Horseshoe boasted blues legend James Cotton
The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern played perfect host Sunday night of TD Jazz Festival to the smooth sounds of the James Cotton Blues Band. At 78 James “Super Harp” Cotton can still play a harmonica like it’s nobody’s business.
On this night we got to witness blues, in its purest and most holistic form.
Cotton, a throat cancer survivor, can no longer sing and can barely speak. His voice goes from raspy whisper to rumbling growl but this has no effect on his ability to play his harmonica. He quickly immerses you in the blues world from the very first note he plays and doesn’t let go of that blues soul until he plays his last note while exiting the stage. Cotton is setup centre-stage with a table beside him that holds a glass of water, a harmonica or two and a stack of small towels for him to wipe his brow
During their hour and a half set, Nulisch and Cotton served the crowd up fine blues tunes, including some Muddy Waters songs. Later on in the night the pair regaled the adoring crowd with some musical theatre, with Nulisch describing a fine woman and Cotton responding with some amazing harp melodies. Cotton then switched from the uptempo Chicago blues he was playing to some fat bottom notes and the crowd showed their approval with raucous applause.This led to him perform one of several nonstop harmonica solos that lasted minutes and one wondered when he would come up for air. Just as it seemed like he was ending, Cotton kept going.
After this Cotton leaned back in his chair wiped his forehead, and then began the next flurry of foot stompin’, blues beats. His band almost instinctively knew when to jump in and add their distinct sound to the mix, or change their tempo to complement his melody.
Nulisch and Cotton have an amazing chemistry and play off each quite well during the few brief moments where they took a break to banter, before diving into more great blues music. As the show was coming to a close, Cotton grabbed the mic from its stand, reached for his diatonic harmonica, cupped his hands, interlocked his fingers and began what was his final solo of the night. The crowd erupted with a thunderous ovation to James Cotton and his blues band. After he left the stage, Cotton made his way over to the merchandise table where the crowd generously lauded him with praise and well wishes as they purchased an autographed copy of his recently released Cotton Mouth Man LP.
Photos and story by Tee Onek