Smile Politely

What It Is! packs a soulful punch

Tonight, Krannert will play host to two living legends; Mavis Staples and Booker T. Jones. Collectively with relative newcomerr JJ Grey, they make up What It Is!

Mavis Staples was part of the legendary the Staple Singers, who metamorphosed from an acoustic gospel group singing in churches to an iconic funk and soul group that created hits such as “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There“, even turning up at the Last Waltz to provide backing vocals for the Band on “The Weight”. While the group broke up in 1994, Staples has continued to perform as a solo act, bringing her gospel to crowds across the country.

Booker T. Jones burst onto the R&B scene as the leader of Booker T. and the M.G.s in 1962 with “Green Onions“,, a song I’d be willing to bet every single person reading this article has heard at least once. Jones has had his hand in innumerable blues and soul classics, writing Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign” and performing as a member of the Stax Records house band on the label’s brilliant 1960s material. His trademark Hammond Organ will doubtlessly be in 

full swing tonight.

While Booker T is no stranger to the jam scene, having previously toured with Drive-By Truckers and members of the Black Crowes, JJ Grey knows it in and out. His main project, MOFRO is a regular fixture on the jam circuit (including the Canopy Club), and has built its reputation as an epic live band with the help of opening slots for the likes of Robert Randolph, Widespread Panic and Galactic. The Jacksonville-based band plays a mesmerising mix of blues, swamp, jam and soul music with clear roots in the music of both Jones and Staples.

Staples, Grey and Jones will bring over a century of combined musical experience to a sold-out Colwell Playhouse at Krannert Center tonight at 7:30 p.m.

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