Toronzo Cannon: Leaving Mood (CD)
'My grandfather's records were consistent blues.' remembers Toronzo, who was born in Chicago on Valentine's Day. 1968. 'And then when my aunts and uncles would come over. that's when the blues would be played. Whenever there was a family thing – like my aunt. my uncle, my grandfather's brother and his wife. they would come over and play cards and all of that stuff, and at family reunions, you [would] hear the music.' It was in the air around the neighborhood. as well.
Toronzo grew up on the South Side. not far from Theresa's Lounge, the legendary little basement juke at the corner of 48th and Indiana where Junior Wells held forth whenever he was in town. 'My uncle, Richard Cannon. worked for Theresa's.' he recalls. 'He worked down in there' a general overall guy. That's how he got to play drums with Buddy [Guy] and Junior whenever their drummer was late. I used to go to Baldwin Ice Cream, my brother and sister and I, right down the street from Theresa's, about half a block. I would look over the banister, because I knew my uncles hung out there.
I couldn't get in, of course, but I would just look down there to see what's going on. All this stuff started coming back to me when I started playing guitar years later.' By that time. Toronzo was in his early 20s. and he still wasn't thinking of himself as a bluesman. 'I was listening to a John Cougar song' it had a heavy acoustic sound in it. My sister was taking piano lessons. and I asked her, and she bought me an acoustic guitar, a Harmony. at a pawn shop. And that's how I started. 'I was listening to a lot of reggae, too. at the time: I'd look at videos of Bob Marley playing. and that's how I learned my chords. I knew of Hendrix, but I didn't really 'know' Hendrix when I started playing guitar. I heard tapes of him, but they were always bootleg tapes, not good quality. But then when I saw a videotape. it just freaked me out.'
The pieces were coming into place. but it took some immersion in the live music scene for the aspiring young fretman to find his blues inspiration – which, in his case. meant re-kindling something that had been dormant inside him for years. 'When I had a jam to go to.' he explains, 'it would be a blues jam. My aunt's records and my grandfather's records and my uncles' and all of that started coming back [to me]' I was like. 'Oh. okay – all right!' I started putting names with the stuff that I used to hear –the Tyrone Davises and the Johnnie Taylors, and then the Muddys and the Howlin' Wolfs and all of that — I just got more into it.
Going back, thinking about my grandfather's music, my aunts and uncles. and Theresa's. and all that stuff started coming back — 'Okay. wow, dig this!' Man. I lived in a rich blues neighborhood and didn't even know it!' Toronzo's first professional gig was with vocalist Tommy McCracken at the Taste of Chicago. the city's annual lake front food festival, in about 1997. Since then, he's become steadily active on the Chicago scene as both a bandleader and a sideman, and he's also been received enthusiastically overseas. In 2007. his self-released CD MY WOMAN garnered critical and popular acclaim. As this disk shows. Toronzo's gifts — as both a lyricist and an improviser — continue to develop and become richer. That shouldn't be surprising, considering the role models he's acquired over the years. 'Elmore James. J.B. Hutto, Hound Dog Taylor,' he enthuses, 'those guys put chill bumps on my arms, and they make my eyes well up with tears sometimes. When they come to that down-home, hollerin' type blues. those cats kill me, man, and I love 'em. I wanted to kinda give a shout-out to that kind of blues. She Loved Me is like [Muddy Waters' version of Slim Harpo's] King Bee, like a dirty kind of King Bee-type thing...
Artikeleigenschaften von Toronzo Cannon: Leaving Mood (CD)
|Cannon, Toronzo - Leaving Mood (CD) CD 1|
|01||She Loved Me|
|06||Open Letter (To Whom It May Concern)|
|07||I Can't Take Her Nowhere|
|09||She's Too Much|
|10||You're A Good Woman|
|12||Do I Move You?|
|14||Not Gonna Worry|
#Growing Up On The Chicago's South Side, armed with the gift of gab and a people person demeanor, Toronzo Cannon wanted to be a social worker. A teacher accused him of wearing his feelings on his sleeve and young Toronzo figured he'd channel that sensitivity. Decades later. those same qualities have equipped him with the perfect skills for a mod-ern bluesman. 'I read, I look, I'm left-handed, and I'm obser-vant,' Cannon says of his standout songwriting and guitar playing. A CTA bus driver for over 20 years, his keen eyes and ears combine with his emotional awareness to turn bus-scene snippets, friends' situations, and personal experience into the kind of blues tunes that inspire repeat lis-tening. 'When I'm on the bus, I take notes at the red light,' he says. 'I have the notes for the guts of six songs in my pocket right now.- His off-kilter, left-handed perspective seems to supply his music with an unexpectedly fresh take that truly represents 21st century blues. However, being a bluesman wasn't even a con-sideration for Cannon until he started playing guitar at 22. Although he grew up in the shadows of the iconic Theresa's Lounge, with his uncles regularly joining the jam sessions, Cannon didn't realize those influences until much later. 'My uncle Ricky was a barback who some-times filled in for bands playing drums and my uncle Peewee was a ladies man who was always at Theresa's,- he recalls.
