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Bluesfest Special Feature: All-Star Blues Revue

By Terry Steeves on July 12, 2017

Bluesfest’s All-Star Blues Revue celebrates the age old musical melange of the jam. Musicians who gather in a communal and unscripted release of their talents, often times resulting in some of the most magical creativity that is as wonderful to be a part of as it is to witness. This year celebrates the second series of these jams, seven in total, all held inside the Barney Danson Theatre. And again this year, Ottawa bands MonkeyJunk, and The Split will share hosting duties. But first, a little about both bands:

MonkeyJunk. Photo courtesy of RBC Bluesfest.

MonkeyJunk. Photo courtesy of RBC Bluesfest.

For nearly a decade, Ottawa’s beloved Juno-award winners, MonkeyJunk, have been busy storming the world with their brand of no-nonsense original blues material laced with rock muscle. The trio made up of guitarist Tony D., drummer Matt Sobb, and multi-instrumentalist and singer Steve Marriner also have a long history as well respected musicians in their own right, and their union makes them a force like no other. From Thursday to Sunday, July 6-9, they played house band to a variety of musical guests including blues guitarists, pianists, and singers such as Bill Durst, Anthony Geraci, Tim Langford, Carlos del Junco, Sugaray Rayford, Jimmy Bowskill, Vanessa Collier, and Slam Allen. I caught up with guitarist, Tony D., to chat about the All-Star Blues Revue, its origin, and its essential place in Bluesfest’s line-up.

“Way back when Bluesfest started, there was a jam I used to do called The Power Hour. It was the same idea… it was the Tony D. Band and we would get three or four guests to come up and play. That went on for years. For MonkeyJunk, it’s the second year we’ve hosted the All-Star Blues Revue. Last year we had the last half of shows, and this year we started it off. When we bring somebody up that has a lot of musical energy, we feed off that and it becomes a give and take. In a jam situation like this, a good musician will do what they do best, but also try to gel with the band that’s backing them up.”

The Split. Photo courtesy of RBC Bluesfest.

The Split. Photo courtesy of RBC Bluesfest.

The brothers Chaffey, who formed The Split in 2011, have been a long-time staple when it comes to their musical history in town. They are Ottawa’s answer to some serious soul with a blues backbone, and have been ripping up stages locally and abroad. The combination of Curtis Chaffey’s textured blends of rhythms and leads with Matthew Chaffey’s natural-born front man soul virtuosity make this pair a sight and sound to behold. They also hosted Bluesfest’s All-Star Blues Revue last year. This year, they take the second segment of nights inside the Barney Danson Theatre, from July 13 to to 15, with all shows running from 9pm to 10:15pm. Special guests include a variety of stellar blues and soul guitarists, pianists, organists, and singers, many of whom are highlighted in their own stage shows during Bluesfest. These include Coco Montoya, Miss Lavelle White, Red Young, Thornetta Davis, Jack Semple, and Sharon Riley. And as was the experience in the first half of shows with MonkeyJunk, it’s another chance to catch more legendary performers jam it out onstage with The Split.

The All-Star Blues Revue is part of the recognition and importance that blues continues to play at Bluesfest. After all, blues is the essential root that spun into the birth of rock, jazz, and other popular forms that are also embraced at Bluesfest.

Tony D. sums it up well: “It’s the camaraderie of the music, and the genre, and the fact that these musicians can get together and play off each other…and it’s spontaneous. Blues jams are common around the world, so this is definitely a tradition and in the spirit of Bluesfest for sure.”

RBC Bluesfest runs from July 6–16, 2017 at LeBreton Flats. Visit for the lineup and schedule. Keep checking back for more Apt613 Bluesfest coverage and follow us on Instagram for the latest photos.