B.B. King - guitar, vocals; Milton Hopkins - guitar; James Toney - organ, piano; Big Joe Turner - bass; Calep Emphrey - drums; Walter King - tenor sax; Eddie Rowe - trumpet; Cato Walker - alto sax
On June 20, 21, and 22, 1978, the Bottom Line hosted six memorable performances billed as "An Evening with B.B. King." The legendary blues man delivered memorable performances all three nights before intimate audiences that included many celebrities and musicians. Johnny and Edgar Winter turned up on the second night, jazz guitarist George Benson on the final night (all of whom were invited to jam with King), and even Jacqueline Kennedy Onnassis was spotted in the audience. The King Biscuit Flower Hour was on hand to record the last two nights of the run and subsequently released highlights as The King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents B.B. King Live! Up until now, the remainder of the recordings had not seen the light of day. Here for the first time, is the content that did not make the album from the final performance of this legendary run.
The recording begins seconds after the band's warm-up sequence, during the instrumental vamp where B.B. King joins them onstage. Things immediately get cooking with the jump blues song, "Caledonia," a classic originally recorded in 1945 by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five. The group takes a relatively relaxed approach to "How Blue Can You Get" before launching into the up-tempo rocker, "Walking Dr. Bill," a classic King original dating back to 1961. The instrumental that follows allows King to flex his guitar chops and features plenty of the stinging overdriven guitar tone that he pioneered. This is followed by an expansive take on "Why I Sing The Blues," featuring more biting leads from King and exemplary organ work from Toney. This also showcases the rhythm section, which get solo spots during the second vocal break. Big Joe Turner takes a very impressive solo after which King and the band develop many quick biting phrases with quick starts and stops, accentuating the drum fills from Emphrey.
Track 7 consists of the dialogues and thank you monologues that originally surrounded "Iceman," "I Got Some Outside Help I Don't Need," and "Just A Little Love" (all with George Benson guesting). This leads up to "Just Can't Leave Your Love Alone," one of the most driving tracks from King's 1978 album, Midnight Believer. The strident and celebratory New Orleans flavored arrangement belies the woeful lyrics lamenting lost love. Another great track from that album follows with the infectious funk-flavored "Never Make Your Move To Soon." The version of "The Thrill Is Gone" that follows was one of the highlights on the officially released album The King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents B.B. King Live! CD.
After thanking a long list of people who contributed to making this extended New York City engagement such a success, King touchingly leaves the audience with the thought of "When you think of the blues, think of B.B. King once in a while," before performing a short but beautiful rendition of Jesse Belvin's 1959 Top 40 hit, "Guess Who." This serves as a touching close to the performance and features lovely muted trumpet accompaniment from Eddie Rowe, before the band launch into the outro instrumental as King exits the stage on the final performance.
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