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Issue 1097

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Bobby Harden & Stew Cutler: Arthur's Tavern, New York City 16/02/20

Bobby Harden and Stew Cutler: Arthur's Tavern, New York City 2/16/20 @bluesandsoul.com
Bobby Harden and Stew Cutler: Arthur's Tavern, New York City 2/16/20 @bluesandsoul.com Bobby Harden and Stew Cutler: Arthur's Tavern, New York City 2/16/20 @bluesandsoul.com Bobby Harden and Stew Cutler: Arthur's Tavern, New York City 2/16/20 @bluesandsoul.com Bobby Harden and Stew Cutler: Arthur's Tavern, New York City 2/16/20 @bluesandsoul.com Bobby Harden and Stew Cutler: Arthur's Tavern, New York City 2/16/20 @bluesandsoul.com Bobby Harden and Stew Cutler: Arthur's Tavern, New York City 2/16/20 @bluesandsoul.com Bobby Harden and Stew Cutler: Arthur's Tavern, New York City 2/16/20 @bluesandsoul.com Bobby Harden and Stew Cutler: Arthur's Tavern, New York City 2/16/20 @bluesandsoul.com Bobby Harden and Stew Cutler: Arthur's Tavern, New York City 2/16/20 @bluesandsoul.com

Arthur's Tavern in Greenwich Village is a Manhattan musical institution. With music seven nights a week until late this is a happening place and a well-kept secret. Charlie Parker had a residency there.

Sunday nights is blues and soul night, with virtuoso guitarist Stew Cutler and his band holding court, with regular vocalist Bobby Harden, who also sings in the Original Blues Brothers Band with Steve Cropper. The night Blues & Soul visited was the day before the Presidents' Day holiday and the club was jam-packed from the start of the band's set at 10:30pm.

What followed was three top quality sets of blues and soul, taking the city that never sleeps into la la land and well past the 2am curfew.

Stew Cutler began, leading three quality blues instrumentals, including the track "Shine Or Rain". With Tom Wilson on piano, Bill McClennan on drums and Chulo Gatewood on bass this is a tight unit, as you'd expect as Cutler has presided over multiple nightly spots at Arthur's for years.

Vocalist Bobby Harden came to the stage with "Got To Get To You" and "Baby Can I Change My Mind" and you knew you were in for a treat. His charisma, personality and soul always shine through. A funky slow blues rendition of "I Hear You Knocking" got the crowd up and dancing.

The blues continued with "Not My Cross To Bear" from Cutler's "Every Sunday Night" album. Harden went into full Blues Brothers mode with "Sweet Home Chicago" with a biting slide guitar solo from Cutler and energetic singing from the audience.

This was party night and soul classic followed soul classic. There were two guest saxophonists, Wade Campbell and the sharply dressed, legendary Chuck Hancock, a regular guest at Arthur's and local celebrity. "Stand By Me" and an exhilarating "What's Going On" had both saxes soloing. An ultra-funky version of "Superstition" saw Hancock squeaking and squawking to a climax. Pure dirty sax!

Back to old-time blues for "I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water" to close the first set and two more instrumentals to open the second, with Harden called to the stage for "Runnin' (To Get Your Love)", his new vinyl 45 recently released on Brooklyn's Dala Record label. "Mustang Sally" brought another steaming solo from Hancock and great keys from Wilson. Harden showed why he is known as Bobby "Sweet Soul" Harden with a gorgeous version of "Love And Happiness". From Green sweet to Redding bitter with an emotional "That's How Strong My Love Is" and the set ended with a rousing "Soul Man".

Set three began well after 1:00 am and Cutler breezed through the quality instrumental "Post Time". It was request time and Harden dedicated a soul version of Carole King's "You Got a Friend" to his "English family" in the audience and returned to Blues Brothers mode for "Flip Flop Fly" from the album "The Last Shade Of Blue Before Black".

By this time a hardcore section of the audience was partying hard, with a Gucci loafer-wearing exec from Chicago throwing a hundred bucks into the tip jar, saying "I bet you don't know any Average White Band." Well, Chuck Hancock knows "Pick Up The Pieces" alright and you could feel the AWB vibe in the room. The night drew to a close with guest drummer Dave Dawson joining for a beautiful version of Van Morrison's "Into The Mystic".

Next time you're in NYC make sure you get yourself down to Greenwich Village to catch Bobby Harden, Stew Cutler and the band in action. Just make sure you don't have to get up too early the next morning.

PHOTOS: CHAZ BROOKS
Words CHAZ BROOKS

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