Greetings from wintery L.A., where the Spring is starting to poke through the clouds and the fruit trees are starting to bloom. February was a great month for music here in Southern California and I got to see some awesome shows. First off was Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey at the Mint, playing two sets of their latest tunes and really blowing some minds. Some of the more interesting and hard to describe music which puts more of the emphasis on the Odyssey part of their name. Credit lap guitarist Chris Combs with adding an ethereal edge to the music, while keyboardist Brian Haas continues to morph his own style and ideas in some fascinating directions. His jazz influences have melted into the mix while his melodic sensibility has fermented with funk and fire.
The band stayed the weekend and recorded a record at Threshold Studios in Santa Monica with producer Gil Tamazyan, who had recorded their "Self is Gone" album a decade before. The band set up in this great live room and planned to track straight to vinyl on an old lathing machine, something that they hadn't done before. Tamazyan, who is also a pro mastering engineer, had the band running through the mixing board straight through into the mastering equipment and direct to the vinyl blanks. I got to hang and watch the process and when it was time to hit record, the band really stepped up and played some beautiful music. This is rumored to be released as a companion of sorts to their "One Day in Brooklyn" disc, kind of a One Day in L.A. sort of thing. Check the band out at www.jfjo.com and look out for it later this year. They're on tour in Europe right now, should be hitting Barcelona any day now after enjoying the fruits of the Netherlands. Stateside, you can catch them June 12th at the OK Mozart Festival debuting a piece called "Ludwig!" and June 19th in NYC at 92Y TriBeCa.
Since Haas always travels with his trusty but beat-up Rhodes on hand (along with a few spares in the trailer) he wanted to stop by the Rhodes factory in Long Beach and check out the new Mark 7 pianos. I came along to document the proceedings, and you'll soon see our exclusive videos on this site. Rhodes chief Joe Brandstetter showed the band through the factory and he and Haas got into some lively discussions about the Rhodes electric piano. The band decided to set up and play, so Haas brought in his stage rig and set it aside a brand new Mark 7. We got some great videos of the comparison tests and of their superb techs lifting the lid on Haas' Rhodes and giving it a tune up. The band played three tunes with Haas on the Mark 7 and really raised the roof on the factory!
As if I hadn't had my mind scrambled already, a few days later I hit the Baked Potato to see Eric Levy get funky with Garaj Mahal. What a group of major players! All I wanted to do after the show was go home and practice. The band is so damn tight and each member is capable in their own regard. And yet as a keyboard player, I can't help have a special affinity for Levy's playing. From the most nuanced harmonic changes to full-on two-handed shredding, Levy is one of the most well-rounded cats on the scene. Miss Garaj Mahal at your peril! www.myspace.com/garajmahalfunk
Two days later was the Valley Ragtime Stomp over at Henri's in Canoga Park and as always, it was a groovy time. People who get together for the love of old time piano music have a special place in my heart and it's always enlightening hearing so many different players. Nan Bostick (www.westcoastragtime.com/bios/bio.bostick.04.htm) has been in a few times and always plays with a lot of passion. If you're anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area and dig piano music, you should come on down! Meets the second Saturday of each month. http://valleyragtimestomp.blogspot.com/
Not long after, caught an awesome John Butler Trio show at the Troubadour. Though they have no keyboard player on the road at this point, Butler and his bandmates were killing it live. The new album comes out next month and I've been spinning an advance copy. I have to say it's really a great record; it's growing on me and the new songs sounded terrific live. Butler has a new rhythm section and they are a funky duo for sure, another band well worth seeing when they come through on their summer tour. Among those highlights will be headlining Red Rocks and playing the Central Park Summerstage in NYC. Add to that a nice slot at Bonnaroo and this could shape up to be Butlers year! www.johnbutlertrio.com
One of my favorite Canadian bands of all time, Sloan, hit King King in Hollywood recently and I was all about it. Their "Never Hear the End of It" disc is one of my favorite records of the last decade in my humble opinion and their catalogue of songs creates a unique and wonderful rock and roll journey. Keyboardist Gregory Macdonald handled the copious keyboard parts and added a lot of harmony vocals. Their fans were very vocal and expressed a lot of love for the band, who all came out to hang and chat afterwards. Though they never seem to play all of my favorite songs live, the band has such a deep catalog that I usually find some awesome tunes in their live set to go back and revisit on record. I never miss Sloan when they come through town and since that doesn't happen too often, neither should you! www.sloanmusic.com
To cap off a busy month, I headed to Mason City, Iowa to visit family and wound up touring the home of Meredith Willson, a composer who wrote the popular broadway hit The Music Man amongst others. Sure enough, I saw 76 trombones and at least some pictures of a big parade! He had quite a history that I didn't know about and the town sure loves their local celeb. The museum in Mason City had some really great vintage instruments, many of which I tweeted pics of on the Flickr slide show you'll find on the parent page of this blog. Check out Music Man Square online or visit sometime! www.themusicmansquare.org
Lastly, been hearing some great things from two talented pianowomen on the scene around LA, Tiff Randol and Beth Thornley. Check their music out online or better yet, go see a show if they come through your town! www.tiffrandol.com and www.beththornley.com
That's all for now~ hope your 2010 is looking bright.
See you soon~ keep shedding and shredding out there!