“Go ahead and play the blues if it’ll make you happy,” spake the philosopher Homer Simpson, and so it was done. His irony, of course, is clear—the hardscrabble poetry of rough living and cruel women may not lead to an Oprah-level endorphine rush—but it has sure lent a long and beautiful career to blues harmonica virtuoso James Cotton. The prolific 74-year-old singer/songwriter/bandleader of some 20-plus albums is also the veteran of various illustrious outfits—he replaced the genius Little Walter in Muddy Waters’ band, and also sat with Howling Wolf and Janis Joplin—and tonight will stir things up with Blues Summit: James Cotton & Friends at Lincoln Center. The “friends” in question are the venerable Pinetop Perkins, Taj Mahal, Shemekia Copeland, and more—and they’ll put a smile on anyone’s face.

Thu., June 24, 8 p.m., 2010

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