Under a full moon, more than 300 people packed into Boondocks to see electric-violinist extraordinaire Heather Hardy (and friends) pay tribute to the late Sam Taylor. Hardy and Taylor were friends and frequent collaborators, and Saturday's gig was truly inspired, with Hardy making room onstage for many of Taylor's musical friends and sidemen throughout the years.
Hardy's core band included Danny Krieger on guitar, Sabra Faulk on bass and Marx Loeb on drums, all of whom put in significant time onstage with Taylor, and all of whom had stories to share. Stories about Sam were in abundance both on and off the stage. Representing the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame, Stefan George introduced the show by alluding to Sam's legendary ability to hustle money on the golf course. A former middleweight boxer, he was also a scratch golfer who didn't necessarily look the part.
Hardy's first set included Barry Stillwagon on harp as the only invited guest, but that would soon change. After opening the second set with a stirring solo rendition of "Amazing Grace" ("I need to play this so I can feel closer to Sam"), Hardy seamlessly orchestrated the comings and goings of musicians including George, Chris Leonard and Tall Paul Webner on guitars, Darren Boswell on bass, Robin Horn on drums, Lisa Otey on piano, Heidi Wilson and Clay Brown on saxophones, and Don Nottingham on vocals, sharing a duet with Hardy on "Since I Met You Baby," a song she used to sing with Taylor.
Though many of these folks are used to fronting their own bands, there was a chemistry and synergy present, often allowing the music to become more than the sum of its parts. The set was highlighted, however, by Hardy bringing her 12-year-old son, Jacob, onstage to play ("he's one badass drummer!"), and recalling how when she was unsure about being pregnant, "Sam looked at me and proclaimed, 'This is a child of God!,' and I knew then that everything would be OK."
In the end, it was Loeb who put it best: Reflecting upon all the good vibes in the room, he remarked, "What a cool gig this is. Sam would be so fucking pleased."