Saturday, May 28, 2011

Miles Davis' Greats in Seattle

Recorded in 1959, Kind of Blue is woven into our musical lexicon, into the very fabric of our lives. Many say it’s the greatest jazz recording of all time, maybe even the greatest recording of any music genre. Its influence is felt by every living musician.

So when "Four Generations of Miles" played at Jazz Alley last night, it was a poignant and heartfelt tribute.

A sans-trumpet tribute to Miles Davis. "None of these four Miles Davis alumni were ever classmates in the same Miles Davis group, but all are distinguished grads of that most prestigious small college in jazz." -

Legendary Miles Davis drummer Jimmy Cobb

The legendary Jimmy Cobb educated us all on how to use brushes—at 82 he is still crisp and tight, and brilliant. I wish my drummer friends could've been there to see how the Master does it. His unique contribution of tasty drum licks will forever be emblazoned on our memories.  Mike Stern, silky smooth across the galaxy of frets, likes his effects pedal, and on most guitars I’m not too fond of the echo-y sound. All was forgiven when they played one of the best versions of My Funny Valentine I’ve ever heard.

Jazz guitarist Mike Stern and Honolulu guitar hero Gomez Fraser after the show

Sonny Fortune, one of the best jazz sax players since Dexter Gordon, is old-school, impeccably dressed in suit vest, tie, and Italian loafers. He’s all business when he plays. White-hot lights glinting off his glasses and golden saxophone, I heard echoes of Kind of Blue in his riffs. Sometimes horns can sound a little out of key compared to the strings, but he was dead on. Was Pink Floyd's sax influenced by Kind of Blue? Absolutely.
What can I say about Buster Williams? His lumbering old stand-up bass has probably seen as much action as Stanley Clarke’s, with duct tape-harnessed electronics and age-old scuff marks. With the lightest touch, Buster coaxed bouncing highs and the deepest growling lows. It was a wonder to behold.

If you’re lucky you can still catch one of their shows this weekend:

The Pacific Jazz Institute at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley presents 4 Generations of Miles. Band members include Jimmy Cobb (drums), Mike Stern (guitar), Buster Williams (bass), and Sonny Fortune (saxophone). Set times on Thursday and Sunday 7:30 pm and Friday through Saturday 7:30pm and 9:30 pm. Doors open at 6:00pm Thursday and 5:30pm Friday through Sunday.


Jimmy Cobb: A superb, mostly self-taught musician, drummer Jimmy Cobb is the elder statesman of all the incredible Miles Davis bands. Jimmy’s inspirational work with Miles, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly and Co. spanned 1957 until 1963, and included the masterpiece Kind of Blue, the most popular jazz recording in history. He also played on Sketches of Spain, Someday My Prince will Come, Live at Carnegie Hall, Live at the Blackhawk, Porgy and Bess, and many, many other watermark Miles Davis recordings.

Mike Stern: In a career that spans three decades and a discography that includes more than a dozen eclectic and innovative recordings, five-time GRAMMY nominee Mike Stern has established himself as one of the premier jazz and jazz-fusion guitarists and composers of his generation. Stern first met Miles Davis in New York, where he was recruited to play a key role in Miles' celebrated comeback band of 1981. During his three-year period with Miles, Stern appeared on three recordings with the jazz maestro, a Man With a Horn, Star People, and the live We Want Miles.

Buster Williams: Buster Williams is a prodigious bassist whose playing knows no limits. He was 20 years old when he first met jazz greats like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Tony Williams. Meeting them would later figure heavily into his future. His big, deep, resilient and inventive playing since then has made him the bassist of choice throughout the jazz world. Upon his return to New York in October of 1968 Williams recorded 5 albums with the Jazz Crusaders; worked and recorded with Miles Davis; played with Kenny Durham and was in demand as first call for recording studio; TV, and movie dates.

Sonny Fortune: When critics speak of Sonny Fortune, names like Coltrane, Cannonball, Davis, Young, Bechet, Hawkins and Parker are mentioned. Sonny Fortune embodies all of the finest qualities of those late, great musicians. Lucky for us, Sonny is still here and blowing hard. In September 1974, Miles Davis offered Sonny a job in his fusion group. Fortune had previously turned down the same offer to stay with McCoy Tyner, but he eagerly accepted the opportunity to move on to something completely new. Fortune stayed with Miles for a year, recording four LPs, Big Fun, Agartha, Pangaea, and Get Up With It.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Seattle Bands

We hadn’t seen the Sun since October, until this blue-sky day. So it was about time to celebrate. At the 88 Keys in Seattle Thursday night, it was the first real party of the summer season, with many of our local musicians in attendance, ready to rock. And, it was fabulous to see some legendary luminaries in the audience (you know who you are).

