Quantcast

Bonnie Raitt at Sonoma Jazz+

Posted by on May 31, 2008

(Note to the Reader: For this installment of City Sound Inertia, we welcome guest reviewer Bob Meline! A finish carpenter by trade, longtime music fan, and secretly, a solid bass player, he’s also my dad—and one of the greatest guys I know.)

Acknowledging that early in her career she would “never have been able to set foot” in a tent housing a jazz festival, Bonnie Raitt very aptly closed the four day run at Sonoma Jazz+, constantly educating the audience in musical history and, in the process, giving the capacity crowd the party they were looking for.

While the festival seems to be moving more and more away from traditional jazz, Raitt brought an amazing band and some well-suited musical guests in paying tribute to blues, rock, reggae, r&b and jazz—“all the tributaries and roots of not just jazz,” she said, “but what we call good music.”

Bonnie Raitt has worked through the years with drummer Ricky Fattar and bassist extraordinaire James “Hutch” Hutchinson, but the addition a few years ago of George Marinelli on guitar has become the perfect compliment to Raitt’s slide guitar and rock and rhythmic style—expertly filling the voids with single notes, short riffs and all-out leads without taking the attention away from center stage. But by far, Raitt’s band has profited the most with the addition of Jon Cleary on keyboards. His swampy New Orleans jazz/roots/funk style is the base from which he can also deliver rock, r&b and even those dark, smoky bar ballads, wrenching true human emotion out of every single note from his keyboard.

Raitt’s set list drew from all along the timeline of her lengthy career and showcased a varied cross section of musical styles. While Raitt has not written the majority of her recorded material, she has a gift for choosing other artists’ songs, no matter what the genre, and making them uniquely her own. Bonnie’s all out rockin’ version of John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love” was early in the set, soon followed by the r&b gem from Isaac Hayes, “Your Good Thing (Is About to End).” She introduced it as a song about “how messed up love can be—and I’ve been makin’ a livin’ off it ever since.”

Working some reggae into the evening, she did “Premature,” her recent duet with Toots and the Maytals, calling Toots Hibbert “a great songwriter and friend.” She then brought out her first guest of the evening, Maia Sharp, duetting on a song from her recent Souls Alike album, “I Don’t Want Anything to Change.”

Returning to her self-titled debut album of 1971, she paid tribute to the pioneering blues singer of the 20’s, Sippie Wallace, performing an acoustic slide version of “Women Be Wise.” Cleary’s honky tonk piano solo was a perfect fit and enthralled even Raitt—who waltzed over and laid her elbow on the piano, propped her chin in her hand and seemed as amazed as the rest of the audience at Cleary’s ability.

As advertised, slide master Roy Rogers made his first appearance on stage next, doubling up with Raitt on an absolutely incendiary acoustic version of Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues.” Raitt is one of the better slide guitarists in the business, but even she was thrilled to have Rogers alongside showcasing his unique style. After the song, and the well-deserved standing ovation, she remarked to Rogers, “Your wife is a lucky woman…”

Raitt included John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery,” bringing Sharp back on stage to join the band, the four backup vocalists soaring on the choruses. The lead track from her most recent album, “I Will Not Be Broken,” finished with a fade into some soft gospel vocal vamps, which led into “Something to Talk About, ” the first of two roadhouse rocking set closers. Exhorting drummer Fattar to “Keep it going, Ricky,” the band finished with “Love Sneakin’ up On You.” The all-ages audience, long ago tired of doing Dan Hicks’ “barstool boogie in their seats,” had filled the aisles in all manner of dance and wasn’t at all ready for the party to be over. Thunderous applause filled the huge but now-intimate tent and brought the band back for a four-song encore.

