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Bridging the blues 

John Bigham's played with Fishbone and Miles Davis. The man's worth a trek downtown

click to enlarge John Bigham displays the guitar of John Black.
  • John Bigham displays the guitar of John Black.

Drinking beneath a midnight overpass never sounded quite so enticing.

John Bigham's latest project, The Soul of John Black, headlines KRCC's "Blues under the Bridge" concert this year, and few can pour out the woe as eloquently as John "JB" Bigham. Born in Chicago, and having spent some youthful days down South, Bigham could argue that blues is in his blood.

"It's something that you really can't control," says Bigham of his desire to create music. "It's like a mission."

Though many men hear that call, few have rsums as formidable as Bigham's. Before playing guitar and keyboards for rock-funk-ska act Fishbone, he wrote songs and played percussion for Miles Davis. His song "Jilli" was featured on Davis' 1989 release, Amandla, and he appeared in the Live in Paris DVD, which was filmed at that city's 10th annual Jazz Festival.

He says that the most important thing he learned from his time with Davis was "to be myself to not be afraid to express my views or opinions in a musical way, or any way, really."

But Bigham's self-assuredness sounds more deeply ingrained. There's neither a shard of hesitation nor a droplet of doubt conveyed in his timbre. His words, like his music, are straightforward and to the point.

Bigham is currently touring to promote The Soul of John Black's sophomore album, The Good Girl Blues. While the band which will appear as a trio this weekend has not refashioned the blues in disturbingly avant-garde hues, it has given the genre a fresh coat of energy and a sublime edging of other influences. Bigham's passion for percussion lends a hint of the Caribbean to a few of the tracks, and his experience belting out rock 'n roll drives the entire album forward.

"I think it's the fact that I'm into the drums," Bigham says of the unintentionally diverse overtones. "I think it just naturally comes across, because I listen to a lot of those rhythms."

He finds most of those rhythms in the form of iTunes, rather than in sultry crossroads juke joints. And while he greatly admires late Delta bluesman John Lee Hooker, he also keeps tabs on up-and-coming Denver native Cory Harris.

"I think the [art form] is growing," Bigham says. "I think Cory Harris is bringing the motherland back into it. He's doing African and Jamaican ... he's out there, taking it to the next level."

Yet Bigham remains remarkably modest about his efforts, and the level of consistent homage and sublime aural evolution that can be found in his own work work that's worth seeking, worth hearing, worth exploring the concrete underbelly of the Springs to find.

"Blues Under the Bridge," featuring the Jake Loggins Band, John-Alex Mason, The Soul of John Black and Robert Belfour

Under the Colorado Avenue Bridge, 200 W. Colorado Ave.

Saturday, June 2, 6 p.m. to midnight

Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 day of, or $15 for KRCC members ($5 coupons available at Independent Records and Video); call 473-4801 for more or visit bluesunderthebridge.com.

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