And celebrate we did! All three bands, so distinctly different, had one thing in common: they absolutely played their hearts out! Jar of Rain, a young up-and-coming band featuring the Thornberg brothers, showed us what passion is all about. Russ absolutely owned his driving guitar solos; he played with total commitment and took everyone in the audience with him. Technically, he’s better than a lot of players twice his age, and yet, he is soulful beyond his years. His older brother John, on Drums, exceeded all expectations with his powerfully crisp beat and his ability to reach into our emotions and move us. I’ve seen them play several times and this was definitely the best yet. Any chance you get, I highly recommend seeing Jar of Rain. I still find it touching that John says “Thanks for letting us play.” You’re welcome!!!

Jar of Rain

Next set, Lynn Sorensen wooed us on the violin (in Sex and Violins) and some rocking vocals, while we enjoyed Evan Sheeley on bass. Smaller physically, this guy packs Big Power. Superb jazz rock fusion bass playing. Both Lynn and Evan were a nice complement to Mark Russell on lead guitar, who transfixes with his swaggering leather-grometted virtuosity and hard rock edginess. He is another one to watch. His pretty wife in the audience knowingly smiled and giggled with delight as he played, and rightly so. Drummer Jeff Kathan rocked and held down THE most steady beat in town. No rotary perception creeping there. I was sad their set ended so soon.

Sex and Violins

But, I got over it as beautiful Aury Moore took the stage and began a pulsing, deep-throated version of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.” I just about swooned! Dominique D. Stone, as always, was masterful on his 6-string bass. Manuel Morais with the movie-star latin looks, played a scorching lead guitar. Steady Eddie Mendoza on drums. All at the top of their game. Some really interesting hard rock originals in contrast to lovely heart-clenching ballads, Aury can sing them all. It’s hard to put words to her artistry: Soulful. Towering. Velvety. …Royalty.

Aury Moore Band

The word is that 88 Keys is going to be the place for original Seattle bands to rock on Thursday nights. Big, big show coming up on June 23. Stay tuned for details.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bob Weir's TRIday Outtakes

For those of you who were victims of Blogger's outtage last week, and who received the link to Bob Weir and Friends' TRIday the 13th's historic live netcast too late, here are some outtakes from the gig. I absolutely LOVE this video. Too fun!

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Friday, May 13, 2011

TONIGHT Bob Weir’s TRI Studios

What if the passion for music that’s led you to become one of the longest-touring musicians ever, that has made you a living legend, that has given you the financial freedom to do anything on earth, is still burning white hot inside you? What would you do next?

If you were Bob Weir, you’d build Tamalpais Research Institute, or TRI Studios, and bring the Live Music Experience to the entire free world.

Join them on their maiden voyage TONIGHT!
TRI Studios Live Webcast
Friday, May 13, 7:00 p.m. PDT

"In addition to a solo acoustic performance, Bob Weir will be joined by Rob Wasserman, Jay Lane, Jeff Chimenti, Steve Kimock, Robin Sylvester, and a 4 piece Horn Section over the course of the 2 set performance. During set break Bob will also log onto both the TRI Studios Twitter and Facebook accounts and respond to viewers’ comments and questions about their first set viewing experience.

“Tamalpais Research Institute is the vision of Bob Weir, a founding member of the Grateful Dead. Weir and his team have built a state-of-the-art performance studio for broadcasting live HD video and audio streams directly to the Internet. TRI is a virtual venue where fans can gather and enjoy the performances in the comfort of their own homes, or anywhere they have Internet access.

“The main performance space at TRI houses a Meyer Sound Constellation System - a revolutionary acoustic modeling technology which has the ability to dramatically change the acoustical properties of the room. With the touch of a button, an artist can instantly change the sonic environment from that of a small intimate club to sounding like a theater, an arena or even a cathedral.

“Each show will be directed, filmed, and mixed live in real time. Every care will be taken to provide the highest possible upstream bandwidth to transmit high quality HD video and audio to the end user. The live stream will be accessible by and tailored to a variety of viewing equipment such as mobile devices, streaming players, game consoles, computers, Internet ready HDTV's as well as home theaters.