Noting that it was “not exactly a dance tune,” Raitt, absent her guitar and perched on a stool with a single spot accenting her flame red hair, rode Cleary’s sensuous keyboard work into the beautiful “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” While known for her guitar chops and rough edged vocals, Raitt took everyone on a spine-tingling soul search for love never returned, the raw passion fueled no doubt by having admitted in the past that she’d been on “both sides of this one.” And if Bonnie’s vocals didn’t break your heart, Cleary’s closing piano solo finished the job and brought the hard truth of the title into plain view.

Staying in the smoky bar-like vein, and again working with Sharp, Raitt came as close to jazz as she would get on the night through Sharp’s “The Bed I Made.” As suited as Raitt’s vocal intensity is to the song, it was again the musicians who shone, Hutchinson working a nice bass melody, Cleary wringing emotion out of every note and Sharp adding a sexy, breathy baritone sax solo to close out the tune.

Kicking it back into high gear, Raitt strapped on her guitar and pronounced, “Yes, I’m ready!” and brought back Rogers, the song’s co-writer, for their thumping and chunking “Gnawin’ on It,” going shoulder to shoulder with him so she could watch him “blow the windows out of the place.” And that he did.

Always paying tribute and giving credit to others, Raitt dedicated the last song to the late Phil Elwood, the longtime jazz/blues reviewer for the San Francisco Examiner and later the Chronicle, calling him “one of the best friends music ever had.” And in her unending praise to those who paved the way for her, she introduced a tune she’s done through the years with Charles and Ruth Brown, “Never Make Your Move Too Soon.” A rocking, rollicking shuffle blues, it was the perfect opportunity for Raitt to let each of the musicians shine one more time, including her brother, David Raitt, on the harmonica.

In welcoming the sold-out audience at the start—and make no mistake, this show was the draw of this year’s festival—Raitt, performing close to her real home, said she felt like she was with family. No doubt the crowd, as it reluctantly filed out, was feeling the kinship—“Souls Alike,” if you will—and hoping for a reunion much, much sooner than later.

Robert Meline

Diana Krall at Sonoma Jazz+

Posted by on May 31, 2008 2 Comments

“I’m all pumped up full of steroids,” croaked a bronchitis-ridden Diana Krall to a sold-out Sonoma crowd on Saturday night, “so you’re gonna have to put up with my shitty piano playing the whole show.”

A woman in the audience yelled something about smoking.

“Oh—do you want me to stop talking?” asked Krall. “Is it like nails on a chalkboard. . . or too sexy you can’t stand it?”

It speaks volumes about Krall’s immense popularity that during an absolutely classic performance in Sonoma, her singing voice never wavered in the slightest—in spite of the fact that Krall’s speaking voice, which offered an ongoing stream of self-deprecating quips, sounded more like Edward G. Robinson. One could interpret this either as the resilience of a seasoned vocalist or one of the fringe benefits of having, in Kralls’ own words, a “smoky, sultry, cool sound.” Bronchitis would level most singers, but for Krall—who along with nighttime film-noir pianist-singers Holly Cole and Patricia Barber rarely, if ever, pushes her vocal chords—it never once hindered the show.

Though Krall acknowledged her bronchitis (announcing and then slipping into a Tom Waits impersonation during “Exactly Like You”), most of the time it worked in her favor. A fading whisper of the word “darling” during a spellbinding solo version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” a particular husk to “The Look of Love”—these touches only added to what she does best.

With a few stride-piano intros—to “Frim Fram Sauce” and “I Don’t Know Enough About You”—that faltered greatly in tempo, Krall’s piano playing may have been lessened, but not enough to keep her from quoting Charlie Parker songs in solos which played well into her rhythm section’s impeccable backing. But it was her descriptions of motherhood and of breastfeeding her two children—she had twins a year and a half ago with Elvis Costello—which truly tickled the mostly middle-aged crowd.

“They’re both grown up now,” she joked. “They’re out in the hotel playing cards and smoking cigars. They look like their dad!” (“I’m sorry!” shouted the woman in front of me.)

