B.B. King Blues Club, November 19, 2004:
Kathy and I come into Manhattan early. We stop and see the beautiful Christmas windows at Macy’s in Herald Square. There is a huge crowd outside B.B. King’s, looking at a covered object on 42nd Street. A jumper has decided to end it all. Although we are an hour early, we are numbers four and five for the show tonight. Down at Lucille’s Bar, we soon meet, talk and get to know numbers one, two and three. The earliest person to arrive for tonight’s show is Kevin Lynch from Midwood, Brooklyn. Kevin is a bassist and we have many mutual experiences and musical topics to discuss. We hit it off immediately. The other early birds are Joe and Rosanne. They are originally from Brooklyn, but now reside in Wappingers Falls, in Dutchess County, New York. We also hit it off and the vibe is excellent. Their son Joe and his girlfriend Cassandra soon join us.
We all go in at 6:00 P.M., when the doors open. I am on the guest list +1 tonight, thanks again to Rena Siwek, who takes care of me so very well. We all share a large table, back from the stage a few feet. Although I usually sit against the stage, this was a better choice tonight. These new friends are so warm and genuine; we just have to sit with them. Samana serves us tonight and the food and service is excellent, as always. Joe Ciccone (the father) entertains us all with stories from the 50’s, from the old school of no nonsense discipline and much simpler times, in their old neighborhood.
At 7:45 P.M. Raul Midon takes the stage. His creative musical style instantly draws us into his unique and refreshing stage presence and personal charm. His first composition, “You Make Me Feel Alright,” is an upbeat reggae style. The minor key and double time percussive style of his strumming attack captures my undivided attention immediately. This song is very lively and spirited. Raul has a strong vocal presentation, which is quite appealing and sung with conviction. He adds an interesting skat vocal attribute to his singing style and the percussive aspect of his guitar strumming makes his solo appearance seem much like a small band. Raul displays excellent dynamic control. He strikes the first beat of each measure with the open palm of his strumming hand, in double-time percussive eighth notes on the strings and body of his acoustic guitar. The tempo he performs is executed succinctly and exacting. He also plays the chord melody simultaneously, with his forefinger and then all fingers, for various dynamic effects. His fingernails make the strumming effect both crisp and clear. Raul’s vocal is powerful with full high register capabilities utilizing both vibrato and falsetto easily and smoothly.
Raul introduces the next song, by telling us of his humble beginnings in New Mexico. His move to New York City was a culture shock especially with respect to the rent. The serene and wonderful surroundings of New Mexico, especially for a blind person, have to be conceived from the imagination. To see the world through the mind’s eye is the inspiration for the next song, “It’s All In Your Mind.” This song is a slow, delicate, sincere and heartfelt ballad. Raul executes a nice slow finger style approach to this composition. His reserved percussive style is blended with gently fingered arpeggios of the chords. The vocal is commanding and very much in a Stevie Wonder style. The tune is moving and impassioned and culminates with a strong high vibrato vocal effect that Raul holds especially long, with a confident and assured ease.
“If You Really Want” is a bit jazzier in musical interpretation. His percussive strumming, complemented by the back-and-forth motion of his fingers, helps to push the succinct tone of the chords. He rhythmically slaps the strings as he surprisingly adds a trumpet solo with just his mouth and the microphone! The timbre of the simulated trumpet is so real; you would never know it was actually just his voice, amazing! A unique musical imagery is created from his fresh and different musical talent. The next song, “Suddenly,” is a slow and poignant ballad. This is a delicate and tasteful chord melody. Raul is an excellent storyteller. The vocal is soothing and enchanting and the glorious musical message shines brightly, both loud and clear. Raul’s euphonic musical painting is full of vibrant color, warmth and a truly personal pallet of creative energy.
Raul explains that the next song is about a fictional character who comes to New York to make his dreams come true. Since this is a blues club, Raul thought this would be apropos. The song, “Ain’t Happenin’ Yet,” is an upbeat blues composition. The musical presentation is humorous and uplifting and the audience loves it! The blues progression, in the key of A, is modern, witty and inventive. The vocal delivery is strong and convincing. The falsetto vocal is powerful and controlled. Raul takes another trumpet solo from his lips to the mic. Close your eyes and the trumpet tone is totally authentic and virtually fool-proof to the ear.
Raul was asked to compose s pop-flamenco song and he came up with, “Never Get Enough.” He explains that he had a great experience making his new CD, Blind To Reality, at EMI Manhattan with Arif Mardin. Raul is rhythmically spanking the chords as his strong fingertips crisply accent the chords on the ones. Raul’s right hand is very inventive as he executes the superior melody. There is a nice stop with clearly articulated rhythmic and dynamic control.
“State Of Mind” is the finale song of this inspirational and exciting first set. The musical presentation is upbeat and intense. His progressive and inventive finger strumming is combined with the open hand slaps on the strings. This is creatively combined with quite unique chord hammering, using bar chord forms, and sequenced finger rhythms that are very different. I have never really seen this type of combined musical technique used on the guitar before. His vocal delivery is delightfully sensual and sexy. Raul executes a vocal trumpet solo, in a harmonic unison with his lead playing on the guitar. This is a totally amazing musical performance. Raul adds a skat vocal to complement the other exceptional performance tricks he pulls out of his musical hat, for this show-stopper. The vocal attack is strong, passionate and sublime. YEAH BABY!
Raul Midon is new, fresh and exciting. His very personal compositions and tremendous performance technique is uniquely captivating and will definitely propel him that fame and fortune his songs speak of. Raul Midon’s lyrics exclaim, “I wanna be rich,” and in musical terms, he already is!
Just a fabulous performance!
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