Ray was very proud of that small neck guitar and happy that his nephew was following in his and his father Jimmie’s footsteps. Since those early years, he has performed with Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Doyle Bramhall, Doyle Bramhall II, (Little) Jimmy King, SRV’s Double Trouble, Pinetop Perkins, John Popper and Eric Gales. In April of 2015, Vaughan joined Royal Southern Brotherhood (RSB) featuring Cyril Neville on vocals, in result of 2 albums on Ruf Records, one recorded at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL and the other album recorded at Dockside Studios in Maurice LA.

No stranger to the blues, Malford Milligan was born in Taylor, Texas but as a young child music took a back seat to just trying to get by. In 1981, after a short stay in Lubbock, TX as a student at Texas Tech, Milligan moved to Austin to begin studies at the University of Texas. Instead of academics, singing took precedent and Monday night blues jams became the beginning of a life in music. His local band, Stick People, launched his career as a talented singer. In 1994, he helped form the Texas super group, Storyville, with David HoltDavid Grissom and the rhythm section from Stevie Ray Vaughan‘s Double Trouble, which included bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton. Storyville released two stellar albums on Atlantic Records along with the independently released CD/DVD titled LIVE AT ANTONES. As a session singer, Milligan was in great demand. He toured and worked on albums together with other outstanding musicians, including Hal KetchumMarcia BallAlejandro EscovedoSue Foley and Eric Johnson. He has also appeared on The Voice NBC TV series on September 30, 2013 and was recently named “Vocalist of the Year” at The Austin Chronicle Music Awards.

Both Malford and Tyrone have a deep love for the Blues, along with a strong mutual respect for each other, and both share a part in Austin’s rich musical history. At the time when each were looking to see what the future held and what musical path they might take – one phone call followed by a short meeting brought the two together – and The Milligan Vaughan Project was launched. There is a feeling of family here. Though not technically related the bond between them is still strong. The stage is where they are both most comfortable and the synergy between these two musicians which will bring you to your feet.

So what does 2017 hold for these two talented musicians? After an inaugural performance for Austin’s SUN Radio, followed by a public show at South by Southwest, look for MVP to head into the studio to record their debut CD followed by a worldwide tour. Hold on! This ride is just starting and the future looks mighty bright indeed.

Zac Harmon

Official Website: www.zacharmon.com

Tour Dates

Zac Harmon is an award-winning guitarist, organist, singer, and songwriter whose distinctive style combines the best of old-school soul-blues artists with modern lyrics and themes that bring the blues into a new century.  His new Blind Pig CD, Right Man Right Now, is contemporary music that proves just how alive and relevant the blues is today.

Blues Revue called Harmon “aImasterful musician and performer of the blues.”  Blues journalist Don Wilcock referred to his “Bobby Blue Bland uptown sophistication with a touch of Freddie King guitar.”  And JazzReview said, “With his big blues sound from Mississippi, Harmon can go toe to toe with some of the best blues men in the business. Please don’t be shy, go ahead and mention Harmon’s name in the same sentence with Bobby “Blue” Bland, Albert King and Bobby Rush—just to name a few.”

Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Zac Harmon is a true embodiment of the music that emanated from the city’s historic Farish Street district, home of blues legend Elmore James. Given that Zac was exposed to a lot of music in his home, neighborhood, and local culture, it’s not surprising that he turned out a blues musician.   His mom played piano, and his dad, the city’s first black pharmacist, played harmonica and tended to the needs of artists such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, Albert King, and Little Milton.

His next door neighbor was a music instructor who would host friends such as Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Harry Belafonte in her home.  Another neighbor, Bill Farris, a blues scholar who worked with noted folklorist Alan Lomax and founded the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, recorded a number of Delta blues artists in his home, including Skip James.

Zac started his professional career at age sixteen, playing guitar with Sam Myers, a friend of his father’s.  Two years later he was playing with Dorothy Moore, Z.Z. Hill and other well-known blues artists who were passing through on regional tours.

In the early eighties, at age 21, he moved to Los Angeles to take a real shot at the music business.   He worked as a studio musician at first and eventually established a very successful career as a songwriter and producer.   He worked on major films, television shows, and well-known national commercials, even being hired at one point by Michael Jackson as a staff writer for his publishing company.  Harmon wrote songs for the likes of Evelyn “Champagne” King, Freddie Jackson, the Whispers, K-Ci  & Jo Jo, and the O’Jays.   He also produced songs for reggae band Black Uhuru‘s Mystical Truth album, which received a Grammy nomination in 1994.

