Blues Making Inroads Into Israel

The local scene is suddenly awash with performances by U.S.-based Bluesmen

Ben Shalev
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Ben Shalev

Four interesting Blues musicians will be performing in Israel in November and December, an unprecedented onslaught on the local Blues music scene. Blues fanatic Yamit Hagar, who over the last 18 months has brought three Mississippi Blues artists to Israel (Robert Belfour, KM Williams and LC Ulmer) has now added an additional performer to that list, bringing over the young Ben Prestage, a "One Man Band" who performs solo while playing several different instruments.

Prestage performed last night at the Barbie club in Tel Aviv, after holding a master class the previous evening at the Pasaz (Passage) Bar, where he demonstrated his unique playing style.

Another artist who will perform in Israel later this week is the guitarist/singer Bernard Allison, the son of Luther Allison, who was one of the leading guitarists in Chicago, playing among others with Howlin’ Wolf. The younger Allison was born into the world of the Blues, playing with his father, as well as with singer Koko Taylor and guitarist Johnny Winter, and started recording and singing on his own in the 1990s. He will perform today at the Hemdat Yamim club in the Galilee and will give two performances on Saturday night at the Zappa club in Tel Aviv (doors open at 5:30 P.M. and 8:45 P.M. for these shows). Performing with him will be guitarist Andy Watts, harmonica player Dov Hammer, double-bassist Ilan Hillel and drummer Alon Hillel.

One of the veteran bastions of Blues music in Israel is the Mike's Place chain of bars, which last month brought over Robert Lighthouse. Next week JC Smith will begin a series of performances at the Tel Aviv club. Smith started out as a drummer, switching to guitar 15 years ago. His first appearance at Mike’s Place will be on November 20. The following day he will play at Mike’s Place in Eilat, continuing on November 23 in Jerusalem. There are no admission charges to these shows.

The coming month’s Blues onslaught will wind up with Guy King, an Israeli guitarist who has been living in the U.S. for many years. King fell in love with the Blues at a young age, moving to Chicago after his military service. There he joined the singing ensemble of Willie Kent. When Kent died in 2006, King set up his own ensemble which, among others, accompanied singer Koko Taylor and played opening act for BB King. A few years ago, when the group performed at Buddy Guy’s club in Chicago, the legendary guitarist was very impressed with his playing and asked King to join his club’s home ensemble. King will perform at the Rappaport Auditorium in Haifa on December 13, followed the next day by a show at the Zappa club in Herzliya.

In addition to many performances by U.S. artists, the local Blues scene has been blossoming lately, with many new albums released by Israeli performers and the appearance of new blogs devoted to the Blues. In addition, local Indie festivals are dedicating more time to Blues performers.

Ben Prestage.Credit: Robert Wells
The current batch of visiting Bluesmen will be following in the footsteps of Blues legend BB King. Credit: Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP
Bernard Allison.Credit: ActiveSteve

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