Thursday, November 19, 1998
When the Unknown Jeromes first came on the scene in Monterey a couple years ago, they gigged a few times at Whitey''s Place and a couple other clubs, and then disappeared. Their show stressed funk and a return to the ''70s disco dance craze. They dressed up in the retro gear fashionable to the 20-something audience and set out to prove that Funk was king. They drew a respectable crowd, but was retro funk what the people wanted?
Jeff White had experimented with acid jazz at Whitey''s over the year previous to the Unknown Jerome''s arrival. The music was hip; the funk/hip-hop element certainly had a lot to do with young audiences finding the new jazz palatable. But in the long run, the crowds diminished and White looked for acts that provided more of a dance vibe with less intellectual demand. The UJs seemed to fit that bill, but for some reason they found resistance to their sound.
"I''ve played Monterey ever since I was 12," says Jason Tobosa, drummer and co-founder of the group with singer/bassist Richard "Snoopy" Hall. "If you''re not into rock and blues, they (club owners) want you to do covers. We weren''t going to cater to the club owners of Monterey to have a gig, so we had to move on. We moved north and south to Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara."
The Catalyst in Santa Cruz booked them into the Atrium at the front of the club and Moe''s Alley got them going with a regular gig on funk night. Over a period of a year or so, the band morphed into what it is today, a six-piece outfit that no longer relies strictly on the retro aspect of funk.
"We''ve been together as the Unknown Jeromes for six years," says Tobosa. "We were trying to step up to another level, and we couldn''t get any help here. Sometimes you have to turn your back on your own folk, but fortunately they followed us up to Santa Cruz."
This year they''ve released a CD on their own label, Culture Boy Records, titled What''s Your Style? The title represents the opportunity for the listener to find a style they like on the 12-song disc that also has short interludes where each member of the group was allowed to compose music for their particular instrument and personality. The band showcases strong vocal talent with harmonization and style reminiscent of Sly and the Family Stone, and Earth Wind and Fire. They still have the funk, but there''s a mix of soul, acid jazz and hip-hop that makes their music attractive to a wide range of listeners. They pay homage to their inspirations on "Respectacles," a cut on the CD which sounds like a game show host listing prizes, but instead rattles off a long list of musicians including James Brown, Weather Report, Miles Davis and Parliament Funkadelic.
"It''s party time at our shows," says Tobosa. "We really cater to the musician who thinks, ''what gear? what chord change?'' Then again, we get partyers who want to dance and get crazy, or those who come with not much positivity in it and end up on the dance floor. Our live shows are where it''s at, totally different from what you hear on the CD. Visually you see things that just sink in your mind."
Last time they played Doc''s was when Carolyn and Dino were wrapping up their residency there and the crowd that came out on a Sunday night was unbelievable. The place got packed and sweaty, and the dance floor was jumping. The Unknown Jeromes (besides Tobosa and Hall, there''s David McGillicuddy, guitar; Allan "Mini" Mag, keyboards; D.J. Ess Ibrahim, turntables; and Timetraveler, spoken word) are back in town and booked for a Friday night at Doc''s. Come out and do the style test on yourself, and do your thing, do what you want to do.
Unknown Jeromes, Friday, 9:30pm, Doc''s Nightclub, call for cover info, 649-4241.
Is it any wonder that jazz singer Mark Murphy first got his break in the business through Sammy Davis, Jr.? Although their singing styles have never been compared, it''s the cosmopolitan, swinging hepcat demeanor that rings true for the two. Sammy Davis, Jr. was always way too cool; he and Dean Martin were the epitome of the party boy swingers. And that''s how Murphy struck me when I saw him perform at The Jazz Store a year or so ago. Rings on his fingers and chains around his neck and a dreamy, half-mast gaze personified the feeling of a late-night coterie in a basement jazz club of New York. Man, this cat is so hip, he recorded an album called Bop For Kerouac in 1981 that alternated bop standards with readings from Kerouac''s books.
Murphy''s career spans four decades and at 66 years old, he continues to tour internationally, choosing to base himself back on the East Coast only recently after a long stay up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has recorded with some of the best musicians in the business and is known for his chance taking in live performance. His phrasing and scat singing ability are legendary. If you haven''t seen Mark Murphy yet, this is a great opportunity to do so. He will be accompanied by pianist Larry Dunlap.
Mark Murphy, Saturday, 7:30pm, The Jazz Store, $30 for two sets, 624-6432 and at Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Friday, 8pm, $16/advanced, $18/door, 427-2227.
It''s time again for the monthly jazz jam session at the Hyatt with hosts David Morwood and Lee Durley. There''s a good chance some of the best local players will show up to play--people like Kenny Stahl, Roger Eddy, Bruce Forman, Biff Smith, Mario Flores, Ace Hill, Brad Bivens, Pete Rose, Will Dietz, Mike Marotta, Sr., Andy Weis with young up-and-comers Amy Smith, Daniel Krasner, Milton Fletcher, Jr. and Erik Telford, to name a few. Enjoy a Sunday afternoon in the comfortable lounge with a fireplace, good food and plenty of drink choices.
Jazz Jam Session, Sunday, 2-6pm, Hyatt Regency Monterey, no cover, 372-1234.
And get your Juice flowing out at the Black Box Cabaret on Friday. Even though it''s a CSUMB sort of hangout, everyone is welcome and Sean Michael White says they have cheap beer. The rockin'' quartet is on first with Lavish Green closing the night out. White says you can also hear them on Rich Berlin''s Backstage program (okay Rich, there''s only room for one Backstage in this town, buddy) on KMBY 104.3FM on Sunday, Nov. 29 at 9pm.
Juice and Lavish Green, Friday, 9pm, Black Box Cabaret at CSUMB, $3, 582-3597.