Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bobby Rush at Damrosch Park

Bobby Rush was born Emmit Ellis, Jr., in Homer, Louisiana, on November 10, 1935. As a young child, he began playing music using a sugar-cane syrup-bucket and a broom-wire diddley bow. Around 1946, his father, a pastor, moved the family to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where the young Rush would become friends with blues masters Elmore James, Boyd Gilmore (Elmore's cousin) and Moose John Walker. In 1953, his family relocated to Chicago, and there Rush became part of the local blues scene. Since 1979, Rush has recorded 25 albums, the most recent being this year’s Down in Louisiana.

At Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center this evening, Rush performed a slick set of blues and soul songs. Often he proved he was a solid blues crooner and harmonica player, but other times he was a ham bent on entertaining with chit chat, much of it sexually suggestive. Although he looks great for his age, it eventually becomes hard for a mature audience to see a nearly 80-year-old man repeatedly grab his crotch and hear him talk, even jokingly, about his prowess. In the end, Rush compromised his musical integrity with cheap burlesque. Play the harmonica, Rush, and curb the player.