'Baldwin's Ice Cream was down the street and we'd go at night to get waffle cones and I'd lean over the banister [at Theresa's] and see my uncles. I'd hear the blues streaming out, but I didn't really know who was playing.' Between those late-night excursions and his grandfather's blues records. Cannon ab-sorbed a blues foundation that would later serve him well. 'I listen to a lot of blues stations on satellite [radio] and everyone seems to be singing about 'my woman left me,— he says, explaining his songwriting technique. 'I put in a lot more detail to make people flinch and say. 'Ooh, he's look-ing though my window.' I just take whatever the standard is and go somewhere else. I don't want to go in the same direction; it's too predictable. I ask myself, 'What would a left-handed, Aquarian bluesman do?— Apparently, such a bluesman would make sure that his music respected the past while salut-ing the future with modern-day observances. 'Shine', underscores the point by tackling death — that old blues trope — with an unex-pected treatment.
A delicate ballad with three separate stories sung by Cannon's Chicago blues comrades Mike Wheeler and Joanna Connor, the song addresses suicide, biracial issues, and Armenian history in one well-structured swoop. 'I was thinking of three different ways that people die,' Cannon says of the inspiration for the song. 'I don't like my voice in certain settings, like a soft tone, so I asked Mike and Joanna to sing with me. I sing the last story about Armenians. I didn't know that they were the first Christians in a land full of Muslims. They got slaughtered, but it's not so much about religion as it is intolerance. I wrote the story about the biracial issues because I have a biracial daughter and Joanna has two biracial kids. There are three stories cutting into the next in one song.
Cannon cites Jimi Hendrix as a major influence on his songwriting and fretwork. 'I used to watch old blues videos to observe how they played be-cause I think in images, and the blues is visual as well as audible. I'd watch videos of Muddy [Waters], Gaternouth Brown and Snooks Eaglin —this was before YouTube,' he says. 'Then I came across a video by the guy named Jimi Hendrix. It freaked me out: it hit me in my chest. It was beautiful to look at while you listened to it.' Cannon's dynamic stage presence clearly recalls Hendrix, but he also appreciates the '60s legend's wordplay. ''In Voodoo Child, (Slight Return) ', people listen and think it's all psychedelic, but dig the words,' he says. 'It was a revolutionary song; 'raising sand' is a Southern term for a fight.' The cultural references and vivid imagery used by Hendrix and bluesmen before and after him are most prominent in the stunning title track of Cannon's album. 'John The Conquer Root' throbs with Delta heat and striking blues phras-ing. The stinging guitar. eerie harp playing, and haunting tale of working a spell with 'a piece of your hair in the palm of my hand,' echoes with the essence of the young blues upstart. 'Gentle Reminder' supplies fitting commentary on who Toronzo Cannon is and what he plays: 'I shouldn't have to say this/ but I'm a blues man through and through/ it's in my walk and my talk/ and the way I play my blues/...my friends say/ why you play the way you do/ I say the blues gotta move on/ this ain't 1952'. Thanks to his finely honed talents, the blues is indeed moving on, in an exciting direction.
At 45, Cannon has dedicated decades of prac-tice and experience to his craft. 'I know what I like to hear and I know that it's the major chords that give me goose bumps.' he says of his playing style. Although his devoted following comments profusely on his daily thought-provoking statuses on Facebook, he considers himself a humble, if thoroughly modern, bluesman. 'I'm just a bus driver who plays the guitar,- he says. 'I want to do my part to keep the genre alive, especially the Chicago blues genre.'
Rosalind Cummings-Yeates, June 2013