Battle of the blues between teacher and pupil
Recorded at CHCH-TV Studios in Ontario, Canada on 6th December, 1983, In Session documents the time when Stevie Ray Vaughan reunited with one of his greatest blues heroes, Albert King. At first King was reluctant to perform with someone he didn’t know, but when he learned that it was Vaughan, or ‘little Stevie’ as he used to call him, the six foot five inch tall guitarist immediately agreed (as a teen Vaughan used to occasionally sit in on stage with King when he was touring in Texas, earning the elder statesman’s respect in the process).
First issued in 1999, then later in 2010 as a CD/DVD combo, In Session offers fans of both musicians a rare and invaluable insight into each man’s talents. At the time recording took place, Vaughan was slightly less than half his mentor’s age (29 and 60 respectively), so one would expect that Vaughan, a far more versatile and powerful player (who could play everyone from Hubert Sumlin to Jimi Hendrix), would have been capable of pulling out all the stops and showing King what he was truly capable of.
Though rather than heroic upmanship, Vaughan showed nothing but respect and admiration, preferring to complement rather than dominate a set of mainly King’s own compositions. However despite such humble veneration, the two, along with King’s backing band, manage to put in a blistering hour plus performance.
Old chestnuts like “Call It Stormy Monday,” “Blues At Sunrise” (a monster at 15 minutes), and “Match Box Blues” are all inspired, with Vaughan and King trading licks like a couple of long lost musical brothers. And in as much as Vaughan might have been a more proficient player, King, despite his age, was no slouch when it came to stepping up and making his own instrument sizzle in response to his younger protégé.
“Pride And Joy” is the only other Vaughan original to appear, with King once again pushing himself to the upper-most limit of his abilities. Though let it be known that this was by no means a competition, merely an impromptu performance accentuated by mutual esteem and deference, where neither guitarist attempts to cut the other one down.
The DVD opens with a superb “Born Under A Bad Sign,” (not available on the CD, followed by Vaughan’s own “Texas Flood” (more a lengthy jam than an actual structured take) off his just then released debut. What’s compelling is the opportunity to actually see them together, smiling, telling stories, while obviously enjoying every moment spent in each other’s company.
Throughout In Session, the display of warmth and genuine camaraderie between Vaughan and King (especially on King’s part, unusual for the big man) is clearly palpable. Here there is no locking of horns, just two masters doing what they did best – namely sing and play the blues like there was no tomorrow.