The Blue Note Jazz Festival takes over Abrons Arts Center this Saturday night for a special one-night-only concert by the master guitar playing showman, Leon Redbone. And yes, he will be donning his iconic guise of fedora, jacket, and sunglasses—a look that has been satirized throughout his 30-plus year career. (The “Leon Redbone workout,” a Far Side cartoon introduced him to a whole new audience). But it is his faithful interpretations of long forgotten music and his finger picking mastery of the acoustic guitar that have made him a singular force in the jazz and folk world.
Redbone burst on the scene in the early 1970s, playing in folk festivals such as the Mariposa Folk Festival outside of Toronto, where his musical prowess impressed the likes of artists such as Bonnie Raitt and Bob Dylan. His interpretations of music from a by-gone era, from the turn-of-last century, to flapper-era radio ditties, depression era ragtime, and World War II folk-jazz, are singular. But it is his vaudevillian like performances, which blend comedy and storytelling with skilled instrumentals, that are his trademark.
An appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1976 sealed the deal. With 18 million plus viewers, the mysterious man behind the hat and glasses with the acoustic guitar was a fresh break from the electric rock & roll of the day, and an instant hit. More than fifteen albums later, an appearance in Will Farrell’s multi-million dollar-grossing comedy Elf, a duet with Zooey Deschanel and countless television jingles have made Redbone a cultural icon.
Blue Note Jazz Festival, Nolafunk & Ceg Present: Leon Redbone with special guest Vinnie Raniolo // Abrons Arts Center // Saturday, June 22, 8pm // $40 advance, $45 day of show, $75 VIP tickets include center orchestra seating and show poster.