Jazz for Fall--The Indian Summer Jazz shines; Sixpence None the Richer rocks McGarrett's.
Thursday, October 8, 1998
As corny as the press release for the Indian Summer Music Festival is, you''re not going to get any cutesy type story from me. Forget the tree huggin'', algae-lovin'' line for the band Spyro Gyra. I don''t want to talk about Keiko Matsui starting piano lessons the first June after her fifth birthday and its place in Japanese tradition. Nor do I relate to flautist Tim Weisberg''s success as the "Twin Son" to pop songster Dan Fogelberg way back in 1978. But what''s important to know is that these performers have created music which is finding success in today''s music marketplace.
Spyro Gyra is recognized as an innovator and leader in the popular musical mix. Founded in 1975 by alto saxophonist Jay Beckenstein, the band, with elements of R&B, pop, Caribbean, and jazz, was going full steam by 1979 and has continued to attract large crowds to its concerts ever since. Reportedly Sypro Gyra "live" is far and away a more satisfying experience than what can be found on their 20 records; their latest is titled 20/20, referring to so many albums in so many years. Current bandmembers are Beckenstein, Tom Shuman, keyboards; Julio Fernandez, guitar; Scott Ambush, bass; and Joel Rosenblatt, drums.
Pianist Keiko Matsui reportedly sells out large venues like the Concord Pavilion by herself, so if you''re going to this concert, consider yourself lucky to see her in such beautiful and intimate surroundings. Sandy Shore Productions hopes to sell at least 2,000 tickets to the concert held on the bluffs overlooking Monterey Bay. Matsui''s latest recording, Full Moon and the Shrine, sounds like a mix of ambient trance music with samples, synthesizers and the grand, pianistic overtures provided by the diminutive Japanese artist. In a wise move to gain radio play, there are snatches of soprano saxophone a la Kenny G.
Tim Weisberg is another musician who played happy-sounding melodic instrumentals before radio lassoed the music and termed it smooth. His current album, Undercover, his 20th overall, presents music that is truest to the jazz idiom, offering acoustic instrumentation with flights of improvisation. He has returned, he says, to his roots, to the music which inspired him to be a musician. He covers songs by a wide range of artists (Van Morrison, the Gershwin brothers, Gerald Wilson, Henry Mancini, Claude Debussy and a song by Chris Youlden called "A Hard Way To Go," written while he was with the blues rock band Savoy Brown). This is the performer I look forward to hearing most at this concert.
So as not to leave out the rest of the performers, you''ll enjoy sets by Laura Chandler, a songstress who can cover a wide range of styles on the guitar and can sing with a sweet, beautiful voice. She will have a full band behind her. Steve Reid''s Bamboo Forest is like a Rippington''s cousin; half the band also plays in the seminal smooth jazz group. Reid adds exotic percussion to their sound. And of course, Chicago Steve will be there to keep everything running "smooth" on the stage between sets.
Indian Summer Music Festival, Sunday, Noon-7pm, Seascape Resort, Aptos. Tickets still available for the lawn at $30, and possibly preferred seating at $40, 649-1223.
At The Jazz Store on Saturday is The Phil Markowitz Trio. For this writer it was a pleasant surprise to hear Markowitz''s current release Taxi Ride, a showcase of the talented New York pianist''s more intense side following his pastoral, serene work In The Woods, both on Passage Records. It''s a mistake to say he''s actually from New York because he now resides in a small town near the Delaware Water Gap, a refugee after 15 years from Manhattan''s fire and fury. His trio, with Ray Cumming, bass and Glenn Davis, drums, presents swinging jazz with melody and an edge that captures the intellect and takes it for a ride, like a taxi ride through the streets of New York. Creative, captivating and energetic, Markowitz''s music does justice to the trio format that seems to be finding favor in jazz a lot these days.
The Phil Markowitz Trio, Saturday, 7:30pm, The Jazz Store, $25, 624-6432, and at Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Friday, 8pm, $8/advance, $10/door, 427-2227.
Also at The Jazz Store on Friday, cabaret artist Shelly Cullin will perform as part of the Carmel Performing Arts Festival. The warm, inviting vocals of the veteran chanteuse draw an audience together, creating an experience that echoes those found in the early jazz venues of New York City. She will be accompanied by Bob Phillips, piano; Tom Bockhold, bass; and Bruce Forman, guitar.
Shelly Cullin, Friday, 8pm, The Jazz Store, $16, through CPAF at 624-7675.
Vocalist Kim Weir called to tell me about her debut performance as a jazz singer this Saturday, fronting a band with Don Pendergrass, piano; David Morwood, drums; and Willie Dietz, bass.
"There''s a lot of jazz things happening with duos and trios," she says, "but very few jazzy sultry vocals. I do obscure standards. We''ve taken them and given them contemporary twists. I''ve picked up some of the songs that Diana Krall does and also some of Basia''s songs."
Kim Weir, Saturday, 7pm, Hyatt Regency Monterey, no cover, 647-2033.
My apologies to the rock audience if it seems I don''t cover enough of your shows. This week there are a couple that are of interest. Thursday at McGarrett''s, Austin band Sixpence None The Richer headlines a double header with The Amazon Mollies opening. The young trio of Leigh Nash, vocals; Dale Baker, drums; and Matt Slocum, guitar, cello and principal songwriter, has put together a sound that is distinctive, ethereal and dreamlike, an interesting amalgam of sound. Nash''s vocals are soft and sensual with comparisons being made to Natalie Merchant and Edie Brickell. But of course, the 21-year-old carries a tune in her own distinctive voice, floating over the sometimes classical chamber music sound with a pop edge the group produces. Their eponymously titled third CD is a flagship release for the new label Squint Entertainment. Their first two ended up in limbo, as is often the case when indie labels fold, but now they are out touring in support of this fine offering.
Sixpence None The Richer, Amazon Mollies, Thursday, doors 8pm, McGarrett''s, 93 from 8pm-9pm as part of CD93''s listener appreciation party; $5 after 9pm, 646-9244.
Whitey''s Place has two good shows this weekend with returning bands Freight Train and The Recruits. Local rock fans know Freight Train through their many performances both at Whitey''s and Doc''s. Originally from the Carmel area, with a stint in L.A. before making San Francisco their home, the hippie rock band in the mold of The Black Crowes and Allman Brothers Band will deliver some sweet psychedelic rock for your dancing pleasure on Friday. The Recruits are a pop/rock band that have a tight ensemble sound with strong vocals. The San Jose-based band has been together for 10 years and produces their own albums on their own label. Their latest, Just Pick It, has a polished professional sound to it. The quartet stays busy playing gigs around California, mostly in the Northern and Central areas, and like most rock musicians, would like to give up their day jobs and live the life of rock stars. Check them out. They''re good.
Freight Train, Friday, 9:30pm, cover charge, The Recruits with Stone''s Throw opening, Saturday, 9:30pm, two drink minimum, Whitey''s Place, 646-8383.