Chris Molyneaux of Lit’l Chicago
at the Station Music Hall, December 10, 2016
From Lit’l Chicago’s Christmas Blues Extravaganza at the Station Music Hall on Saturday December 10. 2016
For some shots from this and past shows check out the “Gallery”.
Robb Sharp & Lit'l Chicago’s Christmas Blues Extravaganza: Tight as a Drum but Loose as a Goose Equals a Triumph at The Station Music Hall
Sunday December 11, 2016
by Brian Hay
That’s one tough balance to achieve but this band did it. Once host Jack Poirier finished a truly entertaining introduction and the music began each member was completely in touch with what the others did all the time. Had the performance been recorded, it’s not likely that many edits would be needed to bring it to the standard desired for a CD. They literally soared like an eagle in free flight while remaining grounded by a foundation solid enough to hold a skyscraper in place.
Of course, it all starts with the rhythm section. Lit’l Chicago has one that combines impeccably tasteful restraint with the energy of a jet surging to its take-off. Beautifully melodic bass lines from Richard L. Bardawill (the Catfish) grounded by firm timekeeping combine with stellar punctuation and laser-like reinforcement from the drums of Johnny (J.P) Esser to produce a rhythm section that can be summed up by one word: Classy!
Up front singer/guitarist Robb Sharp and sax-man Chris Molyneaux fill out the sound in a way that makes the four piece unit sing with the fullness of an orchestra. Sharp plays both the lead and rhythm parts fabulously well, always exactly where he should be when solidifying their bottom end and rising magnificently whenever he solos, something he does freely and regularly but invariably without over playing anything. Chris, more than ever before, seems to be able to do practically anything, be it racing off in brilliantly executed free-flow, holding his end in instrumental dialogues or doubling the work of other members of the ensemble. The single guest spot this time around was filled by Denise Chaulk. She and the group combined for a wonderful (and very energetic) rendition of ‘Merry Christmas Baby’.
There’s far more to what makes this superb ensemble go though. Catfish, Chris and lead singer Robb Sharp are all strong vocalists, both in lead roles and on harmony work. Their timing on harmony singing and facility for balancing their volumes is excellent. Strong grounding in both blues and jazz dominates all facets of every member’s playing. That’s particularly noticeable with Chris whose training at Humber College has firmly embedded itself in his work.
Chemistry between band members is great. Lit’l Chicago’s Director, Robb Sharp, has put an ensemble together where each member feeds off the musicality and energy of others constantly. When one escalates their playing the others follow, move up a step and raise the bar — it’s a sibling rivalry at its finest, but also one that’s entirely congenial. These guys enjoy the competition and take off like kids in a candy store with their audience loving every moment.
Everything Lit’l Chicago accomplishes is the result of fantastic talents making the sacrifice to work hard enough to make their excellence appear completely effortless. That’s true of of the entire band, but most noticeable in their youngest member, Chris Molyneaux. He has a talent of monumental proportions but applies himself with the diligence of one who has to struggle with the tiniest of steps. Superb control of tone, beautiful enunciation of notes and seamless logic in his threads allow twists and turns that appear surprising for an instant before settling in with the natural flow of something that could never have been any other way. The effect is that of a fountain of youth for his older band-mates and a maturity on his part that provides the bridge to unify a band that’s truly great.
The venue was excellent. Over the last year owner Stuart Manchee has given the club a facelift that’s included a new sound system and the dividends are obvious. The floor staff were around but not obtrusive. Service at the counters was courteous and prompt. And the sound-man didn’t go wandering away from his post except when he needed to check on the clarity in various parts of the club.
The near capacity crowd at the Station got all this and it showed in the performance. What a great night!