Through a career that has spanned 50+ years in bands including The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith, Steve Winwood showed during his 110 minute show at the packed Chumash Casino that he is above all things, a jazzer at heart. Declaring so on his first Traffic album, he’s “into jazz,” as each song of the show that represented the various stages of his career had an irresistible swing pulse that made 60s R&B, and acid or progressive rock sit comfortably for either the metal head or dancing queen.
Starting out behind the Hammond B3, Winwood led flexible team of Jose’ Neto/g, Paul Booth/wwinds, Richard Bailey /dr and Edwin Sans/perc with the charging opening hit from the 60s British Invasion, “I’m A Man” along with the more modern floating piece “Fly.” Winwood’s voice still has that rich Ray Charles earthiness, and with his Hammond he can dig deep irresistible pulses on tunes like”Pearly Queen” and “Empty Pages.” Booth was switching between saxes, flute and keyboards like a master painter searching for the right brush, tapping into his inner King Curtis while Neto turned his guitar into a wailing wand on “Them Changes” while the mood shifted to a late night jazz club as Booth’s baritone floated between Neto’s clean lines on the smoky “Low Spark of High Healed Boys.”
Joking that it was time to “go vintage,” Winwood strapped on his Strat and seared over the percolating percussion and drums on the relentless “Had To Cry To Day” and the agonizing “Can’t Find My Way Home,” with Winwood at his most vocally emotive.
Back at the Hammond, Winwood had the band mix portions of James Brown, Pancho Sanchez and Jimmy on the funky and fabulous flaming “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone” before tapping into his more recent material such as the upbeat “Higher Love.”
With an encore of the ethereal and indigo’d “Mr. Fantasy” and the stampeding anthem “Gimme Some Lovin’,” Winwood showed that even going into his 70th decade, he’s able to create music that is back in the high life.
Upcoming shows at the Chumash Casino include Tim Allen 09/29, Jamey Johnson 10/06, War 11/03 and Clint Black 12/15