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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Jimmy Webb, live at Bethesda Blues and Jazz

Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

He saved his best for last, "MacArthur Park," and at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club Friday night, he said it had been recorded more than 500 times, including three times by Waylon Jennings.
Jimmy Webb singing and playing "MacArthur Park" at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Jimmy Webb, 68, whose songwriting skills top the charts, talked more than he sang in the 2.5 hour show (one intermission), about the artists he's worked with, about the background of each hit. For a few numbers, he invited the audience to sing along, but the evening, thankfully, did not become a "sing-along" and overwhelm the reason for attendance. 
Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

He was energetic and merry, solo with a piano on stage and without a program, which he put together while he played.

Unlike Bob Dylan on tour who sometimes won't sing his big hits, Webb sang most of his biggies: "Galveston," "By The Time I Get to Phoenix," "All I Know," "Worst Thing That Could Happen."
Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 
"I don't write all sad songs," Webb said. "Bob Dylan would put out an album and you couldn't understand a damn word of what he said. We're good friends."

He recorded with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings, to name a few, and Webb said he didn't know Jennings (1937-2002) real well: "He was a real character."

Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Jennings would lay on a sofa with a hat over his face, and when Webb told him that Webb had won a Grammy, Jennings said:

"'What for?'"

"'Country Song of the Year.'"

"'Which country is that?'"

Webb said "at times I felt a bit miffed that the critics weren't taking me seriously." But later: "When you're famous, they make a big deal out of it [transgressions] and really hurt your feelings."



Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

When "Up, Up and Away" came out in 1967, Webb's manager called to tell Webb that KMOA in Oklahoma City (near where Webb grew up) thought the song was about drugs. "It was a song about balloons!" Webb exclaimed before he sang the song, inviting the audience to help him reach the high notes.

 
Judy Collins, "the fairy godmother of lost songs," picked up one of his songs which had languished for eight years in the back pages of his songwriter's notebook, "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress."

Collins is "larger than life and all feelings....Her voice is every bit [what it used to be] when she was 20 years old. She still tells racy stories," Webb said, some about old boyfriends. 

Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

But the person to whom Webb is most indebted is Glen Campbell, diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011.

Like most who receive bad news, we wonder how our lives will be affected, and Webb is no different:  "I felt so sorry for myself, that I was losing a part of myself," and then he realized what he was experiencing could not compare to Glen's family. Still, Webb felt "an incredible sense of loss....I love Glen so much and he's the reason I'm up here because we had an incredible run."

When he was 14, Webb said he used to pray he would meet Glen Campbell and four years later, the composer almost lost it when he heard Campbell singing Webb's "By The Time I Get to Phoenix" on the radio.

Sometime later, Campbell called Webb and asked him to write another "town" song for him, and Webb sat down that afternoon and wrote "Wichita Lineman."

Campbell has always been an inspiration to Webb whose singing voice is similar to Campbell's. 

He closed his performance with the full-blown seven minutes and 21 seconds of "MacArthur Park," written with a girlfriend in mind (his or Richard Harris's? Working with Harris, by the way, was "a wonderful experience").

It was a memorable evening with a superbly talented artist who sang, played, and told it like it was, happy in Bethesda.  (A song about Bethesda?)

For more performances at Bethesda Blues & Jazz, check out its calendar.  This month the Chuck Brown Band, Urban Soul, and the Nighthawks are some of the groups which will perform, including the Glenn Miller Orchestra which plays "In The Holiday Mood" December 10, with dancing!

When:  Most nights

Where: 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814

How much: Prices vary.  Buy tickets at the door or
online.


Future shows: Please check out the calendar.

Food and drink: The dining area has a $10 per person minimum which can be applied toward any item on the menu. Check out FAQ here. And here's the menu. I have found the food, magnificent: Beet salad ($12), tomato,  basil and mozzarella salad ($11) are delicious. Ditto, the appetizers like the crab cakes (about $12) and five coconut shrimp ($12).  The drinks are good and reasonably priced.  Nice wine selection.

For more information: 240-330-4500

Getting there: The Bethesda Metro station is about 1.5 blocks away, and parking is below the building (free on weekends). See directions.


To read about past shows, please click Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club.

patricialesli@gmail.com

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