Keb' Mo' with Jontavious Willis
The Space at Westbury
The Solo Tour
June 19, 2019
Keb' Mo' was born Kevin Roosevelt Moore to parents who were from California and Texas and fans of both the blues and gospel music. Their influences are readily apparent in his music. The four-time Grammy Award winner currently lives in the musical hotbed of Nashville, TN and has been described as "a living link to the seminal Delta blues that travelled up the Mississippi River and across the expanse of America." In addition to blues and gospel, the guitarist/singer/songwriter's musical style has been influenced by folk, rock, jazz, pop and country. The stage name "Keb' Mo'" is derived from the "street talk" abbreviation of his given name and was bestowed upon him by his original drummer, Quentin Dennard.
Keb' Mo' started his career playing the steel drums and upright bass in a calypso band. In the 1970s and 1980s, he played in a number of blues and backup bands. In the early 1970s he recorded with Papa John Creach
of the Jefferson Airplane. As a guitarist, Moore appeared on four of Creach's albums: Filthy!
(Grunt/RCA, 1972), Playing My Fiddle for You
(Grunt/RCA, 1974), I'm The Fiddle Man
(Buddah, 1975) and Rock Father
(Buddah, 1976). Keb' Mo' received his first gold record for the song, "Git Fiddler," which he co-wrote with Creach for the Jefferson Starship's Red Octopus
(Grunt, 1975) album. That album peaked at number one on the Billboard 200.
In 1994, Keb' Mo' released his self-titled album on Okeh Records. The album featured two Robert Johnson
covers, "Come On In My Kitchen" and "Kind Hearted Woman Blues." In 1996, he released Just Like You
(Epic Records). Just Like You
featured twelve songs dripping with Delta influences. He won his first Grammy Award (Best Contemporary Blues Album) for this release. During his career, Keb' Mo' has been nominated for numerous Grammy Awards. He has won three additional Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album (including for the 2017 Concord Records release TajMo
, a collaboration with Taj Mahal
). He has also been nominated for seven other Grammy Awards. He has won W.C. Handy Awards and Blues Music Awards.
Keb' Mo' portrayed Robert Johnson in the documentary film, Can't You Hear The Wind Howl?
, and the role of Possum in John Sayles' Honeydripper
movie. On television, he appeared as an actor and as a performer on Touched By An Angel
. In addition, he has appeared on television in Sessions at West 54th
and in the Martin Scorsese miniseries The Blues
. He also provided additional music for the sitcom Mike and Molly
Jontavious Willis is a 23-year-old bluesman from Greenville, GA. He grew up singing gospel music with his grandfather at the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church. At the age of 14, he saw a YouTube video of Muddy Waters
playing "Hoochie Coochie Man" and immediately became a fan of the blues.
He got his big break when he was discovered by Taj Mahal, who described him as the "Wonderboy" and "the Wunderkind." He also got the coveted opening slot at select shows along the TajMo tour, which featured his musical mentors Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo.'
Willis' latest release, Spectacular Class
(Kind of Blue Music, 2019), is the follow-up to his independently released debut album, Blue Metamorphosis
(2016). Blue Metamorphosis
was recognized by the Blues Foundation through their International Blues Challenge, where it was honored with the Best Self-Produced CD Award. Spectacular Class
was produced by Keb' Mo' and Taj Mahal is its Executive Producer. The CD features 10 tunes recorded with the utmost simplicity and care. Willis' vocals are spot-on and the arrangements featuring acoustic guitar, harmonica, Hammond B3, electric guitar, mandolin and banjo make this CD a must-have.
His musical oeuvre touches on country blues, acoustic blues, old-school blues, R&B, gospel and good old-fashioned Americana. His fans describe him as an old soul with a beautiful voice and a wonderful playing style. To paraphrase and somewhat mangle Jon Landau, I have seen the future of modern acoustic blues and his name is Jontavious Willis!
On a cool but pleasant Wednesday evening in Westbury, NY, Keb' Mo' and Jontavious Willis awakened and energized the sleepy suburb with an amazing evening of solo blues performances.