Musical Meanderings

This is a blog centered around some of the musical encounters and experiences that I come upon in my daily life as a musician.

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Location: Alameda, California

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Yoshi's in July

My new friend Anthony Blea has a Latin band. He invited me to sit in last night at Yoshi's. His band rocked the house. And the house was actually packed. There were people dancing all over the place.

Anthony is the new violinist in the Enchante' String Quartet that we found a few months ago through auditions. I am used to him as a classical violinist playing Mozart and Beethoven, so it was fun seeing him on stage with the guys, in front of the timbales, singing background parts in Spanish and doing dance steps with his violin. Yes!

Before the show, dinner was served in the dressing room and I was invited to eat. All the guys in the band were at one table, speaking in Spanish. The food was a hodge-podge of scallops and sushi and chicken and calamari. It was very tasty. I ate quietly, feeling as if I were in some sort of a strange dream, surrounded by men speaking Spanish and eating. Where am I?

A little later, after the band had played a few numbers, Anthony called me up to the stage and I put on my Schertler pick-up and played with them. Fun! I love their music and i need to do this kind of thing more often.

After my guest appearance, I snuck out the stage door with my cello and jumped into my car. As I was driving home, I heard Khalil Shaheed on KPFA talking about an Oakland Music Festival that's happening on Saturday. Khalil is a good friend and an awesome trumpet player that lives in Oakland. I taught with him at Oakland School for the Arts. So, anyway, Khalil was talking about the line-up for Saturday's festival, and he mentioned that Anthony and his band will be playing. He said that they are playing right now at Yoshi's too, so everyone should go on out to the ten o'clock show!

It's only four miles to my Alameda home from Yoshi's Jazz Club. That was the best part of the evening. I was able to play with Anthonythe first set and also make it home in time to read my little girl to sleep. I got the best of both worlds there.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Brava Theatre in San Francisco!

First of all, thank you Terrence Brewer, wonderful Alameda guitarist and friend! I bought the AER amp that you suggested. My cello sounds great through it. The tone is warm and lovely, and it's powerful. It's also compact, so I can put it in a gig bag and sling it over one shoulder while carrying my cello on the other side. Life is good!

I played shows this weekend with Ana Nitmar. Ana is a singer from Guatemala who recently released a CD called Forest in Spring. She hired the band from the CD to do these live shows at the Brava Theatre in San Francisco. The personnel was Robin Lewis on guitar, Jerry Grosz on vibraphones, Yehudit on violin, Phil Thompson on drums and percussion, Pedro Rosales on peruvian cajon, Nate Brenner on bass and Claudio Silva on keyboards. There were also two background singers named Lynn and Rosa.

Friday night was a little bit stiff and uninspired and though the band was playing the music, it felt like it was not quite happening. Ana was very nervous. So last night, I snuck down to the corner store after the sound check and bought a bottle of brandy. I opened it up in the dressing room before the show and everyone had some sips. I offered some to Ana and she was happy to sip along with the band. When her boyfriend Manuel came in I thought he might be upset about the brandy, but he was happy. "Yes," he whispered to me, "make sure you get her to drink a little more before she goes out. This will help with the nerves for sure."

A marimba band played before us. It was made up of three men, all performing on one giant Marimba, and a bass player. (Marimba six hands?) They dressed in black outfits with silver buckles and black Mexican hats. Their faces showed no expression as they played long arrangements of songs to perfection, swelling on tremolo chords here and there for dynamic effect.

Soon the dancers came out to join in the festivities, twirling about the stage joyfully in brightly colored dresses and scarves, moving to the marimba music. The last group of dancers wore wild Guatemalan folklore masks.

There was a poet who recited something in Spanish. I enjoyed listening to the romantic sounds of the language. I was able to translate phrases here and there but never a complete sentence. "Me recuerda", and "es la vida" and things like that kept coming up.

When our group went on, we were ready to rock. Ana sang beautifully and the band was right with her, providing the magical background that we were hired to provide. It was so much fun to sit across from Robin Lewis and see him step on his volume pedal before a guitar solo, and then hear his wonderful guitar lines soaring throughout the theatre, to hear a very tasteful phrase played by Gerry Grosz on the vibes, and then to turn around and share a knowing smile with him. I loved watching Ana dance around in her white dress that had butterflies painted on it, in yellow and red and green, and hearing her channel her vibrant spirit into songs in three languages. Go, Ana!

Of course, adding the soulful cello lines was the best part. And with my new amp, I could hear myself. Imagine that.