People were waiting in a very long line on 42ND street to see Al Kooper and celebrate his 65Th birthday on Saturday February 7Th. It was standing room only and it was great to see this turn out. The show opened with Danny Kalb, fame guitarist of Al Kooper's Blues Project days. Danny played acoustic guitar accompanied by Al and up right bass and drums. It was as if time had ceased and the familiar groove was effortlessly found. Then Al shared a chronological walk down memory lane and playing guitar he recreated the sounds of the baby boomers youth. Next Jimmy Vivino was brought on and he and Al did two numbers on acoustic guitars from the Rekooperation days. I then was invited on stage to introduce the Mike Bloomfield Signature Les Paul 1959 Sunburst Guitar. I shared a true story which occurred some forty years ago with the audience.
Alan had introduced me to his manager, and I was hired to be his assistant. I was working in that capacity at a concert in Boston featuring Alan and my brother Michael. While we were waiting for the opening act to conclude, Michael had yet to arrive. As the band on stage began their finale still no Michael. The atmosphere in the office turned south and the promoter became more and more sullen and angry with each passing moment. Alan was trying to find a safe shelter and I became as still as a mouse. Alan and I made eye contact and I could see the proverbial light bulb go off in his eyes. As if transformed he rushes to me and says with the self confidence of a Prophet what we were going to do. He started by putting a jacket on me and began hustling me towards the stage. Next he draped a guitar on my shoulder and revealed his inspiration. "Here's what you do. You go up on stage and because you look a little like Michael you tell them you are really sick, have a very high temperature and can't play tonight, but want to thank them all for coming and hopefully I will be over this shortly and make it up to you. Then run for cover." Several things crossed my mind. This inspiration probably was similar to the one General Armstrong Custer had when he thought it might be a hoot to check out the Little Bighorn. Next I heard the mention of "we" which reduced down to me, translating into I am going to receive the hot lead enema. Lastly, while I was now walking down the last mile I see out of the corner of my eye this familiar form stomping down the aisle. Michael immediately recognizes me and removes his guitar from my shoulder and with a with a full grin says, " Allen I didn't know you play guitar!" Off he goes to the stage stopping every few feet, shaking his head and chortling to himself.
That was the first and only time I wore his guitar up until now. So much had changed and now I had the honor of placing this prototype into the hands of my most favorite guitarist and friend Jimmy Vivino to be played for the very first time. Jimmy V has been blessed with talent that seems to know no limits. This similarity with Michael is obvious. What is more significant in my heart is that Jimmy and Michael both shared a respect for the masters of the blues and reached out and supported their abilities and did all they could to introduce them to a greater audience. Both men maintained their friendships with musicians they started with and never abandoned them. Lastly each has a loving generous nature and remained humble in attitude toward others. When this outstanding character is coupled with great musical skill the sound is so pure and special it has a transforming effect. Jimmy then played the Michael Guitar from the Super Session period and brought the house down.
Al concluded with his Berkley Band and while on remote hook up left the stage and roamed into the audience singing and sharing his joy.
What a nice night. So much love and appreciation abounded, what a joy to behold.