Shuggie Otis Takes Manhattan – JazzTimes Review

When the 59-year-old Shuggie Otis played Manhattan’s Highline Ballroom Jan. 10, his first New York City date since 2001, the buzz was palpable in the room. Otis’ New York City performance was a magical event. The concert was stellar, actually doing justice to Otis’ studio genius.

On April 16, Epic/Legacy will rerelease Inspiration Information once again, this time with four unreleased tracks, plus a second CD of 14 previously unreleased tunes, Wings of Love. In April, Otis will hit the road again for a more extensive tour.

Throughout the evening, Otis played songs from Inspiration Information and Wings of Love. His soulful vocals evoked a wide range between guttural throat clearing and high-pitched falsetto; his rhythm guitar playing was akin to that of Curtis Mayfield.

As Otis revived his classic repertoire with the delicate groove of “Aht Uh Mi Hed” and the stop-and-start tempo-shifting funk dance “Sparkle City,” an invisible Day-Glo rainbow of nostalgic psychedelia flashed over the ballroom. The title track from Wings of Love, meanwhile, featured a two-chord vamp with the Stratocaster dripping in phaser, chunking out the simple harmony. Many may have wondered over the years where Shuggie Otis went but there is no denying that he’s back.

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Photo credit: Greg Aiello