Friday, February 4, 2011

Memphis Tennessee--Brooks Museum & International Blues Challenge

MBuya Mask
Africa DRC

Rhythm Pounders - Male & Female
After our night out with the McClure's listening to Bluegrass in Nashville, A. Paul & I were just a bit rough around the edges when we headed out for Memphis this morning.  The gray sky made the hibernating landscape appear cold and lifeless until we arrived at Memphis' oldest art museum, the Brooks Museum of Art. Though there was a definite chill to the air, the sun's reflection on the museum's Georgian marble Beaux Arts facade was warm and inviting.

The Brooks Museum was built in 1916 through an endowment from Bessie Vance Brooks.  The museum is situated within the Overton Park about 15 minutes outside downtown Memphis. Over the last 85 years, the museum expanded three times--1955, 1973, & 1989 to its current 29 galleries, 2 art classroom, a print study, and research library.  The Brooks permanent collections range from antiquity to the present on three levels.  The rotunda of the 3rd level houses an impressive African Art Collection. The entry level galleries exhibit early American & European works up to the 20c  in period rooms displaying visual arts with decorative arts. The lower museum level houses the traveling & special exhibits.

Italian Renaissance & Baroque works comprise the majority of the European collection with Early American painters' landscapes & portraiture comprising the core of the American collection.
"Au Pied de la Falaise"
William Adolpre

The modern and contemporary galleries are a survey of  American and European arts ranging from 1900s to present but its focus is mainly pre-1945.
"Waterfall #1 Maui"
Georgia O'Keeffe

The curation of the collection is worthy of a visit if you are in the Memphis area.  You can visit the Brooks Museum website at


Vince Johnson & Plantation Allstars
With the Nashville bluegrass harmonies still reeling through our heads, we rolled into downtown Memphis right in the middle of the International Blues Challenge. What luck!  There was absolutely no way that A. Paul & I were not going to drag our bodies down Beale Street to take in the sights and sounds. 

For a street that already rarely sleeps, the IBC kicks it up a notch or a hundred.  On this night, the second night of the challenge, 100 blues bands from all over the world come to compete to make it to tomorrow's semi finals, and eventually to the finals on Saturday.  A $10 silver plastic bracelet gives you entry for one night into all 11 venues that are hosting the event.  A $100 pass takes you through the entire 5 days of the event. We literally dropped our bags and headed off, first to eat at the City Blues Cafe (yes, we did try the BBQ) then off to see musicians from all walks of life play their hearts out.  We weaved our ways through a very cold street for over 5 hours, soaking in all the blues one could ask for in Memphis. 
Beale Street

Randy Oxford Band
Some of our favorites of the evening were listening to the cool vibes from Memphis own competitor, Vince Johnson & the Plantation Allstars; the phenomenal trombone and sultry sounds of Randy Oxford Band;  and singer/songwriter Ezra Charles Band with his three female horn section at B.B. Kings. Each band arrived to Memphis by winning in their own regional contest and ,in this event, must play all original songs, with one cover song option.  The bands play 30 minutes with a short  5-8 minutes changeover to set up.  It was, to say the least, an inspiring and satisfying way to be greeted in Memphis.   Though there is an  announced after hours jam session this evening (and every evening during the event), A. Paul & I simply ran out of steam.  Tomorrow, we head out to New Orleans but Memphis thank you for the arts in all avenues that you provided us today.  A big thank you to Gail, Jimmy, and Ken  for offering two weary travelers space at your tables.
Kerry & Ken, judge asst at Hard Rock

I'd like to leave our blog readers this evening with the promised sound clip from John McClure of Nashville with his daughter Leslie on vocals, but John, I need it as an url if possible.  I couldn't upload the mp3 so if you have an itunes url or similar I think it will work.   Sorry you and Annie weren't here for IBC, you would have loved it.

Good night everyone until tomorrow.


Ken Stewart said...

Kerry, it was nice meeting you & A. Paul at The Hard Rock. I'm glad your visit coincided with the International Blues Challenge. What a great way to be introduced to Memphis!

Randy Oxford said...

Thank you for your kind comments about my band, the Randy Oxford band in Memphis.
We sure had a great time at the IBC and we hope to be touring out your way soon. I like your web site and your gallery info on line. Would love to visit the gallery when we are in town.