Summertime is not going away quietly at Squaw Valley.
A Tuesday night tradition, Bluesdays features James Armstrong on Aug. 23, followed by harmonica player Mark Hummel and esteemed guitarists Anson Funderburgh and Little Charlie Baty on Aug. 30 and concluding Sept. 6 with Kenny Neal and his Family Band.
Armstrong is a son of a jazz player. After he showed an interest in guitar, his father gave him lessons to learn to read music. According to Armstrong’s website, the youngster didn’t like that aspect of music.
His dad took him to a jazz concert by Kenny Burrell, who introduced a special guest, Stevie Wonder.
Armstrong tells the story: “Stevie pulled the charts sayin’, ‘I ‘m not goin’ by the charts. I’m just gonna play what I wanna play.’ So, most of Kenny Burrell’s guys left the stage because they weren’t able to feel the music.
“I said to my dad, “Look, look! Those guys can only play if they can read it. They can’t feel it.” He said, “All right all right, you’re right,” and from that point forward he lightened up on the theory lessons. I wanted to read, but I wanted to feel it too.”
Armstrong took the obvious path and became a blues musician. But his career nearly ended after he was stabbed multiple times during a home invasion in Sunnyvale, California, by a drug-crazed man, who also threw Armstrong’s infant son from a balcony. James Jr. survived and has grown up to also become a musician. Armstrong suffered permanent damage in his left hand but has adjusted to a two-and-a-half finger playing style. Blues with a feeling, indeed.
Armstrong credits his childhood friend, Coco Montoya, and last week’s Bluesdays star, Joe Louis Walker, for insisting he continue his career after the stabbing.
Now with Catfood Records, Armstrong has had his song used in the movies, “Bank of Love,” “Two Sides to Every Story” and “The Florentine.”