by Andy J. Gordon
Marcus Rezak just released his third album called Guitar Head. He is most recently associated with his cover projects including Shred is Dead (prog leaning Grateful Dead material), the Phish homage called Gumbo and the Frank Zappa tribute called Zappa Experience. The new album contains blues oriented, original material but retains the progressive rock shredding the artist is known for. Rezak gave an energetic performance at The Mint show on Friday November 10, 2023. He and his talented band played all but two songs from the new album and the fans at the small, historic club provided enthusiastic support.
Rezak’s new material was inspired by blues legends like Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush and Muddy Waters, but the Chicago native took the root material and made it his own with a modern mélange of blues, soul, progressive rock and improvisational jamming. The performers on stage with him at The Mint may not have the reputation or pedigree of those he recruited for the album, but they more than held their own. The album lineup included members of Trey Anastasio Band, Twiddle/Kung Fu and Little Feat. The band at The Mint included Anna Elva on drums, Jeff Liffman on keys, Dubsworth on bass and Ian Roller on saxophone.
The show opened with “Light of the Moon,” the single from Rezak’s 2021 album Truth in Sound. Rezak’s voice was solid and the catchy tune featured an innovative, lengthy guitar solo – a theme that was repeated all night. The first track of the new album came next. “Sweet Like Mary Jane” is a hard blues rocker that featured another ripping solo and some scatting by Rezak in time with his guitar notes. “Funk It Right” was a high octane, funky foot stomper that included the first appearance by Ian Roller, who delivered a nice saxophone solo followed by an intense solo sequence by Rezak. “Soul Glow” opened with a chest thumping bass line from Dubsworth, an infectious beat from Anna Elva and an appealing hook from Rezak. Jeff Liffman delivered a trippy organ solo and during another extensive Rezak solo, he teased a bit of Hendrix.
“Get It Underway” was another catchy tune with inspired saxophone and guitar soloing. The closest song to traditional, slow blues and soul was “Going The Distance,” a sultry ballad with a riveting saxophone riff. It was also the best display of Rezak’s voice as the quieter song allowed the audience to hear his vocals more clearly. The pace quickened for another blues tune called “Grammys Caddy” that had a strong ZZ Top vibe. Rezak’s guitar alternated beautifully with Liffman’s organ and Roller’s sax.
The show ended with a cover of Chicago blues guitarist Son Seals’ “Funky Bitch,” which is also the last track on the new album. The up-tempo, funky tune showcased each of the talented band members. Roller blew an inspirational solo, Liffman played an imaginative organ solo, while Dubsworth and Elva delivered the hip swaying beat. As was the pattern all night, Rezak earned the spotlight with distinctive solos and vocals that thrilled the crowd.
Before Rezak’s headlining performance, Ventura, California jam band Shaky Feeling did a fine set of songs. The band mixed several original tunes with covers and teases that included Bob Marley’s “One Love,” Steve Miller’s “The Joker” and Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life.” Lead singer and guitarist Mark Masson invited Rezak out to join the band. They played a rowdy duel guitar jam that led into a version of Lou Reed’s “Rock and Roll.” The two guitarists traded solos and continued to improvise. Eventually it led into a long tease of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Elizabeth Reed” which segued into The Who’s “Join Together In The Band,” ending the set.
Rezak’s excellent performance and catchy new material raises the question, why does such a talented musician struggle to gain a larger following? He has been toiling away for several years – hitting the road and doing tons of shows. However, he seems to only have a limited niche audience and is confined to small venues like The Mint. His sound, versatility and talent definitely lend itself to much larger venues. Given the absence of major label and traditional radio promotion, it has become very tough to find widespread success in today’s music scene. If anyone deserves that success, Rezak does. Here’s hoping he keeps plugging away, re-creating classic jam material while still writing and performing original songs. Hopefully, more people will catch on to this gifted musician and his audiences will grow significantly.
Photos courtesy of Andy J Gordon ©2023
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