When: Sun., May 27, 9 p.m. 2012
It's too often forgotten that the tenor saxophone, not the electric guitar, was the original top gun of the rock 'n' roll insurgency. In the late 1940s and early '50s, the fusillades of horn men like Joe Houston, Wild Bill Moore, and Big Jay McNeely terrorized middle-class conservatives and jazz hipsters alike. McNeely's notorious one-note honk fest, "The Deacon's Hop," was a number one R&B hit in 1949. He only charted twice after that, but his records continued to make noise in local and regional markets, and he established himself as one of the most outrageous showmen in R&B history. Wielding a fluorescent painted sax and usually backed by a hard-rocking rhythm section as anarchic as he was, he'd blow chorus after chorus—on his knees, flat on his back, even while being wheeled around on a dolly. In the 60s, as R&B and soul became more sophisticated, he dropped out of music; a nostalgia-fueled 80s comeback introduced him to a younger generation, and he's barely slowed since. At 85, he's no longer the onstage acrobat of old, but the velocity and volume of his playing are virtually undiminished, and his showmanship is as over-the-top as ever. Though still underrecognized by all but aficionados, he's a genuine titan of early rock 'n' roll—a Big Jay McNeely show shouldn't be missed. —David Whiteis The Crown Vics, Miss Jubilee & the Humdingers and DJs Rico and Vito open.