“All of this will take place in a small intimate setting in front of a live studio audience. The musicians may be playing in the domain of Mount Tamalpais, but their music will be beaming out to the entire free world."

Go to at 7pm PDT Friday, May 13

Monday, May 9, 2011

Electric Violins

Lynn Sorensen with Michael Johnson and Doug McGrew

Geoffrey Castle at Wilde Rover

"All night have the roses heard the violin
Till a silence fell with the waking bird
And a hush with the setting moon."
     --Lord Tennyson

In the recent past, when someone said “there’s a violin,” I ran in the opposite direction. Maybe it was years living with a professional violinist who practiced endless scales hour after hour. But now, thanks to gifted artists like Lynn Sorensen, violins--especially electric violins—hold new interest for me. The other night, while dark rain pelted the windows behind him, Lynn’s pure white violin mesmerized us with a spellbinding rendition of Led Zeppelin’s ballad “The Rain Song,” and the hair stood up on my arms.

Geoffrey Castle is a local musician who specializes in the electric violin. His regular Monday night gigs at Wilde Rover in Kirkland offer some extraordinary playing. The first time I heard Geoffrey, he was serenading passers-by at the Issaquah Art Walk, and I did a double-take: WHO is THAT? But Searching for Art took precedence and the opportunity was lost.

Two years later, I had the pleasure of hearing him play again, this time at the Wilde Rover in Kirkland (whose sound system is greatly improved). Big and cat-like, Geoffrey commands attention. Grace, Poise, and Power. He draws on a deep repertoire: everything from Irish drinking songs to Bruce Hornsby to a little Hendrix. He's mastered his instrument, and takes it further.

Upcoming shows featuring the violin:

Celtic Music Night with Geoffrey Castle, at Wilde Rover  in Kirkland
Monday nights at 8pm

Sex and Violins, with special guests Aury Moore Band and Jar of Rain, at 88 Keys in Seattle
Thursday, May 19 at 8pm

Powercell and Jam, at 88 Keys (with Lynn Sorensen on bass and violin)
Wednesday nights at 8pm

Jam Night, at Oddfellows Grill in Redmond
Thursday nights at 9pm

Friday, May 6, 2011

Starry, Starry Night

Cory, Doug, and Mark at Red Dog
[Refresh the page to play again]

I could tell it was going to be one of those nights when the woman sitting across from us said, “Look! I tied it with my tongue!” pointing to a dainty cherry stem tied in a neat little bow. I don’t remember what I said…Nice job! Wow, that’s a real talent! How did you learn to do that?

I never get to see these three guys play together, so it was extra special Thursday night at the Red Dog in Maple Valley when Cory Wilds, Doug McGrew, and Mark Fluegel took the stage. Usually, Ronnie Muir is CWB's regular drummer, and he is seriously one of the best drummers out there. But it is a special treat to see Cory and Mark play with a different drummer, different style, nuances, flavor. Mark was playing one of his, what he calls, “Snooty Basses." Yes, a $3,000 bass that looks like a Fender P-bass, but, when placed in my hands, the weight, the balance, ah, so nice. Low action, sleek controls, slightly smaller in scale, no brick to lug, I could play a bass like that!

And did they play!!! Cory Wilds, as ever, was sensational with his genius and driving, lyrical guitar solos. Mark was riding two horses at once, with Cory galloping ahead and Doug McGrew drumming, faster and faster, reeling them in, then riding the wave. UN-Believable!! Whether it was “Long Gray Mare,” "Manhattan Blues," or “Black Magic Woman” we were IN, all in.

In the past year, there have been several key shifts that gelled into an extraordinary night of music. Cory’s vocals show steady improvement while his guitar playing is more sparkly and improvisational than ever; Mark’s playing is more mature and shows incredible range and natural leadership; and Doug, who really should play with these guys more, upped the ante in his already considerable arsenal. Sticks went flying. Crack!! So on it. So tuned in!!!!!

Catch some of these upcoming gigs:

Cory Wilds Band at The Sidetrack Pub & Eatery in Kent
Friday, May 13 at 9pm

Power Cell with Doug McGrew at Tulalip Casino Canoes Lounge
Saturday, May 14 at 5:00pm

Cory Wilds Band at A Terrible Beauty Pub in Renton
Saturday, May 14 at 9pm

Magic Bus with Doug McGrew at Red Wind Casino
Sunday, May 29 at 8:30pm

Magic Bus at the Tulalip Casino Canoes Lounge
Friday, June 3 at 9:30pm