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Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006 02:39 pm

Great performers of Springfield

Black Magic Johnson hits it big at Chicago festival

I made it to Chicago last Thursday, Sept. 7, for the Great Performers of Illinois festival to see my dear friends and fellow bandmates Black Magic Johnson open the blues night on the Millennium Park stage. The guys did great and it was wonderful to see them perform in one of the grandest venues in the Midwest.

As the Koko Taylor Blues Machine closed out the night, Japanese blues master Shun Kikuta did his best to steal the show with his fiery guitar work, but he wasn’t entirely successful. The real show-stealing was left to local hero Reggie Britton, drummer and vocalist for BMJ. When all of the evening’s performers were asked to return to the stage for a show-closing rendition of “Sweet Home Chicago” with the great Taylor, known the world over as the queen of the blues, Britton grabbed a mic and did his thing. He traded vocals with Taylor and looked comfortable up there on that mighty big stage, dancing and singing with some of the legends of our time. Backstage, Taylor encouraged Britton to continue singing, but she also politely informed our main man that he almost stepped on her toes with his freestyle vocalizing.

In an odd Springfield association, Preston Jackson, star of last weekend’s local art extravaganza, played guitar with a Peoria legend, pianist and vocalist Jimmy Binkley, as the No. 2 act on the blues-night schedule. Jackson performed admirably as Binkley pounded the piano and, with what the seventysomething has left for a voice, shouted, “Go Pres, go Pres, go.”

Now to continue the Springfield connection, Kikuta hits town on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the second annual Faith Lutheran Church Community Festival (2313 S. Whittier St.). The festival, which runs 1-5 p.m., offers free food and live music, plus a health fair and kids’ entertainment. Kikuta, a Berklee College of Music graduate and a 15-year veteran of the Chicago blues scene, performs at 3 p.m. with a backing band comprising local blues players. In addition to his Koko Taylor gig, The world-renowned Kikuta performs with James Cotton. He has several CDs of his own music available, and a new one is on the way for 2007. At 5 p.m., he’ll lead a blues-guitar workshop ($5 entrance fee) at the Luthier Shoppe (1717 W. Wabash Ave., 217-546-1615).

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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