When the Healdsburg Jazz Festival decided to open its 16th annual celebration of jazz with a two-day salute to the blues on its opening weekend, Charlie Musselwhite was the natural choice to headline the show.
With Musselwhite's international reputation as a harmonica virtuoso and his longtime local connection, he had no trouble selling out the 768-seat Jackson Theater in Santa Rosa on Saturday night.
The 70-year-old Musselwhite, who lives outside Healdsburg, has been busy touring the world with singer-songwriter Ben Harper. Their collaborative album "Get Up!" — released last year — won a Grammy Award for best blues album.
For Saturday's show, Musselwhite shared the stage instead with guitarists Elvin Bishop and Guy Davis for gutsy, sizzling jams on "Don't Let the Boss Get You Down" and "What the Hell Is Going On." Musselwhite's duet with Davis on "Goin' Down Slow" had the audience stamping its feet.
In the second half of the show, Musselwhite played in a different style, teaming up with local Latin jazz stars John Santos y Sus Soneros.
Musselwhite returns at 7:30 p.m. Sunday to the Jackson Theater at the Sonoma Country Day School to perform with jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman for two sets. First, Musselwhite will sit in with Redman's quartet, and then Redman will play with Musselwhite's band.
"This is a great way to showcase Charlie Musselwhite and all of the types of music that he plays and studies," said Jessica Felix, founder and director of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival.
The event drew followers of the jazz festival as well as fans of the blues in general and Musselwhite in particular.
Marlene Bellaine, 79, of Santa Rosa said she has attended the festival since it started in 1999, and looks forward to rest of the festival.
Darcy Muscatell, 59, of Geyserville remembered hearing (but not seeing) Musselwhite play in a Palo Alto nightclub when she was 14.