At the end of the night, after a practically begged-for encore at the hands of a long standing ovation, Krall had triumphed. She even cast aside her sad, tortured persona for a split second—at the end of the bowed bass solos, sharp rim shots and dazzling guitar lines during the night’s closer “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You,” the 43-year-old mother squirmed on the piano bench, opened her mouth, and squealed like a little girl.

Photos and set list below. (more…)

Taylor Eigsti Quartet at Sonoma Jazz+

Posted by on May 27, 2008

Taylor Eigsti talked nervously. Wouldn’t you, in front of a 3,000-seat tent with only a few hundred people in it? His buddy, Julian Lage, looked at him, looked out into the expanse. Laughed.

Then Eigsti sat down, punching out spare, discordant notes on his piano, as if in a musical deterioration of how eerie the whole thing was. Lage responded by picking out high-pitched chirps from his guitar strings below the bridge, and eventually, Ben Williams and Eric Harland sidled in. Out of all this, a song eventually self-sculpted: Cole Porter’s “I Love You,” full of wit, verve, dramatics and a fleeting debt to Bill Evans.

Another amazing night by Taylor Eigsti and Julian Lage was underway.

For some reason, I turn into a 1960s television host when talking about Eigsti and Lage. These kids, they’re a real gas, just righteously groovy. I go ape for ‘em, you dig?

I wasn’t alone: at the finish of the group’s next tune, “Time Lines,” a thundering, raging storm of full-fingered jazz, the crowd jumped immediately to their feet. There’s something so beautiful and weird and gratifying about watching a huge tent that’s only 30-percent full going absolutely bananas for the relative unknowns, and especially when those unknowns are ruling as hard as Eigsti and Lage.

Eigsti is 23, Lage is 20, and people can talk all they want about young players only studying theory and technique and recycling old ideas in place of emotion—it’s just not true with these two. They’ve got an emotional depth that goes acres deep. I’d seen this on display as a duo before, but with Williams and Harland they were a powerhouse. Though the two did play some duets together, the bluesy “And What if I Don’t” by Herbie Hancock and the original composition “True Colors”—and offered an introspective take on the surprise indie-rock tune of the set, the Eels’ “Not Ready Yet” (!)—the two truly shined in a full-force setting.

Through every open door, both Lage and Eigsti tiptoed carefully; the majority of their solos began with sparse hesitation, a note here, a run there. Feeling out the field. Wayne Shorter’s “Deluge” saw Lage open his solo with palm-muting intermittent bent notes on the fretboard, which slowly unraveled into more loosely muted hammer-ons, which eventually unraveled into a full-speed-ahead trek both in and out of the scale, going by so fast it was impossible to completely grasp.

Harland must have been in on this plan, too, because he’d take eights like this: 1) rubbing his stick end on the bell of his ride, and 2) same thing but with some bass drum, and 3) rim shots mixed with toms building up to 4) ending by wailing away. Mas y mas.

Yes, these dizzyingly executed extended crescendos abounded, even amongst all four members. “Caravan,” the set’s closer, opened with what Lage calls “my only toy”—a delay pedal, used with flat-fifths and slides and layered rhythms—while Eigsti reached inside the grand piano and dampened the strings with one hand, pounding out fast notes with the other. I’m of the belief that there’s no lousy way to play “Caravan,” but this was on some other shit entirely; Eigsti’s marathon solo, in particular, was unleashed like he was hungry, ravenous, stabbing at the keys. It was so impactful that the crowd started cheering in the middle and didn’t let up until the triumphant end minutes later.

Eigsti’s group—this same quartet—is playing tonight at Yoshi’s in Oakland and tomorrow at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. Go, go, go. Also, Eigsti has a new album out this week called Let It Come To You, and it features incredible performances that come damn close to capturing his live show. So well, in fact, that I’ll forgive the goatee.

Also, be sure to check out Lage’s trio when they open for Charlie Haden and Joshua Redman at the Raven Theater on June 7 as part of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival.

