Blues in New Zealand
I spent a couple of weeks in New Zealand last year, and thought I should check out the scene over there.
The history of blues in New Zealand dates from the 1960s. The earliest blues influences on New Zealand musicians were indirect — not from the United States but from white British blues musicians, first the R&B styles of The Animals and The Rolling Stones, and later the blues-tinged rock of groups such as Led Zeppelin. The first American blues artist to make a big impact in New Zealand was Stevie Ray Vaughan in the early 1980s.
Other blues-related genres such as soul and gospel almost completely bypassed New Zealand audiences, except for a handful of hits from cross-over artists such as Ray Charles.
I was going to Auckland and, according to Wikipedia, most blues action is further south, and it seemed to be right. The local freebie music paper was not encouraging at all.
The Auckland Jazz and Blues Club was formed in 1992, and has a membership of around 250. It has regular club nights every Tuesday at The Point Chevalier RSA, Great North Rd Pt Chevalier Auckland. Of course Tuesday nights I was stuck with work commitments!
Still, there are other venues: “Orleans” (48 Customs St East in Britomart) seems to host regular jazz and blues gigs, and there were a few blues artists I managed to track down.
It was no surprise that JT and the Big Easy were one of the first bands I came across. Over 25 years as a performer JT (John Tuala) has honed and crafted a distinct sound, finding his home in the acoustic blues style. He’s always played original songs and enthralled audiences wherever he’s performed.
This year he released an album Jump which has been quite successful.
“I love the energy when I’m performing the blues, the ability to communicate to a room of people, to carry them with me through the music. I’ve tried to convey some of that with this album,” he says.
Ralph Bennett-Eades is a New Zealand blues singer songwriter. He started singing and playing slide guitar in 1978 after immersing himself in the Mississippi Delta Blues of the early 1900′s. He found his way there via the likes of Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers and Johnny Winter.
Chief Wasabi is an Auckland duo featuring JT, on guitar and vocals, with ex-Los Angeles drummer Greg Tell on percussion. Occasionally they play as a trio with Alex Griffith on bass. They play a mellow selection of blues, R&B and jazz classics.
It’s tempting to be a little selfish and say, well, things are much better here than in Auckland. From this report, they seem to be, but it was a brief visit and I’m certain there will be other artists and venues I missed.
If you have had a better experience over there, email me at Sleepy Hollow and I’ll be glad to be corrected.
By John (Dr John) Lamp / Proudly presented by the Sleepy Hollow Blues Club