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Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan: In Session

Ed Kopp By

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In 1983, blues legend Albert King scheduled a TV appearance on In Session, a program produced by CHCH-TV in Hamilton, Ontario. The show matched like-minded musicians in hour-long jam sessions. In advance of the show, the 60-year-old King was only told that he’d be jamming with another guitarist. His collaborator turned out to be 29-year-old Stevie Ray Vaughan, fresh from recording his first album Texas Flood.

This recording of the King-Vaughan summit is not only historic, it's a guitar-lover’s delight. Vaughan counted King as his biggest influence, and he was clearly honored to play with the blues legend that December evening. But Vaughan wasn't intimidated. In fact, his talent seems to take King by surprise in the beginning. But the master eventually counters with an impressive performance of his own. The two legends summon the right balance of competitive fire and mutual respect.

The heavyweights seem to feel each other out on the opening track, "Call It Stormy Monday." But when King suggests they tackle "that fast thing of yours with the heck of a groove to it" – "Pride and Joy" – both guitarists loosen up considerably. By the third tune, B.B. King’s "Ask Me No Questions," the sparks really fly. Other incendiary cuts include Albert’s "Blues At Sunrise, "Overall Junction" and "Match Box Blues." The session ends with a funky cover of "Don’t Lie To Me."

The between-song banter is almost as precious as the music. King remembers Vaughan as a skinny kid – "straight as a popsicle" — who played with him at the Austin Coliseum 10 years earlier. He even pokes fun at Vaughan for stealing his licks on David Bowie’s hit "Let’s Dance."

King also tells Vaughan that lots of guitarists can play fast, but very few have soul. Both of these cats were drenched in soul, and they poured a lot of it out on Canadian TV some 16 years ago.

The duo was backed by King’s outstanding band: Tony Llorens on keys, Gus Thornton on bass and Michael Llorens on drums.

Title: In Session | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Fantasy Jazz

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