Herbie Hancock at Sonoma Jazz+

Posted by on May 24, 2008 One Comment

Herbie Hancock is a jazz legend. It’s a fact. You can’t strip him of it.

At what’s billed as a jazz festival, you’d think people would be into Herbie Hancock. But after his first song last night, the Blue Note jazz classic “Cantaloupe Island,” an exodus of half-tipsy middle-aged Wine Country dilettantes who’ve been trained that Michael McDonald is “jazz” filled the aisles and headed to their SUVs.

This, I’d think, might be slightly embarrassing for the Sonoma Jazz+ Festival, who have suffered as many exhortations to simply change their name as Hilary Clinton has to drop out of the primaries. Frankly, I’m overwhelmingly for it. If you’re going to represent yourself as a “jazz” festival but then book mostly R&B, blues, or pop acts, you’re not only insulting an original American art form but also, I might add, essentially defying a Congressional decree calling for the recognition and preservation of jazz as a rare and valuable national American treasure.

Herbie Hancock, along with Julian Lage and Taylor Eigsti, represents the true jazz minority at this year’s festival, and Hancock occupies a decidedly unique place in jazz, however mainstream it may be. Though most of what he’s done lately falls into classical or pop realms, he has constantly pushed, in his music, the jazz ideal of exploration and possibility. No amount of Starbucks-friendly collaborations with Corrine Bailey Rae can taint that fact, and in a twisted way, his forays into funk fusion, industrial breakdance music, and other non-jazz idioms actually support it. If jazz is a journey, then Hancock is an overarching participant, straying from the designated path with equal parts vision and experimentation.

Example: while Hancock introduced his second number last night, the equally classic “Watermelon Man,” he announced that he and his quintet would tackle it with a few variations. First, they’d incorporate a 17-beat count into the song, based on African music. Second, they’d introduce one extra beat at a time, until they reached 17 beats. Oh, and another thing: they’d bring out a DJ to play turntables on the song.

The exodus continued.

What followed was an entirely creative take on “Watermelon Man,” with bassist Marcus Miller holding down the solid groove while Hancock switched from grand piano, to synthesizer, to. . . wait a second. . . a Key-tar?! Yep—Hancock and his harmonica player traded harp and Key-tar licks, the DJ threw in some scratching and the guitarist played wild octave-pedal scales. In its offbeat and original way, it was jazz—and the idea of jazz—at its finest, and to be fair to the crowd, the multitudes of people who stuck around gave him the first of many deserved standing ovations.

A trio of Joni Mitchell songs from Hancock’s what-the-hell Grammy Award-winning Album of the Year River: The Joni Letters followed, with vocalists Lizz Wright and Sonya Kitchell delivering stellar versions of “Edith and the Kingpin” and “The River,” the latter ending with angelic harmonies between the two. However, Kitchell’s take on “All I Want,” a breathy, sexy rendition, was a misfire compared to Mitchell’s laughing, playful original.

I actually listened to Mitchell’s Blue before coming to the show, and “All I Want” is such a great, weird dichotomy of a song—it’s full of longing and loneliness, but it’s also buoyant and optimistic, like Joni’s looking towards the day that she’ll be happy, feel free and knit sweaters. As the listener, you think that day could be tomorrow and the sweater she’ll knit is just for you. Kitchell sang it instead like there was no hope in sight—just a lot of self-wallowing and bluesy inflection.

Hancock himself played fantastically, but the greater impression left was that of a scientist in a jazz lab, professorially dissecting each number with sheet music in hand and explaining how the quintet would approach each new discovery. Introducing “Jean Pierre,” a vehicle for bassist Miller, he even joked about the song’s sketchy genesis. “This is a composition by the great Miles Davis,” he said, to scattered cheers. “You think Miles wrote it alone? Who knows!” (for further reading on Davis’ notorious habit of plagiarizing other’s songs, I recommend the book Shades of Blue by Bill Moody).

