Thursday, August 20, 1998
Guitarist Joe Beck and flutist Ali Ryerson are no strangers to this area or to music critics around the nation. While both artists have built solid jazz and classical music pedigrees over the course of their careers, it is their confluence as a jazz duo where they shine brightest. Together now for two years, Beck and Ryerson have melded their talents into an identifiable sound, unlike any others on the scene today.
Beck''s guitar, an arch-top hollow-body he designed and had built especially for his work with Ryerson, handles the duties of both bass and guitar. The sound is full and resonant, humming like an organ while chording, and singing melodically while playing the lead. You can hear snatches of Pat Metheny or Larry Coryell in the melody lines, and the bass line and comps behind Ryerson''s deep-toned alto flute solos have a similar timbre as to what Charlie Hunter achieves with his custom-made eight-string guitar. Beck achieves his variety through altering the type of strings he uses and the tunings on his six-string. The top two strings are set a fifth lower than usual, the bottom two are similar to those used on an electric bass, and the middle two are pitched high, more like a banjo.
On their CD Alto (1997 Digital Music Products, Inc.), the songs chosen reflect a respect for jazz history, with Thelonious Monk''s "''Round Midnight," Charlie Parker''s "Billie''s Bounce," Bill Evan''s "We Will Meet Again," and Horace Silver''s "Song For My Father." There''s a nod to popular culture in their versions of Bobbie Gentry''s "Ode To Billy Joe" and a medley of "Scarborough Fair/Norwegian Wood," and a salute to Tin Pan Alley with Gershwin''s "Summertime" and Mercer''s "Autumn Leaves." Rounding out the recording are compositions Beck himself wrote, all done with an emphasis on beauty and melody. In performance, the duo works well in the intimate setting of the Media Room, where they will be recording live. Their variety of music is attractive to both traditional jazz fans and those who find the contemporary genre more to their liking. Besides the two performances, which also include Big Sur percussionist Jayson Fann, a workshop is offered Saturday focusing on the art of duo/trio playing, explaining the "mysteries" of jazz improvisation and group demonstrations with the musician''s participation.
Joe Beck and Ali Ryerson, Friday & Saturday, 8pm, The Media Room, $15/advance, $20/door, 655-2010 or 373-7379. Workshop, Saturday, 2pm, $25 or $20 with purchase of concert ticket.
In the last show for the Summer Concerts by the Bay series put on by Sandy Shore Productions, guitars figure prominently again with headliner Jonathan Butler, (whose vocal ability may vie for your attention) and Jeff Golub, an accomplished guitarist who studied jazz improvisation at Boston''s Berklee College of Music, but returned to his love of the blues and rock (without giving up his jazz skills) when he moved to New York City.
Butler, who now lives in Los Angeles, had an amazing childhood in his homeland of South Africa. He grew up under apartheid, on the black side of Table Mountain in Cape Town, but lived another life as a child performer, traveling and performing under the varied circumstances that existed in the segregated society. His innate talents took him to the top of South Africa''s music industry; he received a Sarie Award (that country''s equivalent of a Grammy) and traveled extensively before settling in London in the mid-''80s where international acclaim would become his. He is known for passion, depth and vulnerability in his music, and that spirit is what you''ll hear at Sunday''s concert.
Opening the show is Jeff Golub and Avenue Blue. His 1997 Atlantic Records release Nightlife presents the slick sound of contemporary jazz, but with an edge represented by rock and blues elements, punctuated with the spirit of jazz improvisation. Golub doesn''t let you forget that he is a serious musician with chops to spare, and spare arrangements prove he doesn''t believe that you have to play lots of notes to get the point across--which, in his case, is to have a good time. His high profile gig with Rod Stewart took him all over the world and gave him the opportunity to record some of his songs on Stewart''s albums. As he developed a following for his own band, Avenue Blue, he also was a hot commodity on the New York session scene.
Jonathan Butler and Jeff Golub, Sunday, 3pm, Monterey Plaza Hotel outdoor deck. Advanced: $30/general, $40/reserved; add $5 at the door. 649-1223.
You know, there are just too many quality acts this week for me to give any one of them enough space, so here goes my best attempt at short, insightful coverage. Zzah is back in the area to play their brand of contemporary jazz. The trio of accomplished musicians (guitar, piano, drums) play in the breezy West Coast style first developed on the L.A. scene with Lee Ritenour, among others. But they like to incorporate an East Coast style of improvisation, says the press release, which I take to mean extended solos traded off among the players amid the context of a song style or modal chord progression. The 25-year-old band''s third CD Slippin'' Free is good: varied in styles, bluesy, funky in place, some with a mix of Ritenour guitar and Chick Corea''s Return to Forever electric style keyboard work. The song "The Nebula" is way cool. I''d say these guys are worth checking out this weekend.
Zzah, Friday & Saturday, 8:30pm, Sly McFly''s, no cover, 649-8050.
OK, nobody knows for sure what''s going to happen at Doc''s Nightclub in the next couple of weeks as rumors spread about the imminent change in ownership. (Are Dino and Carolyn are leaving? Stay tuned...) Let''s add another element of suspense. Is this really going to be the last time we see The Uninvited play a small club in the area? What do I know? Only that you must, simply must, make it down for one hell of a party Friday night with the kings of good-time music, the boys of summer nights and keggers all year long, finals or no finals. I don''t have to tell you anything else about this band that packs ''em in every time, like there''s no tomorrow. So, just in case there really is no tomorrow, Friday is the night to get high on life with the gang at Doc''s.
The Uninvited, with Trial By Fire opening, Friday, 9:30pm, Doc''s Nightclub, $8, 649-4241.
That same night, down the street at Whitey''s Place, another story unfolds, starting with Stones Throw, a new band to visit the area that has the same kind of pop hooks and rock sound that came out of the band Stroke 9. Although not as slickly produced, this quartet from the Bay Area could make a good showing before SoCal retro rock band Sunchild takes the stage. Since I''ve covered this surfing hippie band in the past, those of you who know about them, tell a friend.
Sunchild, with Stones Throw opening, Friday, 9:30pm, Whitey''s Place, $2, 646-8383.