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The future of the blues?

--- 7-year-old guitarist's rocket has launched

Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

Photographs by Terry Mayer

(Published May 09, 2007, 9:12 a.m.)

Right here, this is the future of blues," Hubert Sumlin, blues legend, said of Tallan Latz, aka T-Man.

While that's a heck of a compliment for any musician, it's especially impressive when you learn that T-Man is a 7-year-old guitar virtuoso from East Troy.

When T-Man takes the stage, people stop what they're doing and collectively stare. People entering the room look up and stop as if their shoes were suddenly glued to the floor, not moving again until the song is over, when they reflexively break into wild shouts and applause.

T-Man has that stage presence that most lack. No taller than his own Stratocaster, he burns up the strings with blues and classic rock songs that out-age him by generations.

T-Man, who is already endorsed by Curt Mangan Strings, of Colorado Springs, Colo., enjoys all kinds of music ranging from country to Bach. But lately he's taken a keen liking to the blues.

"I like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix the best," he says. "They're both good guitar players and I like how (Vaughan) keeps his steady beat."

T-Man's parents, Carl and Doris, saw the effect music had on T-Man when he was just an infant.

"He'd be crying and we would put on 'Breathe' by Faith Hill," Carl said. "He'd be just bawling and when the chorus started he would stop crying immediately. Then once the chorus was over, he'd start crying again-it never failed."

T-Man started playing his own music at age 3 on his first instrument, the drums. Not long after, the guitar entered the scene.

"I had a guitar that I got for free so I started messing around with that," T-Man said. "Then I had three choices for Easter-an electric guitar, a remote control boat or a new bike. I picked a guitar."

At first his little arms weren't long enough to reach the end of the guitar's neck, so he used a capo.

"Then one day I could reach it," he said. "I showed my dad. I said, 'Look Dad, I can reach it.'"

T-Man practices every day and takes lessons, but his favorite part is playing music to a live audience, which he's only been doing for a few months.

"My favorite thing is playing in front of people," he said. "I'm not scared because when I'm playing in front of people it makes me happy that I'm making the people feel happy because I'm playing my music and entertaining them."

T-Man's future aspirations are solid-and no less than grand.

At age 15 T-Man sees himself as "better than I am now." And by the time he's an adult, he sees himself as being "the greatest there ever was and the greatest there ever will be."

T-Man is especially enjoying playing with other musicians at the many open jams around the area. He's a visual learner, making this type of forum his forte.

"When I'm playing I'm doing my best to get to play what he's playing. But if he's playing a dead note and I can't see what he's doing, I have to make up something on my own."

While T-Man has many musical plans for the summer, the highlight will come at the end of the season. He recently crossed paths with Roscoe Beck, music producer and bass guitar great, who was so impressed that he invited the mini-man to play the much-coveted stage of Anton's in Austin, Texas.

"He's invited to play with Roscoe Beck, Eric Johnson and Robben Ford," Carl said. "That's a big deal. That's where Stevie Ray Vaughan, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf-every great blues player has performed.

"I told him to go in there and kiss that stage because the feet that have been on there are legends."

T-Man's other summer plans include forming his own band and continuing to perform for audiences everywhere. For more information including upcoming shows, visit www.tallanlatz.com or call 742-3947.

Saturdays-Open jam with Michael Coleman at Breakers, 41 S. Wisconsin St., Elkhorn, 3-7 p.m.

Sundays-Open jam with Michael Coleman at Bobby Rockets, 6291 Hospital Road, Burlington, 3-7 p.m

Thursdays-Open stage at the Sweet Spot Coffee Shop, 226 W. Whitewater St., Whitewater, 5-8 p.m.

May 22-McBride's Hilltop with the Robert Allen Jr. Trio, 902 N. Grandview Blvd., Waukesha, 8:30 p.m.

May 25-Rivers Edge with Loose Shoes, 7603 Shorewood Dr., Salem.

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