After composing and performing some blues songs for a movie score, Harmon felt compelled to pursue his longtime dream of returning to his roots and recording his first blues project.  The result was 2003’s Live at Babe & Ricky’s Inn, an electrifying testimony to Mississippi blues, which showcased the sound at its best and introduced Harmon as a true torchbearer for the “next generation of the Blues.”  In 2004, Harmon and his band, the Mid South Blues Revue, sponsored by the Southern California Blues Society, traveled to Memphis and won the Blues Foundation’s prestigious International Blues Challenge title of “Best Unsigned Band.”

His next release, in 2005, was The Blues According To Zacariah, which garnered major national airplay, including XM, Sirius and the American Blues Network.  XM listeners voted Harmon “Best New Blues Artist” in the inaugural XM Nation Awards in 2005.  In 2006, Harmon won the coveted Blues Music Award for “Best New Artist Debut” for The Blues According to Zacariah.  Later that year, he was featured in Blues Revue magazine as one of the 10 artists that “represent the future of the blues,” calling him a “latter-day Eric Clapton or Robert Cray with shades of Luther Allison and BB King.”

Zac Harmon entertained U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait in 2008 as one the stars of Bluzapalooza and while headlining “The Pizza & Pyramid Tour” of Sicily, Italy and Cairo, Egypt in late 2009, Harmon and company made history with a rare performance at site of the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx, making the ensemble only the second blues act to do so; Louis Armstrong being the first.

In 2008, he released Shot in the Kill Zone in Europe, which was recorded live at the Lionel Hampton Room in Paris.  He then signed with the Northern Blues label for his third and much-anticipated U.S. album, From the Root, which was released April 2009.   Living Blues said, “It takes a truly gifted artist to go in as many directions over the course of a single CD as Harmon does here and still retain a sense of coherence.  For that alone, this is a pretty remarkable outing—but the real treat is the quality of the music itself, from beginning to end.”

Also in 2009, Zac was honored for his career achievements in his beloved hometown at the Jackson Music Awards, and weeks later in Nashville, the Jus’ Blues Music Foundation bestowed the “Little Milton” Guitar Award for “Outstanding Guitar Player” upon him.  That same year Harmon branched out into acting, with a major role in the independent feature film Black and Blue, released in 2010.

Zac was a featured performer for the 2010 “Mississippi Celebrates its “Grammy Legacy” celebration, hosted by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, where he was presented with a Peavey Award, which honors the state’s many Grammy winners and nominees as well as individuals who have played a significant role in developing and furthering Mississippi’s musical heritage.

Harmon released his next album, Music Is Medicine, in 2012.   Blues Bytes called it an “album of his exciting brand of blues, which mixes elements of soul, funk, gospel and R&B effortlessly, and this latest disc ranks as his best so far.”

Since then he’s been on a roll, becoming one of the blues’ strongest live performers, thrilling fans everywhere from Memphis to Mumbai.  His live performances combine elements of everything that influenced him: soul-blues, gospel, reggae, and modern blues-rock.

BluesWax said of a festival appearance, “Harmon’s stage show is like a Blues symphony where he segues from one song to the next without a moment’s hesitation, building a head of steam that is orgasmic.  Mixing classic boogie gliders with originals, he builds a West Side guitar sound that’s almost as sweet and simultaneously rough as classic Magic Sam into a showcase presentation that takes a lot of pages from Buddy Guy as far as dynamics. His hour on stage went by in an instant.”

In another live review, Jazz Now said, “His show affirmed all the hoopla that surrounds those dubbed as the hottest new act… Soulful vocals, breathtaking showmanship… His flashy guitar style belies the solid sound that he radiated on every tune, admirably backed by a fantastic band.”

With Right Man Right Now Harmon finally brings that excitement to a brand new CD, his bluesiest ever.  Addressing issues straight from today’s headlines, Zac presents them in a fresh original style built on the best blues tradition. And he has some incredibly talented musicians helping him – guests include Bobby Rush, Lucky Peterson, Anson Funderburgh and Mike Finnegan.

The album provides definitive proof that Zac Harmon is indeed the right man to firmly establish all that blues can and should be right now in the second decade of the new millennium.