Winter Park / Live Music: An ever-changing lineup |

Winter Park / Live Music: An ever-changing lineup

Local musician Andy Irvine joins John-Alex Mason on stage tonight for a special first-time duo performance at the Winter Park Pub.

The free concert is part of Irvine’s Blues Collective, a program he began in 2006, which has brought more than 30 musicians together in Grand County throughout the past two years. The collective is an ongoing blues ensemble featuring an “ever-changing lineup” of top blues musicians.

“The basic principle for the group,” Irvine said, “is to bring together a wide range of blues artists in a casual and funky setting. You could call it a melting pot of blues professionals. The overall goal is to present great musicians and aid in their exposure to the national blues arena. All of the shows will be comprised of material drenched in the styles of blues, soul, funk, jazz and roots rock ‘n’ roll.”

The coaching program is an extension of the Grand County Blues Society’s Blues in the Schools Program and Irvine is pleased to announce that things are going well for the first Blues in the Schools Band. During their sessions with Irvine, members learn about all the aspects of live performance, including style characteristics, group dynamics, presentation and marketing, as well as the history and geographic significance of the blues.

Irvine’s passion is as a bassist, guitarist and songwriter. Since 1984, he has recorded almost 30 full-length albums.

“There are hundreds (of songs) that I’ve done,” he said. “I’m proud of every one. I have a deep passion for music performance, song writing and education.”

Irvine’s instruments are specially made (by Stefan Sobell) with bigger bodies for rounder, warmer sounds. His mandola is two frets longer than a classic mandolin, allowing him to tune it a tone lower, using mandolin strings. And, he said, when baggage allowances permit, he’ll also bring along a bass bouzouki along on tour.

As a young man, Irvine was already attending blues jams and became a regular in the Rochester, N.Y. club scene. At 19, he had the opportunity to play with Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, tenor sax player for James Brown; and a few shows with The Chicago Blues Revue (with trumpet player/singer Danny “Boney” Fields) gave him his first touring experience and set in motion musical goals for his lifetime.

When he’s not on stage or on tour, Irvine enjoys passing along his musical knowledge.

“For me, honestly, it’s a balance between performing and giving something back by teaching,” Irvine said. “I am blessed to have a life full of music and enjoy sharing my gifts and giving back to the young musicians of my community through teaching. Reaching people’s hearts through music gives me purpose in this life.”

Since May of last year, Irvine has been hitting the road heavily, logging more than 80 shows with funk and soul group On the One and throughout this year he’ll be touring with the Brian Jordan Trio. On the One also plans to head to Japan and Europe this fall.

“I look at it as a gift,” he said. “I also try to carry a message of music without the drug and alcohol lifestyle that goes into the music scene, to try and break the mold and be a positive role model. I tie that into my purpose for being out there.”

Professional musician John-Alex Mason joins Irvine for the special performance tonight. Mason, of Colorado Springs, just returned from the International Blues Challenge in Memphis as a representative in the solo/duo category for the Grand County Blues Society.

He was the GCBS’ entry in the competition with his Town and Country album listed Number 1 on the Roots Music Report at the beginning of this month.

The usual one-man band blends foot drums, guitar and vocals to create what he dubs “deep country blues” and has played here several times before, at the Blues from the Top, the Java Cat, and opening for two Grand County Blues Society events. He won the 2001 Telluride Acoustic Blues Competition and was asked back to teach slide guitar at the festival’s guitar camp, and has also opened for major acts including BB King, James Cotton and Jimmie Vaughan and Mason said he likes playing the smaller gigs “because I can see everyone and connect with the audience.”

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