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Jimmy "T-99" Nelson and Friends

One of the last of the great blues shouters, Jimmy "T-99" Nelson has been a Houston favorite since relocating here in 1955, just a few years after he scored national hits with the singles "T-99 Blues" and "Meet Me with Your Black Dress On." Now in his seventies, the smiling giant of a man still performs occasionally at major festivals abroad and at special local events, delivering his signature brand of jump blues. A witty songwriter in the classic R&B mode, Nelson writes lyrics commenting on sexual entanglements and the ironic ways of the world, but ultimately the swing's the thing.

At the "New Year's Eve Bawl," T-99 will jam with some impressive swingers for a full night of Texas blues. For this evening only, Billy Blues Bar & Grill will be configured with stages in the main room and the front dining room. Event producer and KPFT radio host Nuri Nuri promises alternative performances and non-stop entertainment.

To pull off such a feat necessitates at least two bands, of course. Opening for and backing T-99 on the main stage will be guitarist Holland K. Smith & the Million Dollar Rhythm Section, plus some very special guests. On piano will be one of Houston's largely unrecognized musical geniuses, multi-instrumentalist David Vest. He's got impeccable blues keyboard credentials, having played with the likes of the late Big Joe Turner (T-99's mentor and primary influence) and Lavelle White. On saxophone will be legendary Texas session player Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff (best known for his work with Antone's Records), as well as local favorite Bobby Navarro. Anchoring the front-room stage will be 25-year-old guitar phenom Brad McCool and the Big City Blues Band.

Collectively, these performers represent the spectrum of contemporary Texas blues -- young and old, black and white, horns and vocals, keyboards and guitars. They should make for a swinging start for 1999. On Thursday, December 31, at Billy Blues, 6025 Richmond. Showtime 8 p.m. Tickets: $50.00, including dinner, in the Blues Room; $40, including dinner, in the front dining room; or $15 for SRO in the Blues Room. For info call 266-9294. (Roger Wood)

 
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