Edgar Winter has been on the road for over fifty years now. Honing his craft in the bars and honky tonks of Southeast Texas close to New Orleans, Winter eventually landed a record deal at the dawn of the 1970s. His 1970 debut album, Entrance, was a record blending Jazz, Blues, and Rock-n-Roll. This was a style that he would take to the top of the charts throughout the first half of the decade with albums like 1971’s Edgar Winter’s White Trash that saw him team up with his brother Johnny Winter on guitar, Rick Derringer on vocals, and a huge collection of superstar studio musicians. Moving onward and upward, 1972’s They Only Come Out At Night produced two of Rock’s biggest hits of the decade, thus launching Winter into a present day legendary status. On the eve of Saturday February 7th, the multi-instrumental Winter and his band made a special trip out to Riverhead, NY to play a show at the classy Suffolk Theater. With the drinks flowing, dinner being served, and the lights down, everyone took their seats ready to take a musical journey.
Taking the sparsely appointed stage, Winter was accompanied by Koko Powell on bass, Jason Carpenter on drums, and Doug Rappaport on guitar. Blues standard “Tobacco Road” kicked off the show in epic fashion as the band stretched it out for over twenty minutes. In classic Blues style, the song featured an extensive call and response between Winter and Rappaport with the guitarist nailing every long drawn out vocal rant to perfection. The band also mixed in a few bars of Led Zeppelin’s Kasmir, and Winter provided two blistering saxophone solos to complement the timeless Blues beat held down by Powell and Carpenter on bass and drums. Despite the length of the jam, there was never a sense of self-indulgence, as the song chugged along with incredible dynamics. Moving right along, straight ahead rocker “Keep Playin’ That Rock And Roll” followed with its rollicking guitar lick and pounding drum. The track was executed perfectly and epitomizes the sound of early ’70s Rock while featuring a great guitar solo. “Hangin’ Around” followed in the same vein as Winter prowled the stage like a maestro conducting his fellow musicians as he played air drums, bass, and guitar with the band members throughout.
Best known for his work on the keys, throughout the night Winter showed his prowess on tenor saxophone as well on pieces such as “Texas Tornado”. Each time the band members finished the chorus with a pounding note and shouted the words, “Texas tornado!” Winter wailed away on the sax, engaging the audience, as his flourishes featured the sounds of the best of ’60s R&B, New Orleans Jazz, and ’50s Doo-Wop. Here, Winter was able to showcase his various influences, and show that he had mastered them all. “We All Had a Real Good Time” again found the band stretching out as this time the call and response was done in reverse with Rappaport playing a lick and Winter echoing it with a rapid fire scat. Coming in at over ten minutes, the band inserted an instrumental Classic Rock medley playing the music of ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Van Halen, and The Who. Adding showmanship to the already amazing output, Rappaport also paid tribute to Jimi Hendrix playing guitar behind his head.
Keeping everyone cheering after each track wound down, smash hits “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride” closed the set. An instrumental powerhouse, “Frankenstein” allowed all four players on stage to shine bright. Winter provided the lead riff on the keys, along with swirling, looping solos. Showing yet another weapon in his arsenal, Winter took to a small drum kit to play along with Carpenter on an extended drum solo. Powell was then given the spotlight for an incredibly Funk-laden bass solo, running into a screeching guitar run from Rappaport. Taking the song past the ten minute mark, the band went in many different directions before bringing it back home for the big finish. This drew a raucous standing ovation from the crowd. The aforementioned “Free Ride,” Winter’s biggest single, had Rappaport taking over the lead vocal. Oozing a Classic Rock vibe, the free-spirited tune evoked a sing along from the crowd as Winter paraded on stage with his keyboard strapped around his neck, after telling everyone the story of how he invented the keyboard strap forty years prior because he did not want to feel trapped in his seat while playing live.
A brief exit brought the band back on stage for a two song encore. With the entire room well aware of Edgar’s brother, Blues guitar legend Johnny Winter passed away in 2014, he expressed thanks for the outpouring of love and support following Johnny’s death. Receiving a massive array of applauds, the band went right into a scorching version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” two songs famously covered by Johnny Winter at the height of his popularity.
Everyone in attendance at the Suffolk Theater was treated to a prodigious Rock-n-Roll show by an industry legend. In addition to the fuzzed out guitars and screeching vocals, Edgar Winter and his band touched on various styles of music, styles that all came together sixty years ago and gave birth to Rock-n-Roll as they played the Blues, Jazz, R&B, Gospel, Soul, and even harkened back centuries with call and response. Putting their own spin, and a unique interpretation on the roots of Rock, allowed everyone exiting the theater to say, “We All Had A Real Good Time.”