Mitch Kashmar,
Live at Labatt
(Delta Groove, 2008)

West Coast harmonica player Mitch Kashmar has been making a name for himself with his own albums and his appearances with rock and blues giants. His outfits have served as the backing band for such artists as Lowell Fulson, Albert Collins and Big Joe Turner, among others. He served in the most recent incarnation of the '70s soul band War. While still young, he's been well-schooled and, as this live set shows, knows what he's doing.

Although known as a harp wizard, Kashmar fronts a tight, unified band that he features, allowing every member room to stretch out and contribute to the good-time, soulful vibe they create.

Kashmar knows how to build a set. He opens with a fast-tempo blues shuffle that allows him and the band members to strut a little. It serves to introduce the band and to establish a groove that they use an anchor as the show progresses. The next few songs are variations on the groove, good-timing, uptempo standard blues numbers and then, when you figure you've got them figured, the band shifts into a jazz composition, Horace Silver's "Song for My Father," nine minutes and 27 seconds of beautiful, skillful playing.

That's what Kashmar does. He mixes songs and styles, blending together a package that both satisfies your expectations even as it challenges them. He praises the band members, calling attention to their solos and making sure they get their time in the spotlight, but the set never becomes just a collection of individual players showing off. All of them serve the song and each musician serves the band as a whole.

Live at Labatt is Mitch Kashmar and his fellow musicians at their best. Search it out. It's worth it.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

9 May 2009

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new