Two for Tuesday: The Blues Project

The Blues Project was an acoustic blues album issued by Elektra Records in 1964 that featured a number of Greenwich Village acoustic blues musicians, among them guitarist Danny Kalb. Soon after that, Danny traded in his acoustic guitar for an electric one (a Danelectro Longhorn, as I recall) and assembled a group of musicians that included Steve Katz on guitar, harmonica, and vocals, Andy Kulberg on bass and flute, Roy Blumenfeld on drums, and Tommy Flanders on vocals. They played in clubs around Greenwich Village as The Blues Project, after Danny’s album the year before. Their popularity earned them an audition with Columbia Records, and while the audition was less than successful, it introduced them to session keyboard player Al Kooper, whose primary claim to fame was the organ part to Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” Soon they were signed to Verve Records and produced a live album, Live at the Cafe Au Go Go, over the course of a week in November 1965.

Their next album, 1966’s Projections, included a number of blues standards, including an eleven minute interpretation of Muddy Waters’ “Two Trains Running” and the instrumental “Flute Thing,” featuring Andy Kuhlberg on the flute. After the completion of the album, the band started falling apart: Kooper left in Spring of 1967, and after a performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival that June, Katz and Kalb left as well. 1968’s Planned Obsolescence featured only Kuhlberg and Blumenfeld, but was issued as a Blues Project album to satisfy the record company; future albums by the band would be released under the band name Seatrain. Katz and Kooper reunited in 1968 and formed Blood, Sweat & Tears, which Kooper left after one album, 1968’s Child Is Father To The Man.

The original lineup (minus Tommy Flanders) would reunite several times in the 1970’s and record several more albums: Lazarus in 1971, The Blues Project in 1972, and 1973’s live album, The Original Blues Project Reunion in Central Park. They’ve reunited occasionally since then, but no albums appear to be forthcoming. Andy Kulberg died of lymphoma in 2002.

For the samples, I chose the two songs mentioned above to illustrate the band’s improvisational skill. They’re long, and I won’t be upset if you don’t play them all the way through ;). Today’s first video is “Two Trains Running,” featuring Danny Kalb on vocal, from the album Projections.

The second is “Flute Thing,” recorded at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival,featuring Andy Kulberg on flute and Steve Katz on bass. Al Kooper had left the band by this time; I’m not certain who the organist is.

The Blues Project, your Two for Tuesday, August 6, 2013.