Discover Jazz Festival: Paul Asbell
From his early years, playing blues on Chicago’s South Side, to his present multi-faceted career based out of northern Vermont, Paul has earned an underground reputation as a true “musician’s musician”. He has played and recorded with Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Earl Hooker, Lightnin’ Slim, Paul Butterfield, Sam Lay, Pops Staples, Donny Hathaway, and numerous others while in his hometown of Chicago, Ill.
Paul moved to Vermont in the heady “back-to-the-land” days of 1971, where he still lives. He soon started playing and recording with a head-spinningly diverse array of artists, including Big Mama Thornton, singer-songwriters Paul Siebel, Jim Ringer, Mary McCaslin, and Rosalie Sorrells, jazz greats Jon Hendricks, Bobby McFerrin, Sonny Stitt, and Nick Brignola, and many others. (Visit the Discography page for info on the many recordings from these early days)
In 1978, seeking an outlet for more personal musical visions, he formed Kilimanjaro , and recorded 2 award-winning albums for Philo Records. Soon after, the band performed at the Kool Jazz Festival at SPAC, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, and numerous national tours and concert dates.
In 1981, Paul and other members of Kilimanjaro joined forces with a legendary saxophonist and blues singer to form Big Joe Burrell and the Unknown Blues Band. Together, they performed at many festivals, including the Kool Jazz Festival, toured Russia, Holland, and Canada, and served as backup band for Marva Wright, Kenny Neal, W.C. Clark, and others. The UBB remained a Northeast regional favorite for over 20 years, until Big Joe’s passing in 2005.
Personal performance credits in recent years include David Bromberg, Betty Carter, Joshua Redman, James Carter, Kermit Ruffins, Michael Ray, the Sun Ra Arkestra, The Wild Magnolias, John Stowell, guitar wunderkind Julian Lage, Dave Grippo and former students Trey Anastasio and Nick Cassarino.
A while back, Paul received Seven Days magazine’s “Best Musician of 2004” Daysie Award (the runner-up was a young up-and-comer named Trey Anastasio) That same year saw the release of Patti Casey’s “Just an Old Sweet Song”, a “live-in-the-studio” record of old standards, explored in the intimate setting of just vocals and guitar. Other duo partners since then have included Brooks Williams, Mike Dowling, Chuck D’Aloia and Elisabeth Von Trapp.