With Hancock’s classic Blue Note era covered by “Canteloupe Island” and “Watermelon Man,” with the Headhunters era covered via the encore “Chameleon,” and with the pop era covered with the Joni Mitchell songs, there was only one stone left unturned in Hancock’s set. I would have never thought he’d play it, not in a million years.

“Are you ready?!” he shouted. “For the first time in 25 years, are. . . you. . . ready?!”

And with that, he strapped on the Key-tar, motioned to the DJ, and led the band in a run-down of the great breakdance jam I used to backspin to when I was nine years old: “Rockit.” The crowd erupted. It wasn’t exactly jazz, but it felt good, and all egregious festival misnomers aside, that’s what any good festival is supposed to offer.

Al Green at Sonoma Jazz+

Posted by on May 24, 2008

“There’s people wonderin’,” said an unstoppable Al Green on stage in Sonoma last night, “if the Reverend Al’s still got it!”

And then, to answer his own hypothesis, in the high falsetto that’s conceived thousands of babies and still melts ladies’ hearts:

“Yeeeeeeeeaaaahhhhhh, bay-beee!”

With an 11-piece band, a hailstorm of energy and verve and most importantly, a voice that’s still pure quicksilver, Al Green at that point had already proved to the Sonoma crowd that he’s definitely still got it. The exchange existed, rather, as part of an extended love-fest with the audience—showy but unscripted—that started with his passing out roses to the ladies in the front row and continued in rambunctious call-and-response fashion like the Baptist masses that Green conducts most Sundays to the public at his church outside of Memphis.

“I love you,” he said. “I love you. I love you. I love Sonoma.” Then again, singing: “I love Sonoma. I’m gonna make my own song. I looove Sonoommaa. I looove Sonoomm“—the falsetto kicked in—”AAAAAAAAAHHHH!

The feeling, to say the least, was mutual. “Let’s Stay Together” inspired a bumrush to the stage, putting security in a tizzy, and “Here I Am” caused massive spillover outside of the too-small cordoned dance areas down the side of the festival’s gargantuan tent. During “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” Green held the congregation spellbound in a masterful, heart-wrenching torpor; that one song alone boosted last night’s lovemaking in Sonoma County by 20 percent.

During Green’s high-energy, 50-minute set, there were only a few clunky moments. Green barreled through an unnecessary medley of classic soul hits—”I Can’t Help Myself,” “My Girl,” “Bring it on Home to Me,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “The Dock of the Bay,” “Wonderful World”—which would have been much better had he picked one and sang it in its entirety (I nominate “Bring it on Home to Me.”) This led into a lacking “Tired of Being Alone” featuring Green singing pieces of the song but mostly playing with the crowd while his 11-piece band vamped in the background, and after an extended “Love and Happiness” closed the set, Green’s backup singer lamely ran down a Wikipedia entry of his achievements: “Al Green, ladies and gentlemen! Member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Member of the Soul Hall of Fame! Member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame!”

In the overall picture, however, these details will have to accept their status as minor gripes, fully overshadowed by Green’s talent, personality, legend, and desire to give all that he is to his audience. “The lady back there that’s the head of this whole thing made me promise to keep my little ‘A’ on the stage,” he said at one point, clearly delighted with himself as he walked like a disobedient child down the front steps to his adoring crowd, “and here I am. . .  on my way down again!” And then the falsetto, again, directly into the eyes of a sea of swooning females.

Yes. Al Green has still got it.

Kool & the Gang at Sonoma Jazz+

Posted by on May 23, 2008 One Comment

“I think my favorite line in the song is ‘She’s a lady,'” I said. “I mean, ‘she’ wouldn’t be anything but a lady, right?”

“No, because ‘lady’ is used as a term of distinction. Not all females are ladies. Plus, that’s only half the line: it goes, ‘She’s a lady that you really want to know.'”

