Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Orleans Funky Bohemian Soul Circle

Last week I had the opportunity to hear a rare combination of musical talents. The individual players were known to me: Johnny Vidacovich, Adam Theis, Scott Amendola and Wil Blades

But together? Never, til this particular show at Mill Valley's premiere entertainment venue, the upscale Sweetwater Music Hall

The show was billed as the New Orleans Funky Bohemian Soul Circle
2 drummers, a trombonist, and Hammond B3. Hello there, funk. Come on in.

We arrived at 9pm (which to me was ridiculously early). But the room was packed, with nary a seat in sight, filled to the brim with an older crowd of couples finishing up dinner and desserts. And waiting in anticipation for this funky show to begin. Where had they heard about it? How did they know about Johnny Vidacovich, whose drumming history in New Orleans is the stuff of legend? Maybe they were tipped off by friends in the know. Or were they just there for a Saturday evening out?

I chatted with some of the folks around me. A couple from New York, a blind woman from Sonoma, a husband and wife waiting for their son and girlfriend to arrive. A drummer who had purchased Johnny's DVD and couldn't wait to see the star in person. But here's the kicker: the woman who kindly allowed us to share her table admitted to me that she loved Trombone Shorty. Now, I know Shorty, and have been following him for years. But he's not exactly a household name - at least I didn't think so til now. So I was thrilled to hear a middle-aged woman of apparently significant means disclose her love of New Orleans trumpet players.

The band hit the stage and opened with a straight-ahead jazz tune. Then they dropped into a danceable mash-up and it only went higher and higher as they continued. Hard to keep in your seat. So we didn't. Within half an hour a significant number of us were dancing, weaving in and around those dear folk who were still seated at their little tables but bobbing and swaying.

Johnny did a few of his signature vocal improvs as he leaned back and stroked his kit. The solos on trombone were exceptional. Scott set up riffs for the band to follow and repeat. We were in awe. The energy in the room kept ratcheting up, til the manager moved more of the tables to make room for dancing. Will Blades hit us with "I'm In with the In Crowd", then later "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" done as a second-line rhythm.

Two super-long sets later, they were done. A stellar evening that could not be duplicated outside of Frenchmen Street in New Orleans. Thank you guys. Let's do it again soon.

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