Long before the Carolina Chocolate Drops reclaimed the banjo’s African-American roots or Béla Fleck took the instrument back to West Africa, elemental bluesman Otis Taylor set out to discover the banjo’s future in black music. Already a well-traveled musician when he released 2001’s heralded “White African” (Northern Blues Music), which earned him the first of many awards, Taylor has honed an approach to the blues that’s topically charged and timelessly chilling.
Whether playing guitar or banjo, he’s known for a sinewy modal sound that he calls “trance blues,” an effect that’s more about conjuring possibilities than in recreating what was. “A lot of blues musicians are interpreters of the past,” says Taylor, 70, who’s long been based in Boulder, Colorado. “Trance music is something else. There are no chords, so it’s all about creating lines over the beat.”
In what’s turning into an annual highlight of the Bay Area winter blues season, Taylor returns to Biscuits & Blues for four shows over a weekend with his top-notch band featuring Nick Amodeo on mandolin and bass and lead guitarist J.P. Johnson. “I’m like a baseball scout,” Taylor says. “That’s what I’m really good at. To play in my band, you have to be able to listen. I can change things in half a second, and you have to be able to follow.”
As a songwriter and conceptualist, he’s at the top of his game on recent albums like 2015’s “Hey Joe Opus Red Meat” and 2017’s “Fantasizing About Being Black” (both released on his Trance Blues Festival Records). It’s no surprise that Taylor’s tunes often get picked when a music director needs a gritty track to set a mood. From Johnny Depp’s “Public Enemy” and Mark Wahlberg’s “Shooter” to Timothy Olyphant’s “Justified,” Taylor supplies just right note of impending doom.
Details: 7:30 and 10 p.m. Feb. 15, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Feb. 16; Biscuits & Blues, San Francisco; $30; 415-292-2583, biscuitsandblues.com.
Source:: East Bay – Entertainment