Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Billy Seward Band at Mattison's City Grille

Last night's first set a Mattison's City Grille, in downtown Sarasota, was interesting for how the Billy Seward Band set the stage for later, more energetic sets to come. 

Seward and his bandmates--Burt Engelsman on bass, Steve Camilleri on drums, Richy Kicklighter on guitar, and Brandon Sommers on keyboards--gently rolled out the vocals and instrumental riffs like individual jetstreams in a blue gulf sky, rolling out a canvas of sound that coalesced into white fluffy clouds of recognizable r&b and blues. 

Maybe it was the reprieve of balmy evening weather after days of cold that had me thinking in such metaphors. In any case, there was a pleasant haze of melody and harmony on the podium--energetic enough to attract couples and kids to the brick "dance floor", yet restrained enough to invite appreciative listening by patrons working on their appetizers at tables nearby.

This particular combination of players brings a lot of depth to the band. Each one is a seasoned master at his craft. All of them play regularly in other bands with other signature sounds. 

So it's fascinating to see what happens when they back up Seward, who has his own style of Memphis soul and Chicago blues. It's soulful, but doesn't hit you over the head with howling or shouting. It alternates between telling a tale and pulling back into lead breaks. 

Sommers' easy harmonies and Kicklighter's thoughtful counter-riffs enrich without dominating. Engelsman and Camilleri give solid rhythm and undertones, without overpowering Seward's initiatives.

Here's a listen from another Seward gig:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Premiere of Sarasota Seafood & Music Festival in Downtown Sarasota

UPDATE: Jah Movement reggae band was absolutely smokin' at the Sarasota Seafood Festival. One song after another got people dancing in the street on a cold and windy Saturday morning. Big highlight was the superb supplementary drumming by the 3 year old son of the lead singer. Really a treat. Here's a clip from a previous event, to give you the flavor:

This looks like an interesting and fun event to check out this weekend in downtown Sarasota. Five Points Park is in front of Selby Library at the corner of Pineapple Avenue and First Street. It might be easier to park in Burns Square and then walk north on Pineapple a few blocks to the park. Or use the Whole Foods parking garage upper levels, which you enter on 2nd Street.
The Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association announces the inaugural Sarasota Seafood & Music Festival. The event is in Selby Five Points Park in downtown Sarasota on January 23-24, 2016. Saturday 10-7 and Sunday 11-6, free admission and parking.
Premiere of the Sarasota Seafood & Music Festival
The mission is to celebrate the diverse nautical and cultural heritage of Sarasota while celebrating community thru camaraderie, great music and scrumptious foods. The event interweaves the freshest sustainable and indigenous seafood with outstanding live musical performances. Included will be seafood cooking demos, fishing workshops, arts and crafts, educational programs and exhibits.
Seafood lovers will enjoy fin-fish and shellfish prepared onsite by local restaurants and food purveyors. The ‘menu’ includes grouper, stone crabs, jambalaya, crab cakes, low country boil and more! 

Musical genres explore the gamut from Rock N’ Roll, R&B, Blues, Rumba Flamenco to Reggae and Jazz by such talented musicians and groups as Holey Miss Moley, Aland Music, Flat Land, Come Back Alice, R.J. Howson, Jah Movement, Kettle of Fish, Twinkle & Rock Soul Radio and the Sarasota Steel Pan Band. In addition, the event showcases original handmade artwork by a select group of local, regional and national artisans.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bryan Spainhower and The Combo Vimana at Mattison's City Grille

Congas, bongos, shakers, rattles . . . times two talented high-energy percussionists. Plus one frontman zooming up and down the neck of his guitar, with a little help from a looper to give the overall effect depth. It was a sound combo I haven't heard before, and it stopped me as I passed by Mattison's City Grille in downtown Sarasota tonight. As the character Phoebe once said on "Friends", it was "very testosteroney," sort of like a train barreling down the tracks and you hope the engineer is alert at the switch. . . and he, and they, all were very alive and alert.

Turns out the group was Bryan Spainhower and the Combo Vimana, getting the evening started with a few fast-moving instrumental pieces that channeled Latin Jazz, Rhumba Flamenco, Bossa Nova and Rock 'n Roll.

That's the problem with unique musical approaches: All we can do is compare them to existing genres, but there's not an actual box you can fit them into.

Here's a listen (only one percussionist, Max Kelly, in this video; the combo tonight included two drum setups):

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Howlin' Bob with Mark Serio & Friends at Mattison's City Grille

Can't believe I've never heard him sing and play before, but tonight I really enjoyed dancing to the mellow vocals and fluid lead guitar of Howlin' Bob, who joined Mark Serio, Burt Engelsman, and Rob Camilleri at Mattison's City Grille in downtown Sarasota. TIP: They're still playing as I write, so if you can make it downtown right now, it'll surely be worth the effort.

I had to smile at the several layers of "singing" that were happening simultaneously onstage, as Serio's and Bob's lead guitars "talked" back and forth, trading up-the-neck and down-the-neck licks, along with Bob's honey-throated lyrics in periodic dialogue with his own gas-can-body guitar.

The closest analogous voice I can think of is Willie Nelson's, although Bob's is completely without Willie's trademark nasal sound. I most liked Bob's facility with rolling out well-thought-out yet seemingly effortless modulations of vocal tone and guitar intensity.

Here's some video of Howlin' Bob at the weekly blues jam at the Flying Dog Cafe a few years back, to give you a flavor of his vibe. All I can say is he's one smooth cat.

Props, too, of course, to the whole band, all of whom were clearly having a great time improvising together. One great song leads to another, and I never can find the right moment to leave. Just don't want to miss all that excellence.