JJ 12/81: Otis Rush at Camden Jazz Week

Forty years ago, Tony Russell saw the bluesman off form, relying on pointlessly extended songs and showboating soloing. First published in Jazz Journal December 1981

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Otis Rush in London in later years, at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the 1986 Capital Radio Jazz Festival. Photo © Brian O'Connor

Otis Rush at his best – as in several of his recordings and at least one concert that I have witnessed – is so powerful an artist that a second-class performance is more than usually disappointing.

Some bluesmen are entertaining even when they are a little off their game, but Rush’s nervous intensi­ty works only at full stretch. Any element of the casual or lackadaisical weakens him irreparably, and I for one would as soon not see or hear him in that shape.

But it was how he was on Tuesday. His songs were pointlessly extended, and his guitar solos had more stage presence than substance. In fact it was just the kind of show that many well-regarded bluesmen get away with nowadays.

I am happy if it satisfies large audiences, as it evidently did on this occasion, but I can think of no terms at all in which I could recommend it to anyone who knew and cared for the blues – or Otis Rush.

Otis Rush at Camden Jazz Week at The Round House, London, October 26-31, 1981