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Published: 2008/01/11

Warren Haynes, Levon Helm, Al Kooper, Paul Shaffer, Rick Neilson, John Sebastian and Hubert Sumlin Among Artists To Join Jimmy Vivino

As had been heavily rumored all week, a whos who of TV personalities, noted session musicians and New York heavyweights performed with Late Night guitarist Jimmy Vivino during his birthday gig at B.B. Kings Blues Club last night. The sold out show doubled as a birthday tribute to the late Bill Graham and, for the first hour, focused almost exclusively on the music associated with his legendary clubs.

The night began with an appearance by Vivinos longtime friend John Sebastian, who played harmonica a tribute to Blood, Sweat & Tears. Sebastian and Vivinos roots run deep: in the 1980s Sebastian helped break Vivino into television when he hired the guitarist as the band leader for his television program DejaVu and the two have remained close ever since.

Next up, Vivino turned his attention to the Prisoners of 2nd Ave, a group he formed a few years ago to explore the music characteristic of Grahams fabled Fillmore East. The trio ran through covers of The Whos See my Way, Bob Dylans A Hard Rains Gonna Fall and a jam based around Led Zeppelins In My Time of Dying, while a sign reading Bill Grahams Way was propped up on the front of the stage. New York Dolls guitarist Steve Conte also stepped up to the plate for a cover of Yardbirds Shapes of Thing, shortly before Elaine Caswell led the ensemble through a mini-Jefferson Airplane segment consisting of White Rabbit and Somebody to Love.

The night then unfolded into something of a round-robin power jam, featuring a number of Vivinos closet friends and bandmates. Warren Haynes took the stage with the Prisoners of 2nd Ave for a cover of Blind Faiths Had to Cry Today that also featured Al Kooper and Paul Shaffer
and a ripping rendition of Derek and the Dominoes Why Does Love have to be so Sad? (which Haynes has covered in a number of settings over the years). Interestingly enough, the former selection was actually supposed to feature Danny Louis, but, with the Govt Mule keyboardist got caught in traffic, Kooper and Shaffer stepped in as last minute ringers.

As of late, Vivino has been frequenting Levon Helms Midnight Rambles and playing select gigs with the drummer around the country. So it made sense that Helm stopped by to wish Vivino a happy birthday took the stage with the guitarist for a cover of Blind Willie Johnsons God Don’t Never Change. The selection drew in a number of Bob Dylans former associates, most notably Larry Campbell and Al Kooper, as well Sebastian, Campbells wife Teresa Williams, Mike Merritt and Steve Holley.

Helm remained onstage for the rest of the night, smiling and holding the beat on Elvis Presleys Mess of Blues and I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone, Willie Niles Hard Times in America, Donovans Season of the Witch, Sam Cookes Bring it on Home to Me and a series of Howlin Wolf covers. Each of the abovementioned musicians cycled through for reprise appearances and Louis, David Johansen (New York Dolls), Rick Neilson (Cheap Trick), Hubert Sumlin, Little Sammy Davis, Catherine Russell and Mike Merritt all stopped by to celebrate onstage. A particularly colorful moment took place when Shaffer reprised the famous Late Show cape routine based around Blood, Sweat & Tears ‘Child Is Father to the Man, while Kooper joked that the royalties from those performances allowed him to redo his bathroom.

Since 1998 Vivino has also fronted the Beatles cover band the Fab Faux and, at one point, that entire group took the stage for versions of I Want You (She’s so Heavy) and White My Guitar Gently Weeps. Helm played on both selections, while Haynes returned for a blistering solo on the latter number (which also featured Shaffer on keyboards). With all eyes on Helm, it felt appropriate that Vivino ended the night with a sing-a-long based around I Shall Be Released.

Helm and number of the nights performers will play another Ramble Session in Woodstock, NY tomorrow. Laura Cantrell, Stevie Jackson (Belle & Sebastian), Marshall Crenshaw, Lenny Kaye, Jason Isbell, Toshi Reagon, Jesse Harris and Chocolate Genius Inc., among any other musicians, in turn, will tackle Bob Dylans mythic 1966 Royal Albert Hall performance at free show held at New Yorks World Financial Center.

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