Music News & Reviews

Wichita Blues Ball to feature International Blues Challenge winner Mr. Sipp

Mr. Sipp is headlining the 17th Annual Blues Ball at the Cotillion.
Mr. Sipp is headlining the 17th Annual Blues Ball at the Cotillion. Courtesy photo

Last year was a big year for Castro Coleman aka Mr. Sipp “The Mississippi Blues Child.” His band won the International Blues Challenge.

Mr. Sipp will kick off 2015 as the headliner for Wichita’s 17th Annual Blues Ball.

“Being invited to the Blues Ball is such an honor to me. It’ll be like bringing in the New Year again. Celebrating and having a good time with the blues,” Coleman said.

Over the past 17 years, the Blues Ball has become a staple in the local music scene. The event serves as the Wichita Blues Society’s biggest fundraiser of the year and as a send-off party for the bands competing in the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis. More than 200 acts competed in the 2014 international challenge, the largest gathering of blues musicians in the world. Mr. Sipp won in the band category and also earned the Gibson Guitarist award.

Classic performers influence Coleman’s set. “My shows are high energy with lots of action because I’m a combination of James Brown, B.B. King, Chuck Berry and a few more,” Coleman said. “It’s non-stop from beginning to end.”

Coleman grew up in McComb, Miss., and was raised in a musically-inclined family. Everyone in his family on both his mother’s side and his father’s side either sings or plays an instrument, he said.

Coleman was cast in the James Brown biopic “Get on Up,” which was released in August. Coleman played Les Buie, Brown’s first guitar player.

“I was actually given a larger part, but the filming was going over into the time for the IBC. So I had to make a choice — the movie or IBC. I think I made the right choice. I walked away as the 2014 IBC winner,” he said.

The Blues Ball will also showcase winners of the 2014 Wichita Blues Challenge — Kalo and Uche & Bill. Both will represent Wichita in the 2015 International Blues Challenge, which begins Jan. 20 in Memphis.

Kalo formed in 2012 when Israeli-born Bat-Or Kalo traveled to Oklahoma and connected with bassist Mack McKinney and drummer Eric Worrell. The trio played together briefly during the early 2000s but eventually reunited.

“Our shows are about love-lost and found love, loving to play, loving our instruments, loving the crowd and loving to shake. We get up there and we play,” Bat-Or said.

Bat-Or Kalo is a singer, songwriter and guitarist. At the age of 12, Bat-Or was given a Jimi Hendrix cassette and an electric guitar as a gift from her father which sparked her interest in music.

“I’m inspired by Jimi Hendrix. I absolutely can’t compare myself to him because there’s only one Jimi Hendrix, but I’d say people can expect to see something Jimi-inspired, that’s got lots of intensity and passion,” Bat-Or said.

The band Kalo has had a positive experience each time its performed in Wichita.

“The blues scene is alive and well in Wichita. Every time we play in Wichita, we’re amazed by the talent and the passion here, so we’re always excited to come back.”

If You Go

17th Annual Blues Ball

What: A celebration of blues and a fundraiser the Blue’s Society featuring Mr. Sipp, Kalo, and Uche & Bill

Where: The Cotillion, 11120 W. Kellogg

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $20-$25, or 316-722-4201