The best live music—the kind you remember until the day you die—usually comes in small, intimate settings rather than large commercial concerts. That’s exactly what happened Tuesday in New York City during “off time” for Steve Cropper, Tony Garnier, Anton Fig, Henry Butler and some of the world’s finest sidemen.
Assembled by Jonny Rosch and joined by guitarist Jeff Golub and sax player Dan Cipriano at the P&G Bar on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, this musical tour de force was between major acts.
Cropper, who lives in Tennessee, was in town for an appearance at the Statue of Liberty. Garnier, Bob Dylan’s music director and bass player, was on a break from the never ending tour. Anton Fig had just finished taping the David Letterman Show. Henry Butler, now in New York after a devastating turn with Hurricane Katrina, was finding a new audience.
The connections between these great players are immense. Cropper, named the greatest living guitar player by Mojo Magazine, has written and played on some of soul music’s most endearing classics. He co-wrote Knock On Wood with Eddie Floyd, In the Midnight Hour with Wilson Pickett and (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay with Otis Redding. He’s also a major record producer and was long associated with Stax Records.As a member of Booker T. & the M.G's, Cropper played at Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary concert in October of 1992 at Madison Square Garden. At that famous concert, he backed Dylan, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Chrissie Hynde, Sinéad O'Connor, Stevie Wonder and Neil Young. Tony Garnier, Dylan’s longest playing sideman, was at Cropper’s side on Tuesday night. Dan Cipriano was Pickett’s sax player and now backs Sam Moore, formerly with Sam & Dave. When they played In the Midnight Hour and Soul Man, one could tell this is music both men have lived with for a long time.Being from New Orleans, Garnier also had a connection to the great Henry Butler, whose percussive piano sounds and Professor Longhair influences seemed to fascinate the other players as much as the audience. In fact, Butler’s body vibrated as Anton Fig did his signature drum solos when Butler played.Jonny Rosch has assembled some of the best musical “friends” in the business. I count my lucky stars to get to see them each week.