Chicago pianist extraordinaire Johnny Iguana leads this all-star band, a quartet of dazzling musicians each with an illustrious musical past. They come together now as a fireball of blues-fusion energy and invention…a new American roots band unlike anything else on the scene today. Here they are, live in hi-def and hi-fi at Shirk Studios in Chicago (as American Blues Scene warns: “Hold onto your hats!”).
Along with special guests from the upper echelon of the Chicago blues scene, the band JOHNNY IGUANA’S CHICAGO SPECTACULAR! have made a big splash with their self-titled Delmark Records debut. They break down genre barriers with a combustible combination of piano blues classics (fresh takes on Otis Spann, Memphis Slim and more) and new originals (which recall everything from Gershwin to Raymond Scott to Les McCann). Now, the formidable quartet are set to take their one-of-a-kind piano-powered show to the festivals and theaters of the world. Here’s an introduction to this remarkable group.
Pianist/songwriter/founder of the Claudettes, Johnny has toured and/or recorded with many of the great Chicago blues legends including Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Billy Boy Arnold, Otis Rush, Carey and Lurrie Bell, Lil’ Ed, James Cotton and others. As a session pianist, he has played on dozens of blues of recordings including multiple Grammy-nominated albums. In the rock realm, Johnny co-founded the punk-organ band Oh My God and the synth-fueled groups Them Vs. Them and Software Giant.
In addition to his work as an esteemed and prolific producer/songwriter, this world-renowned bass-guitar virtuoso has played with Stevie Wonder, Chaka Kahn, Questlove, Ramsey Lewis, Pat Metheny, Janet Jackson, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington Jr., Chicago Blues: A Living History and countless others. (Bill is a Ropeadope recording artist.)
He’s already made his mark as an indie-soul singer-songwriter with a fiercely independent streak—but Phillip-Michael Scales has blues in the blood, being the nephew of the late, legendary B.B. King. Phillip-Michael graduated from the illustrious Berklee College of Music and has won acclaim for his solo recordings from American Songwriter, the Chicago Tribune and more. Blues has increasingly been a key part of Scales’ sound, never more than now as he steps to the front of the CHICAGO SPECTACULAR! stage.
Downbeat Magazine award winner and five-time Detroit Music Award recipient, Michael Caskey is a drummer (not to mention pianist, composer and music educator) who has played with a wide variety of artists: Heritage Blues Orchestra, oh my god, Eastern Blok, Chuck Mangione, Koko Taylor, John Sinclair and more. Michael is also the drummer of the Claudettes, a band he co-founded with Johnny Iguana.
“The fingers of Johnny Iguana point the blues towards its future”
“Rollicking…deeply expressive…astounding…defies easy classification….a cohesive and splendidly satisfying whole.”
“A blues album like no other, being traditional yet utterly contemporary.”
“Nothing short of spectacular…barrels down the highway, careening between lanes as Iguana fires on all cylinders….cooks throughout….A treat awaits!”
“He has become a performer like no other, a totally unique pianist who is recognizable in everything he does….Exquisite self-composed instrumentals are served…rock hard blues piano of the highest quality….This is definitely one of this year’s best albums for me. There is tradition and innovation in beautiful union. Recommended without reservation. BBBBBB (highest rating: Six out of six B’s)”
“Skillfully blends classic Chicago blues from the 1950s with a freer, jazzier approach a la Ramsey Lewis…catch phrases can’t be used to describe this…This album rises to the occasion and needs to be recognized, especially one as invigorating as this….(4 out of 5 stars)”
“A modern approach to the blues, although it has touches that are reminiscent of the old glories of the boogie-woogie….it’s spectacular, it’s risky…a piano album like no other.”
“Sultry and steamy…extremely swinging…effortlessly bounces from blues to funk and even to classical…unstoppable boogie-woogie with a booming, almost bombastic sound.…The variation of this album is also its great strength…a wonderful blues album!”
“As the title Chicago Spectacular suggests, it’s a riotous celebration of the Windy City…an album that shows how vibrant Chicago blues can be….Iguana finds a sweet spot between jumping piano R&B and gutbucket blues, placing the rhythm in the forefront and keeping things lively and swinging throughout. The result is a blast, an album that celebrates Chicago traditions while tweaking them with a big grin.”