“Oh, right! ‘Somehow I’ve got to let my feelings show. . .'”

We were strolling towards the tent in Sonoma, talking about “Fresh,” the still-stupendous Kool & the Gang jam which played for one blissful summer on constant repeat in my house growing up. I was 10 when the album Emergency came out, and I spent hours staring into the cover, checking out Kool & the Gang’s ’80s outfits, thinking the same thoughts that any 10-year-old thinks when they stare into an album cover: Those dudes are in a band. That’s so cool.

So I suppose we could have left happy after Kool & the Gang hit the stage in Sonoma with “Fresh.” But the song, complete with synchronized dance movements and choice poses, heralded what I’d figured would be the case with Kool & the Gang: they were out to deliver a totally scripted, well-oiled show of role-playing and crowd pleasing. This can be seen, in a lot of ways, a schlocky Vegas gimmick. But in another light, it’s also a lost art in the history of R&B, where great “show bands” or “stage bands”—even small, regional funk ensembles—used to never hit the stage without a perfectly-rehearsed set of joint-jumpin’ dances, perfectly executed breakdowns, and sewn-up patter.

To a standing-room crowd out on the dance floor, many of them in disco outfits and huge afro wigs, Kool & the Gang put on a dazzling show, not ignoring the early heavy funk that established them in the first place: “Jungle Boogie,” naturally, “Funky Stuff,” of course, and the song that every desperate DJ leans on to get people moving out on the floor—”Hollywood Swinging.”

Lite-rock hits like “Joanna” and “Cherish” mixed with disco hits like “Get Down on It,” which led into the most predictable encore in the universe: “Celebration.”

Dare I say that a little bit of jazz even crept into their show?

During “Funky Stuff,” everyone in the band except the guitarist took extended solos. Later on, saxophonist Dennis Thomas mentioned how they’d all grown up on Miles Davis and John Coltrane. And. . . well, okay, that’s about it. The rest was pure boogie.

The tent was really going nuts dancing and screaming, which Kool & the Gang acknowledged during the calypso-flavored “Island Shake,” bringing select participants from the crowd to strut their stuff on stage. First it was two ladies—you can see the results in the photo above—and then it was two guys, who actually used their time in the spotlight to square dance. I’m not kidding.

“Those guys,” the singer joked, “ain’t never been to the island.”

—————————————

P.S. My 10-year-old self can’t let the moment pass: you gotta check out the video for “Misled,” from Emergency, starring Kool & the Gang when they still had JT Taylor singing. Part Thriller, part Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s an amazing (and really, really low-budget) time capsule of MTV during the Reagan era:

Treasure Island Festival Lineup Announced!

Posted by on May 22, 2008 3 Comments

It’s no secret that one of my favorite concert-going experiences is the Treasure Island Music Festival, a two-day soirée with an incredible lineup and a beautifully scenic setting out in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. With the organizers planning the gigantic Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park this year, I expected that a second year out the island might be a sinking prospect. I needn’t have worried. This year’s lineup was announced today:

Saturday, September 20:
JUSTICE | TV ON THE RADIO | GOLDFRAPP | HOT CHIP | CSS | ANTIBALAS | AESOP ROCK | AMON TOBIN | FOALS | MIKE RELM | NORTEC: BOSTICH + FUSSIBLE

Sunday, September 21:
THE RACONTEURS | TEGAN & SARA | VAMPIRE WEEKEND | SPIRITUALIZED | OKKERVIL RIVER | TOKYO POLICE CLUB | THE KILLS | DR. DOG | JOHN VANDERSLICE | THE DODOS | FLEET FOXES

It’s $65 per day, $115 for a two-day pass. Tickets go on sale Friday, May 30, but make sure to visit the festival website for mailing list signups and presale passwords.

