The Musicians Behind ‘Live At Carnegie Hall’
Blues-rock guitar icon Joe Bonamassa is known for catchy riffs, technical proficiency, and high energy electric guitar solos. He has made a name for himself in the guitar and blues worlds and stands out as one of the greatest contemporary guitarists. He has released 12 studio albums, many live albums/DVDs, collaborated with a plethora of various artists, and has played in some of the most iconic venues in the world.
In January of 2016, Bonamassa realized a childhood dream by playing Carnegie Hall in New York. The epic all-acoustic concert was recorded and captured on video, which was released in June this year. Already critically acclaimed and cherished by fans, ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’ has topped several Billboard charts including Blues, Top 200 Albums, and Live DVD. Even though he is known mainly as a burning electric player and doesn’t think of himself as an acoustic player, Joe’s acoustic chops are just as marvelous and amazing.
This particular performance and subsequent tour was out of the ordinary and rather challenging, but proved to be a spectacular performance and garnered a lot of praise and attention. This wasn’t a run of the mill singer with an acoustic guitar performance. Bonamassa gathered a collection of nine top-notch musicians from all over the world, who all play varying styles of music. The project was ambitious, but it worked. It not only showcased an explosive group of sensational musicians, but also established Joe as an innovative and multi-faceted musician.
Now, let’s take a closer look at a few of the world-class musicians who accompanied Joe in his Carnegie adventure!
One outstanding musician featured on the stage is the lovely yet intense cellist Tina Guo is not your standard cellist. After tirelessly practicing classical cello all throughout grade school, she yearned to break out of the classical music hole and experiment with various genres and music mediums.
Tina Guo was born in Shanghai, China in 1985 and moved to the United States when she was just five years old. Her parents began teaching Tina the cello at the age of seven. They implemented a rigorous practice schedule for her, amounting between seven to eight hours a day. Tina has performed in orchestras and smaller classical ensembles all over the world including the United States, Mexico, Greece, Brazil, Canada, Japan, and others.
She loves playing classical music as her parents trained her, but she was “always attracted to darkness.” Uncharacteristic of classical musicians, Guo began searching for other avenues to showcase her gift. She started recording for movies alongside the great Hans Zimmer, and even made YouTube videos of her covering video game soundtracks. Then she became increasingly interested in the sound of the electric cello. This opened up the world of rock music and other genres for her to explore. Guo has performed with many well-known musicians including Michael Jackson, the Foo Fighters, Carrie Underwood, Santana, Stevie Wonder, and others.
Tina was more than excited to have an opportunity to play with Joe Bonamassa and to expand her repertoire and musical experiences. Before this, she had no experience playing the blues and was not familiar with its attributes and nuances. She sure had us fooled. She commanded her instrument with genius precision and had audience members at the edge of their seats at all times.
A highlight of the performance was when it was just Tina and Joe on the stage for ‘Woke up Dreaming.’ The duet started off as the classic etude “Flight of The Bumblebee” and transformed into Joe’s tune at rapid speed. What ensued was a battle of epic proportions. Sweat was flowing, fingers were moving at warp speed, and the audience was loving it.
Joe is known to have a fantastic array of backup vocalists both on his albums and at live performances. Among the trio of singers at Carnegie Hall was the dazzling “legendary daughter of a legend” Mahalia Barnes. For Mahalia Barnes, becoming a professional singer was in many ways, inevitable and predestined. She was born on July 12, 1982 in beautiful Sydney, Australia. Mahalia is the daughter to highly popular Australian rock singer and icon, Jimmy Barnes. He is perhaps most well-known for fronting the Australian pub-rock group Cold Chisel. He also has a successful solo career, touring steadily since 1980 and releasing sixteen studio albums. Drawing inspiration and direction from her father, Mahalia began performing and recoding at a very young age. In fact, one of her first few recording studio experiences were with her father on his album “Two Fires.” A chance to showcase her immense talent came in 2012 when she auditioned for Australia’s The Voice, a vocal competition television show. In 2015, she released the album Ohh Yeah! which celebrated the music of soul singer Betty Davis and featured Joe as well. Mahalia’s no holds bar and raw way of singing matches very well with Joe’s style.
Extraordinary keyboardist and pianist Reese Wynan has been around the musical block, and then some. Wynans was born in 1947 and grew up in South Florida in the 50’s. Reese is the quintessential blues organist/pianist. The sound of the organ usually is enough to get you into the mood for some good blues sounds. But, when Reese gets behind the instrument the tasty blues licks continuously flow and blow the minds of the audience. He was in a brief band called Second Coming, featuring Dicky Betts and Berry Oakley who both would later join the Allman Brothers Band. He also has played with many country artists including Brooks & Dunn, Hank Williams Jr, and Martina McBride. However, the list of blues musicians he has joined is very impressive. Wynans has played with Buddy Guy, John Mayall, Los Lonely Boys, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Ana Popovic. However, the most iconic artist he has performed with is the Texas blues titan Stevie Ray Vaughan. Reese joined Vaughan’s band Double Trouble in 1985 until the guitarist’s untimely death in 1990. Now, Wynans has teamed up with Joe Bonamassa adding even more blues goodness to the mix. So far, he has appeared on three of Bonamassa’s albums and has been touring with his band for a few years.