Montréal, Saturday, June 27, 2015 — The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is delighted to present the B.B. King Award to James Cotton for his extraordinary contribution to the blues. The Award will be presented to him by Alain Simard, president and founder of the Festival, and André Ménard, artistic director and co-founder, tonight, during the artist’s concert in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts, part of the Événements spéciaux TD series.
James Cotton is the second recipient of the B.B. King Award. The Festival created the new award for its 35th edition in 2014, to honour and recognize the exceptional talent of an artist who has left an indelible mark on the blues scene.
A giant of the blues, James Cotton won his stripes armed with the smallest of wind instruments: the harmonica. Over 70 years into his remarkable career, the man nicknamed “Superharp” built his reputation on a fiery stage presence, energetic musicianship and a powerhouse voice. With both feet in the blues from a very early age, the Mississippi native was a self-taught musician and hadn’t even turned 10 when he was taken under the wing of the man who would be first mentor: Sonny Boy Williamson. After cutting his teeth with that legend, Cotton spent his teen years on the stages of Memphis, sharing bills with Howlin’ Wolf, cutting his first songs for Sun Records and hosting a radio program. Meeting Muddy Waters in 1954 marked another major turning point in his career, with the legend inviting him to take Junior Wells’ place in his band. He would spend 12 years there, revealing the full measure of his talent and passion as the years rolled by. Finally ready to step out as a bandleader, he took the plunge in 1966 and launched a career marked by national and international tours, with his famed James Cotton Blues Band, concerts with Santana, Freddie King and B.B. King, some thirty albums and a number of Grammy nominations. In 1996, his album Deep in the Blues was named Best Traditional Blues Album during the Grammy Awards, just one release in a rich discography that includes 100% Cotton (1974), High Compression (1984), Harp Attack! (1990), Mighty Long Time (1991), Fire Down Under the Hill (2000), Baby, Don’t You Tear My Clothes (2004), Giant (2010) and Cotton Mouth Man (2013). In Montreal history, let us recall that Alain Simard and André Ménard presented him onstage even before the first edition of the Festival, in May of 1980, in the Living Legends of the Blues concert in the Cepsum along with B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. In his first Festival performance since 1996, the musician will join two other great bluesmen in a must-see show, John Mayall and Harry Manx and his band, in a triple bill in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, tonight at 7:30 p.m.
As this year’s recipient of the B.B. King Award, James Cotton succeeds the artist in whose name the trophy was created, B.B. King (2014).
— 30 —