Rockford's pickin' guitar blues masters Steve Ditzell and Bob Levis opened for Ann Rabson at the Mendelssohn Club on April 20th, with a special half-hour performance.
When Crossroads Blues Society President Mark Thompson introduced the former Chicagoans, he shared an impressive list of famous artists with whom the two have played; I believe both Junior Wells and Otis Rush would have been proud to see Ditzell and Levis on stage together that night.
With Ditzell on lead and Levis on rhythm with an occasional solo, they performed as an acoustic duo. They established the tone for night of music education with the blues roots tune by Howlin' Wolf, "Sitting On Top Of The World" and moved through the short-but-pithy set with material from Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters and other legendary performers. Rockford's own enthuasiast Harmonica Joe sat in on their last selection, "Let Me Ride In Your Automobile."
Ditzell's acoustic slide work and the pleasant melodies created by the duo provided a relaxing, informative introduction to Ann Rabson's laidback, earth mother approach to the blues as she sees it.
Rabson's appearance was part of a Blues In The Schools offering, with school performances at Barbour and Ellis Arts Academy in addition to the Mendelssohn Club show. Barbour's assistant principal, Larry Turnquist, attended the evening performance and gave praise to Rabson's talents and interaction with the kids earlier that day.
Rabson shared stories about her musical family, school days, and her husband, George, about whom she wrote a song called "Ode To George."
An excellent pianist, vocalist and guitarist, Rabson is a consummate musician, combining elements from different genres with the blues and giving them twists and turns from her own heart and mind.
The all-ages event was free to students through high school, and Rabson made sure she included some audience participation on the classic "One Meatball."
When the show was over, I realized this was the best $10 I had spent in a long time. Special thanks to Crossroads, Charlotte's Web and Mendelssohn Club for bringing Ann here and for choosing Bob and Steve as the opening act. It was truly a night of education and culture, a true celebration of American music.