So what makes the festival so great? I’ll tell you. (more…)

Scarlett Johansson Takes Our Advice

Posted by on May 21, 2008 2 Comments

I know we all weighed in on the mostly forgettable Scarlett Johansson album in last week’s Bohemian, but I never expected she’d read the reviews, consider our rapier criticism, and tighten up her act. But lo, here it is, Johansson performing “live” (yeah right) and though it’s still kinda like, whatever, it’s way better and more passionate than the cruddy record. Gone are the excessive vocal effects and the washed-out production, and she seems like she actually cares about the song. Why didn’t she just do this in the first place?

Healdsburg Jazz Festival Picks

Posted by on May 20, 2008

I’ve had quite a few people ask me for recommendations on the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, and what I’ve found is that most people in the world are interested in jazz but simply uninformed. There’s no better place to brush up on your jazz than this year’s festival, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is a grand slam as far as festival booking goes. Every show’s a winner, but here’s a quick run-down of the shows that I personally am planning on attending; keep in mind that everyone has their own idea of what’s cool and what blows.

First of all, any newcomer to jazz is virtually required to see Mark Cantor’s Jazz Night at the Movies (June 1 at 7:30pm, Raven Theater). The impact of Cantor’s amazing collection of 16mm jazz reels (he’s got over 5,000 at this point) is incredible, providing a cinematic history of live jazz from almost every era. Cantor’s personal introductions provide connect-the-dots context, and every single clip is moving in its own way; either hilarious, like Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang trading call-and-response eights, or downright poignant, like Billie Holiday singing “My Man” from a 1950s television special. Plus it’s only $10!

I’m stoked on finally seeing Charles Lloyd (May 31 at 7:30pm, Jackson Theater), who’s been making interesting records on ECM lately with a great group. He’s got this really great pianist, Jason Moran, and an excellent, rock-solid drummer in the form of Eric Harland. He’s getting older, but he’s an innovator from within, and those people never run out of ideas, regardless of age. Charles Lloyd was lucky enough to be booked onto Fillmore shows in the late ’60s by Bill Graham, and his searing solos fit in nicely with the psychedelic scene in San Francisco; if you’re looking for envelope-pushing jazz, check this one out.

The show I can fully recommend to everyone—and especially those with kids—is the suave-lookin’ guy pictured above, clarinetist Don Byron (June 2 at 1pm and 7pm, Raven Theater), whose Ivey Divey was my #1 jazz album of 2004. Combining klezmer, jazz, and classical styles, in a word, Byron’s music is fun. The show he’ll be presenting is great: old Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons get projected on the Raven Theater’s screen while his group plays music from his 1996 album, Bug Music. Both Raymond Scott—whose music will be represented in great supply—and Byron have that element of surprise that kids love, but he’s innovative enough (and has a great band, with Billy Hart on drums) to appeal to anyone. It’s $25, but bring a kid and it’s only $15 for the both of you!

One of my all-time favorite jazz musicians is Eric Dolphy, who played the saxophone, bass clarinet, and flute like no one else who walked the planet. He died in 1964, but his music was so great that it takes two people to resurrect it properly: saxophonist and clarinetist Bennie Maupin and flutist James Newton (June 6 at 8pm, Raven Theater). Maupin played on Miles DavisBitches Brew, and most people only know Newton from his highly publicized Supreme Court case with the Beastie Boys over sampling rights (“Pass the Mic”—the Beasties won). Newton is a hell of a flute player, on par with Dolphy and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and he and Maupin have unearthed some sheet music that Dolphy left behind. It’ll be out there, but in the best sense—Dolphy never wanked for wanking’s sake—making this the show I’m probably most excited about.

How can you go wrong with the lineup for ‘A Night in the Country‘ (June 7 at 7:30pm, Raven Theater)? Charlie Haden is one of jazz’s most intuitive bassists, having helmed the Ornette Coleman quartet, the Liberation Music Orchestra, and the Quartet West (he’s also a great interview). Kenny Barron is the one pianist that no one I know hates, and saxophone superstar Joshua Redman is going to thrive in this setting. Also on the bill is Julian Lage, who I cannot say enough good things about (and that’s not just because I sold him his copy of Everybody Digs Bill Evans when he was 12). Simply put, Lage is a miracle, a supremely talented guitar player with gallons of taste. He’ll be playing with monster bassist Ray Drummond to boot!

