New Sounds in Town--Take your pick from new jazz to new rock in various venues around the bay.
Thursday, March 5, 1998
Step into my parlor and have a seat. Let''s talk music. I''ve got a new CD called Medicine Hat I want you to hear. Better yet, the band that recorded it, Will Bernard 4-tet, is playing in Santa Cruz at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. Let''s go. They''re really cool.
The band''s music falls somewhere in the musical spectrum of everything, but they''re considered jazz. Bernard is a product of the eclecticism of the Bay Area, a melting pot of world culture and music. Specifically you will hear the East Bay influence (where Bernard was born); true to the legacy of Tower of Power and the East Bay Grease sound, funk is the backbone of his music. But you''ll journey with him to territories unexplored before in this corner of the world.
Before I delve too deeply into the music itself, you might be interested to know that Bernard was one fourth of the now-defunct Grammy-nominated group T.J. Kirk whose members included Charlie Hunter, John Schott and Scott Amendola. With three guitarists and a drummer, the mix was unusual and the music far-reaching, catching the attention of listeners who find creative license a plus. As a guitarist, the 38-year-old Bernard, like many in his generation and beyond, found inspiration in the genius of Jimi Hendrix, but he doesn''t count out the solid foundations of Wes Montgomery or the popular appeal of The Beatles and Duke Ellington. Throw in Bartok, Charles Ives, and Indian virtuoso Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and you''ve got original. Part of the rich vein of creativity nurtured through the Berkeley High School''s strong jazz program, the soft-spoken Cal Berkeley composition graduate is coming into his own as a bandleader following the T.J. Kirk experience as well as his earlier stints with Peter Apfelbaum''s Hieroglyphics Ensemble and Mingus Amungus. Other current projects include Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra and his more electric rock/jazz-centered group Pothole.
"It''s really a lot more work," he says about the change from sideman to leader. "To me, writing my own music is something that I''ve always done. It seemed like the right time to put it out there. I''ve shopped my music before without response, but after T.J. Kirk, we were able to get this deal with Verve. I did a demo with the same personnel about two years ago--that''s how long it takes to put it out."
With him in this venture are Rob Burger (Hammond B-3 organ and accordion) who also plays with Oranj Symphonette, Scott Amendola (drums), an integral and extremely talented player in the San Francisco "New Jazz" scene, heard just about everywhere from Charlie Hunter Quartet to Oranj Symphonette, and John Shifflett (acoustic bass) another alumnus of Apfelbaum''s seminal creative jazz group, and Ann Dyer and the No Good Time Fairies.
"I think the basic sound of this group is warm," he says, "with real instruments like the organ and acoustic bass.I write all the parts originally. Lots of times I work from the bass up. I like having a strong bass line, probably from listening to all the hip hop and r&b stuff."
What makes Bernard''s music enjoyable is the symbiotic relationship between instrumentalists, especially the guitar/organ component which, more often than not, stands out for its conversational give-and-take quality.
"In a lot of ways, Rob Burger plays what I would play on the organ," he says. "That''s why we click. Also rhythmically, I find him really strong, he fits really well with what I''m doing. It''s really great having Scott and John, I feel lucky having these guys in my band."
Medicine Hat''s producer Lee Townsend plays an important part in the surfacing of Bernard''s music, along with many of the other young players in the San Francisco Bay Area who are pushing the boundaries of mainstream jazz.
"He understands our music.that we''re trying to do some things that are not mainstream commercial music," he comments. "He''s been supporting it for years and years, plus being a good producer. It''s funny, until he moved here, there wasn''t really anyone like that before."
If you''re looking for what''s new and creative in jazz, you''ll find it at this show, along with others like Omar Sosa who played the Santa Cruz venue a couple weeks ago and Jack Perla before that. This is exciting stuff.
Will Bernard 4-tet, Friday, 8pm, Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz, $8 advance, $10 door, 427-2227.
Right here on the Peninsula you''ll find jazz in the form of the Pat Senatore Trio featuring Paul Hanson on bassoon (he played with the aforementioned Jack Perla and really knocked me out with the unusual sounding instrument in a jazz format).
Senatore is an acoustic bassist who spent many years as part of the Tijuana Brass following a period with the Stan Kenton band in Los Angeles. His jazz club in Malibu, Pasquale''s, offered him steady work with an ocean view where he brought in a rotating roster of top jazz musicians.
Pat Senatore Trio, Saturday, 7:30pm, The Jazz Store, Carmel, $20 for two sets, 624-6432.
Two more fairly new acts in town are tearing up the place whenever they play. Buddy Garland Show takes tunes from the golden era of popular song, the ol'' Tin Pan Alley genre, plus a few early rock gems from Buddy Holly and spiffs them up with rollicking rock arrangements that are screamingly danceable. Bandmembers play their hearts out and dramatize the excitement through performance antics that rival Elton John''s extravagances in his early days. Buddy Garland, Don Lockwood, Cosmo Brown and Jerry Mulligan are stage names for Johnny (Pertle) Love, Sean Michael White, Mitch Fayed and Jeff Johnson respectively. Vocals shine and the energy is high.
Buddy Garland Show, Saturday, 9:30pm, Blue Fin Cafe & Billiards, Monterey, no cover, 375-7000.
TheHeebie Jeebies are another entertaining, high-octane dance band that has broken onto the scene recently. The talented young bassist Matt Puentes is hard at work putting together a variety of projects, leading the way with this funky R&B quintet. He''s got "El Guapo" Renzo on guitar, Jerry Rehn, drums; Stu Reynolds, saxophone and Neil Banks doing an excellent job on vocals. When they first played, I caught a set at Whitey''s Place; my friends and I looked at each other, nodded and gave them the thumbs up. I''m looking forward to hearing his rock and jazz projects as they begin to gel. And, so that Jeff White will give me a moment''s rest, here''s the scoop before the scoop. Tuesday night Karaoke is not only a happening scene, (so I hear) but now Good Time Phil the Bartender is singing his heart out along with all the other brave souls with a couple belts under their belt. I did witness his background vocal technique with Sunchild''s rendition of "Midnight Rider" last week. By the way, that band packed the house and gave everyone a heartwarming flashback to the ''60s. Peace.
Heebie Jeebies, Saturday, 9:30pm, Whitey''s Place, Pacific Grove, two drink minimum, 646-8383.