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BLOW AWAY THE BLUES DURING 'BLUES WEEK'

It's "Blues Week" in the Virgin Islands, with four performances by the Paul Oscher Blues Band on tap Wednesday through Saturday.
The six-piece acoustic band performs classic Chicago blues from the late '40s, '50s and '60s, as well as newer compositions by band leader Paul Oscher that capture the vintage Windy City sound.
"This may well be the best real blues music group around today," says publicist Tom Radai Jr., whose company represents not only Oscher but numerous other blues artists. "People simply have to listen to the music to hear that it is not the diluted white style of blues pushed by the record companies today."
In the '60s, a teen-age Oscher replaced the great Walter Horton on harmonica in the legendary Muddy Waters Blues Band. In addition to playing harmonica — known in his circles as blues harp — Oscher is also a master of the classic Chicago blues tradition on piano and slide guitar.
The rest of the band consists of Chicago blues veterans Willy Young and Willie "George" Henderson on saxophones; plus Ted Adorino, Matt Raymond and Danny Sperduto on string bass, drums and guitar. Their collective experience includes work with the groups of Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, John
Lee Hooker, Johnny Copeland, Otis Spann and Otis Rush.
The group performs Wednesday night at Tillett Gardens, Thursday at the St.
John School of the Arts, Friday back at Tillett Gardens for a late night cabaret show and Saturday at the Jolly Roger on Tortola.
At a Paul Oscher concert, Raidi says, you can look forward to "some of the most authentic 1947 through mid-'60s classic-era Chicago blues music, performed masterfully by people who paid legitimate dues in the real world of blues, rather than today's pseudo blues players."
Oscher was just 14 years old when he got his first invitation from Muddy Waters to sit in with the band for a gig at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater.
Soon after, the teen-ager, who had already made his mark in the black blues clubs of Harlem and Brooklyn, got the call to become the first white member of Waters' band.
Playing in the band was the road education of a lifetime: touring 35 countries to perform in sumptuous concert halls, smoky nightclubs and "chittlin' circuit" venues.
In the '60s and '70s, Oscher made 30 recordings with Muddy Waters, as well as one each with Copeland, Johnny Young and Luther "Georgia Boy" Johnson.
After that, he took what turned out to be a 20-year hiatus from performing and recording.
The '90s find him back in the blues business with his own band and six new album releases, the most recent being "Knockin' on the Devil's Door" (Viceroots, 1996) and "The Deep Blues of Paul Oscher" (Blues Planet, 1997).
Here's when and where to catch the Paul Oscher Blues Band this week:
— Wedneday, 8 p.m., Tillett Gardens, St. Thomas. Tickets $25; three-course
pre-performance dinner with concert seating at tables $30 additional plus bar service and gratuity. Reservations required for dinner, recommended for concert seating. Call 775-1929.
— Thursday, 8 p.m., St. John School of the Arts, Cruz Bay, St. John. Tickets $30; reservations essential due to limited seating. Call 779-4322.
— Friday, 9 p.m., nightclub performance, cabaret seating, Tillett Gardens. Tickets $25; a la carte menu and bar service all evening. Call 775-1929.
— Saturday, 9 p.m.-Jolly Roger, West End, Tortola. Admission $20 in advance, $22 at the door, but $15 for those having dinner on the premises. Call (284) 495-4559.

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