Jazz has always been nighttime music to me, but if you can hang with the sunny outdoors at a winery, then by all means, go see Bobby Hutcherson (June 8 at 3pm, Rodney Strong Vineyards). Always terrific, Hutcherson is also a complete crowd-pleaser, hovering over his vibes and making wild body movements as he plays. He’s played on some seminal albums, including Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, and he was the saving grace of Freddie Hubbard’s disastrous performance last month at Yoshi’s. Also on the bill is Cedar Walton, who played on the John Coltrane album Giant Steps, and Craig Handy, an outstanding tenor player from Berkeley who always blows me away.

The complete Healdsburg Jazz Festival lineup is here. Say whassup if you see me around.

Themes at the Petaluma Church

Posted by on May 20, 2008

Lemme just say first off that when I brought Themes‘ new 7″ home on Sunday afternoon, I listened to it three times in a row, over and over. It’s that good. Full of optimistic hooks, unifying harmonies, and hopeful lyrics, it’s nothing short of inspiring. It’s the Obama of 7″s.

In classic 7″ fashion, the songs are both slightly out of style for the band but wholly complimentary to each other. They’re almost the same song, actually; even the titles form a cohesive sentence: “I Can’t Make You Believe / It’s Not Hopeless to Survive.” The repeated line in the latter is “You’re not the only one who hates this country,” and even though on the whole I actually love this country, it’s lately given me many reasons to be so angry I can’t even sleep and just want to throw myself out into the street. Which, actually, is a line from the song on the other side.

The Petaluma Church is a fantastic place for house shows, situated as it is near virtually no other residences; I’ve been there a few times and it’s awesome (in fact, I interviewed the Grand Color Crayon there for an article in the Bohemian). It’s usually packed, naturally, and the sound is good, the cheap beer is flowin’, and Sunday night, especially, the vibe was that of overwhelming freedom clustering on a communal precipice. You know what I mean? Like summertime is just around the corner and there’s a million great bands in this town and we’re gonna run it as hard as we can while it lasts because it’s beautiful to be alive.

I chatted with Jacy from Themes for a long time before they played, and he, too, was adamant about actively pursuing a life of living free in a country currently defined by restriction. After spending his youth confined to a Native American reservation outside of Minneapolis, he’s traveled around the country virtually nonstop playing music. “It’s folklore, what we do,” he said. “It’s all we’ve got left, all we’ve got that’s ours. We’re gonna be on tour forever.”

Then Themes played in the living room, and wouldn’t you know it, they didn’t play either song from the 7″ that I had so fiercely become smitten with. However, I wish more than anything that I had a recording of the second and third songs they played—both of them stark, dismal minor-chord epics with accordion and tambourine, back-to-back ruminations on darkness and hell. In hindsight, even though it came from the opposite end of the spectrum, this only made the 7″ songs all the more powerful—as if acknowledging evil makes a thrust towards good more legitimate.

No one who has half a brain in their heads can deny that for eight years we’ve been in some very evil and dark ages, but the era of having no choice but to dwell upon our administration’s failures is soon going to be over. We’ve got a pretty thrilling future ahead, full of national and personal challenges, and fuck it, I don’t want to wait until November. I’m starting to celebrate now. This is the summer when everything starts to shift, when there’s no reason to feel confined anymore. And above all, as the song so awesomely says—this is the summer when it’s not hopeless to survive.



SAPE ERROR: Нет файла /home/httpd/wordpress/wp-content/themes/pure/images/cache/41783f2880e45983007213998a3b1a76/links.db. Создать не удалось. Выставите права 777 на папку.