Young and Young at Heart--Bands on their way up display some fiery and exciting musical chops.
Thursday, March 12, 1998
Wow. What a night. Last Friday in Santa Cruz, two guitarists gave peak performances, apropos to their respective genres. First, Will Bernard stepped up to bat with his own compositions which he played to a half-filled Kuumbwa Jazz Center. His playing never overshadowed the rest of the group, blending seamlessly, even as a soloist. His understated funkiness simmered until he brought out the Wes Montgomery-ish, octave-voiced melody for a spin before dropping back in sync with the organ, bass and drums. The crowd sometimes missed that he had just played a solo, but overall the band played wonderfully atmospheric music that created a collective consciousness shift at times.
And then there was Tab Benoit at a packed Moe''s Alley; he passionately brought alive the blues like Mike Bloomfield did in his prime. What makes blues guitar special for me is when a player does not feel the need to put on a lot of flash and bravado a la Stevie Ray Vaughn (not that I don''t like SRV) but chooses to phrase his solos tastefully and varies from the standard blues progressions, creating a melodic sense which adds to the intensity of the musical statement. All that comes with maturity and Benoit spoke eloquently.
Now that brings me to our local shows here in Southside Monterey Bay Area. Homegrown boys Blue Nova and Storm Rising are two examples of a new generation of musicians who find the blues speak to them. And then there''s Corby Yates who comes through regularly to wow the folks with his flashy technique. The driving, full-tilt Hendrix/SRV-inspired style is exactly one would expect to hear from young players.
And so it is with the Santa Cruz-based Electric Playground whom I saw at Whitey''s Place last week. The talented young trio of Jason Bond (guitar & vocals), Jesse Carrington (bass & vocals) and Mike Bagley (drums) can really play, and their choice of material allows for some crowd-pleasing histrionics (such as Bond''s slinging the guitar over his head and playing an incendiary solo without a hitch). They mix in some rockabilly blues that on a weekend night would surely have a crowd up and dancing. Named the winner of the highly controversial Winterfest Battle of the Bands in January, Electric Playground is working on a recording that will get airplay on rock station KROQ. Their original song "Down by the Riverside" is included on a compilation recording, Santa Cruz Blues, that has seen rotation on KPIG (sigh), KZSC (college station) and KKUP. There are a couple of opportunities for you to see them coming up. Check ''em out.
Electric Playground, Whitey''s Place, Wednesday, 9:30pm. Two drink minimum, 646-8383.
Jumpin'' genres! We''ve got a couple events that showcase local talent climbing the musical stairway to heaven, one in jazz, the other in rock.
Weber Drummond has been a resident of the Monterey Peninsula now for eight years. His place in the local music community is firmly rooted through his associations with fellow Brazil-transplant Helcio Melito, and through a rich collaboration with a core group of local jazz players who formed the early ''90s fusion band Zen Blend. He has found inspiration for his compositions in our beautiful setting, and although he has recorded a number of times with other artists like Jeff Linsky, Romero Lubambo, Ali Ryerson, Alex Acu¤a and Claudia Villela, the time has come for him to act as sole band leader and put down some tracks of his work, which he describes as "a combination of three elements I''ve been exposed to over the years: Brazilian music, jazz and classical." He says, "Some songs are definitely Brazilian, others definitely jazz, and others have a Brazilian groove, are jazzy with room for improvisation, but structured like classical."
He has invited an impressive continental group of musicians to perform with him in a concert/live recording at The Media Room on Thursday, March 19. Brazilian Rogrio Botter Maio, "an excellent composer arranger in his own right," Drummond says, will be on acoustic and electric bass; Paul Contos, a Monterey Jazz Festival clinician and an instructor at CSUMB with Drummond, will play saxophone and flute; Andrew Buffington, "a very talented drummer and an important element in the group;" and vocalist Claudia Villela. "She''s going to do very lyrical stuff," he says, "her voice will mix with the band, not stand out, more like an instrument." For followers of jazz, Drummond''s show stands out as a highlight of the year for local jazz talent. Don''t miss it. His CD will be produced by David Morwood and be available hopefully by the beginning of May.
Weber Drummond Group, featuring above players, Thursday, March 19, The Media Room, 7:30pm. $25/advance; $15/students; $30/door, $20/students. 655-2010.
Thefree-spirited, free-wheelin'' (but still focused-on-results) Brad Mallory announces the kick-off party for the Tahoe Tour, part of the promotional traveling ensemble for the Monterey Rock Scene CD, released last year. Join with The Project and Foamscape for a rock ''n'' roll party Friday with prizes and giveaways which include Diamond Peak Resort lift tickets, Monterey Rock Scene CDs, and a Tahoe Tour T-shirt.
Six bands are going to snow country as part of the tour: Trial by Fire, Mockingbird, The Project, 420 Express, Foamscape and Freeway. Scheduled through Dean Whalen of Incline Village for Friday and Saturday, 3/20 & 3/21, 11am-5pm both days, is a music industry showcase for some of the bands he represents, and after listening to the Monterey Rock Scene CD, he chose The Project, Trial By Fire and Mockingbird to also appear. The tour lasts through 3/28, and involves playing the ski resort and North Shore/Reno clubs at night. Go down to Blue Fin Friday and support your local bands in the High Sierra. three spirits presents The Project and Foamscape, Friday, 9pm. Blue Fin Cafe & Billiards, no cover. 375-7000.
Let''snot forget the real St. Patrick''s Day Tuesday. Only party I saw happening is a good one down at Viva Monterey. Entitled O''Viva Lei Day, it''s a combination Irish/Hawaiian sort of deal with the reborn Juice, a band led by bassist/songwriter Sean Michael White.
"The band''s emphasis is on the songs," he says, "with enough licks to satisfy a musician onlooker. It''s not just straight-ahead rock, but we have catchy pop-oriented tunes. A young new band Portal, which has a heavy alternative rock feel infused with blues and pop, opens the night. There''s green beer, special drinks, fun and games. And you will get lei''d.
O''Viva Lei Day, Tuesday, 8pm, Viva Monterey, no cover, 646-1415.