Otis Taylor and his band play Summer of Music | PostIndependent.com

Otis Taylor and his band play Summer of Music

Christina Brusig
Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts
Otis Taylor and his band
Publicity |

Wynton Marsalis says it all: “Everything comes out in blues music: joy, pain, struggle. Blues is affirmation with absolute elegance.”

The Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts is proud to present blues giant Otis Taylor and his band tonight at the Summer of Music at Two Rivers Park.

From Otis Taylor’s website:

With Otis Taylor, it’s best to expect the unexpected. While his music — an amalgamation of roots styles in its rawest form — discusses heavyweight issues like murder, homelessness, tyranny and injustice, his personal style is lighthearted.

“I’m good at dark, but I’m not a particularly unhappy person,” he says. “I’d just like to make enough money to buy a Porsche.”

Part of Taylor’s appeal is his contrasting character traits. But it is precisely this element of surprise that makes him one of the most compelling artists to emerge in recent years. In fact, Guitar Player magazine writes, “Otis Taylor is arguably the most relevant blues artist of our time.”

Born in Chicago in 1948, his family moved to Denver, where an adolescent’s interest in blues and folk was cultivated. Both his parents were big music fans.

“I was raised with jazz musicians,” Taylor relates. “My dad worked for the railroad and knew a lot of jazz people. He was a socialist and real bebopper.”

His mother, Sarah, a tough-as-nails woman with liberal leanings, had a penchant for Etta James and Pat Boone.

Young Otis spent time at the Denver Folklore Center, where he bought his first instrument, a banjo. He used to play it while riding his unicycle to high school. The Folklore Center was also the place where he first heard Mississippi John Hurt and country blues. He learned to play guitar and harmonica and, by his mid-teens, he formed his first groups: the Butterscotch Fire Department Blues Band and, later, the Otis Taylor Blues Band. He decided to take a hiatus from the music business in 1977.

After years of prodding from his musical mentor (all-star bass player Kenny Passarelli), Otis returned to the stage. It was 1995, in an intimate room in Boulder’s “Hill” district. He was joined on stage by sideman to the stars, Kenny Passarelli, and ace guitarist Eddie Turner. A magazine writer on hand reported: “The combination was magic; Taylor’s unique singing style blended perfectly with Passarelli’s rock steady virtuosity and Turner’s rock-roll tinged riffs.”

Response to the “one-time gig” was so strong, Taylor decided to return to the music scene. Otis Taylor was back to stay.

In addition to traditional touring and recording, Taylor spearheads a Blues in the Schools program called “Writing the Blues” that was conceived by his wife. Taylor appears at elementary schools and universities around the country to offer advice, enlighten and mentor students about the blues.

“I start by asking them to write down what makes them sad: fears, disappointments, losses, whatever,” Taylor says. “It is just amazing to see some of these nuggets, these incredible thoughts. They are often simple sentences but so real, so sad, so true, so pure.”

For Taylor, it’s an opportunity to connect with others and help others to connect with themselves. And it allows him to do his part in ensuring that the blues, and the ability to share life experiences, will continue in the next generation.

Opening the evening will be another legend, Damian Smith and his True Story Band. Damian will handle the guitar and vocals, with Terry Bannon on keys. They will be joined by special guests Darin Elwell of Glenwood Springs on drums, valley music veteran Chris Bank on sax and vocals and Julian Gregory on percussion. The band will begin to rock the night at 6:30 p.m.

Get there early and enjoy some of the best eats around with Gandhi Restaurant from Carbondale, the New Castle Diner, Marble’s famous Slo Groovin’ BBQ, Glenwood’s Sweet Coloradough, and top it all off with Jeffreeze award-winning Italian sorbetto.

Remember, no pets, no smokes and no glass. These are city of Glenwood Springs public safety regulations.

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