Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sonny del Rio's 55th Anniversary at Leander Boat Club

Sonny del Rio's 55th Anniversary Party
by Tony Gosgnach

There was a triple purpose for the attendance of several hundred people at Hamilton’s Leander Boat Club the evening of Sunday, December 2 – enjoying performances from a number of Hamilton’s musical glitterati, fundraising for the CKOC Christmas Miracle and a celebration of legendary local saxman Sonny del Rio’s 55 years in the music business.

Even after a half-century plus, the charismatic reedman was in good form as usual, sporting his trademark sunglasses and jumping in and out with the various acts that took the stage over the course of the night.

Christopher Clause wowed the crowd early on with an impressive and spirited solo performance on voice and acoustic guitar that was marked by the heavy use of loop effects. A highlight was his layering of the synthesizer intro to the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and then closing out with the song’s violin solo done on the guitar, backed by a cacophony of looping tracks set down earlier.

Singer Jude Johnson and keyboardist Carl Horton took the stage for several numbers and, in keeping with the season, were joined on stage by del Rio for a rendition of “Silver Bells.” Johnson generously donated the proceeds of that night’s sales of her gospel CD to the Christmas Miracle cause. Next up, singer-songwriter Ray Materick performed an intense acoustic set as he was backed by a large band that included an electric harp.

Harrison Kennedy displayed the form that has seen him win numerous awards and nominations in holding the crowd spellbound with a bluesy set performed only on voice and banjo, before the blues theme continued with a gritty performance from the Smoke Wagon Blues Band.

Fellow saxophone master Darcy Hepner, a professor of music at Mohawk College, leader of the Darcy Hepner Jazz Orchestra and former member of Blood, Sweat and Tears, took the stage fresh off backing BS and T bandmate David Clayton-Thomas at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre three nights earlier to join del Rio and a pickup band that had the dance floor full as they instrumentally smoked through the Buddy Miles classic “Them Changes.”

When young local rockers Dawn Before Descent – winners of the loud/metal recording of the year honor at this year’s Hamilton Music Awards – took the stage shortly before midnight, the crowd had thinned out drastically in preparation for the next working day, but those who remained made known their appreciation for the band’s incendiary set and could see that the band has a promising future.

When all was said and done, del Rio was grinning from ear to ear and understandably so. A large crowd had enjoyed top-class performances from musical royalty, a good cause had been helped and he had nicely marked another milestone in a long and illustrious career.

What wasn't there to like? As the saying goes, a good time was had by all.

by Tony Gosgnach tonygmusician@gmail.com

To read more about Sonny del Rio, check out the interview in The Hamiltonian

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