If you like blues, dancing, and having fun there is no better band for you than Fuzzy Knight’s Blowin’ Smoke Rhythm & Blues Band with the Smokettes, and there is no better place to see them than at Harvell’s in Santa Monica where I saw him Saturday night. Knight grew up in St. Louis and witnessed almost all of the great R&B touring revues like Ray Charles, Ike Turner & the Kings of Rhythm, James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and so many more. That experience taught him lessons in the blues and in pleasing crowds that he uses every minute he is on stage.
He was on stage Saturday night at Harvell’s Saturday night for a lot of minutes with his full band a four piece horn section plus the fabulous Smokettes (and they ae fabulous – any one of these ladies could have been the lead singer). Knight led the band from the back corner, in the groove with seasoned baselines and throaty vocals while drummer Carl Thompson kept things moving at full tilt. Bill Steinway provided texture, accents and the occasional well-timed and often gut-punching solos on the keys around the amazing guitar chops and vocals of British-born Dave Raven Rutchinski.
A welcome feature of Blowin Smoke is the horn section. Born of Knight’s years of watching classic Saint Louis Blues bands with their horn sections, he knows how powerful brass can be, how it can give personality to even the best drum/guitar/bass/keyboard bands. The horn section – Tom Morgan Jr. on tenor sax, Steve Stassi on trumpet, Lance Keller on trombone, and Reggie Waddel on baritone sax – added color, personality and just plain fun to an already high powered and high fun scene.
It was The Smokettes who stole the show, however. Madame Dee (Dwanna Parker), La Quita Davis, and newcomer Francesca Capasso added not only vocals, but a bond with the fans that they will remember (and post all over the internet). From celebrating anniversaries and birthdays, to leading call and response singing, to bringing women up on stage to dance and sing with them, the Smokettes are the epitome of entertainment talent. I expect to see hundreds of tweets, retweets, and Instagrams from the people they touched on the dance floor Saturday night.
While we in LA are lucky that there are dozens of great bands and singers, playing weekly or monthly in dance venues, Blowin Smoke is a stand out. Their music is on the money, their excitement is contagious, and Fuzzy’s skill in assembling artists and putting on a show year after year is one of LA’s treasures. And no wonder; he broke into blues in his mid-teens by playing with Albert King, Little Milton, Chuck Berry and Ike Turner, all residing in St. Louis at that time. Fuzzy witnessed the great touring R&B revues like Ray Charles, Ike Turner & the Kings of Rhythm, James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Little Milton, and so many more. That impression stuck with him as he rolls out one of the best blues reviews in LA.
Although that experience was from a so-called “golden age” of blues and R&B and his CD , Beyond the Blues Horizon recorded live at BB Kings Blues Clue, is classic blues, no grass grows under Knight’s feet. He knows exactly how to pull in and enchant millennials as well as the usual blues crowd. There was no shortage of 20 and 30-somethings rocking out on the dance floor and taking selfies with the Smokettes. Fun is fun at any age.
Like I said, if you like blues, dancing and having fun, put Fuzzy Knight’s Blowin Smoke Rhythm & Blues Band is the band for you. Follow their website or put them on your tracker list on BandsInTown and get over to Harvell’s any night they are there.