This blues wizard dished on evolving the art form, before playing Arden on Nov. 16
Philadelphia 76ers legend Allen Iverson would probably love being a member of Albert Cumming’s blues group. That’s because the bluesman isn’t crazy about band practice.
“In my whole life I’ve only had one band rehearsal,” Cummings said. “I do not believe in figuring out every little part of everything.”
Cummings is a guitar wizard from Massachusetts who’s shared the stage with blues juggernauts like Buddy Guy and B.B. King. He has six studio albums and two live records under his belt, with the latest being “Live At the ‘62 Center” (2017).
Cummings will paint the Arden Gild Hall with red, white and blues in a headline performance Saturday, Nov. 16 with guest Katie Henry.
The bluesman dished on how he and his bandmates mesh on stage without rehearsing, a good chat he had with B.B. King, and more.
If you don’t rehearse, how do you guys get the music down pat?
I just send them the stuff. But my guys are really good, man [laughs]. It might sound egotistical. But regular guys can’t play with me. I’ll fire them after one show because I can’t have that. I’ve had so many different variations of bands. When I said I’ve only one rehearsal in my life, that’s almost true. When I first started a band, when I was starting out, of course I’d get together with the guys once a week and we’d mess with things. But once I started rolling and touring, we’d never get together and have rehearsals.
Does that scare you on stage sometimes?
People might think that’s the worst thing in the world. But I like to have my band looking at me like, “What are we going to do next?” Then I’m looking at them like, “I don’t know. But this groove is starting to sound like this song. So here we go, on to this one!”
The stereotype is all blues music is depressing. Is there any way to fix that?
I’ve had this conversation with B.B. King. The music has to evolve. If you look at any of the greats, you’ll hear them all say the same thing, because what made each one of them great is they evolved and became something that was non-existent at that time. [If it wasn’t for evolution] there would be no Jimi Hendrix. People don’t even realize Hendrix had a blues band. People don’t realize the Rolling Stones started out as a blues band, or Zeppelin.
In the blues community, is there a lot of resistance against evolving the art form?
There’s a lot of people in the blues world, and there’s all types of terms for these people. I’ll call them traditionalists. They feel the blues is only good if it came out from 1955 to 1969, or something. You have to go out and perform the blues, and notice I said “perform,” because they want to hear it exactly how it was played in, let’s say, 1965. That’s when blues was good.
What these people are missing is that’s just their preferred room of the blues. The blues is a big house and there’s a room for everybody; that’s how the old saying goes. These people seem to think you have to listen to blues like it was presented in 1965. These same people are not wearing clothes from 1965. They’re not brushing their teeth with the same toothbrush they used from 1965. They’re not driving the same cars from 1965. Yet, the music has to be played exactly like it was in 1965? If Muddy Waters didn’t plug in his guitar, we’d still be listening to Robert Johnson’s stuff.