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Saturday, July 21, 2012

CULBERTSON AND SANBORN HEAT UP THE NIGHT AT THORNTON


David Sanborn (left) and Brian Culbertson
put on an amazing show last Sunday
at Thornton Winery. Photo by Nancy Wilson

Culbertson and Sanborn Show off Their Artistry at Thornton Winery
It was nearly 100 degrees in Temecula last Sunday and the crowd outside Thornton Winery was getting impatient.  They were waiting to enter the venue to see the concert billed as The Dream Tour featuring David Sanborn and Brian Culbertson.  The acts sound check and rehearsal had run late and the sun-baked crowd outside (the line had wound its way through the parking lot) was chomping at the bit to get inside, take its collective seats, buy some wine and get down to the business of enjoying the concert
It was well worth the wait.
Brian Culbertson and David Sanborn performed a sizzling show.  Sanborn, the brilliant alto saxophonist whom I have been following for years was spectacular.  Blending traditional jazz, R&B and stylized pop, Sanborn was the epitome of cool; dressed in all black and working hard, he didn’t break a sweat as he ran through his hits such as Chicago Song, Anything You Want, and the infectious Bang, Bang.  At 66, David Sanborn looks and sounds better than ever.
On the other hand, this was my first time seeing Brian Culbertson, and I was very impressed.  The multi-talented Illinois native is a brilliant keyboardist and a fantastic showman.  He showed his brilliance on songs such as Camel Island and On my Mind (the later song he played the keyboard backwards with his back to the crowd).  In addition to his talent on the keyboards, Culbertson also plays a mean trombone (and instrument you don’t often see as a featured player). 
Both Sanborn and Culbertson showed their artistry during the two and one-half hour concert.  While they had fun with tunes like Bang, Bang, they showed they had the chops to play any type of number, like the gorgeous Dreams.  The concert was paced beautifully with ballads like On My Mind mixed in with uptempo numbers like It’s On Tonight.  By the time they performed a hot cover of Earth, Wind And Fire’s Serpentine Fire, the crowd was on its feet and dancing in the aisles.
It was an amazing performance by a couple of amazing artists.  These two play off each other well, and one does not overshadow the other.  While the weather was hot, the show was hotter.
By the way, despite the late start, the staff at Thornton handled everything beautifully.  As always, a great night at TW

Saturday, June 16, 2012

EUGE IS IN THE GROOVE

Smooth Jazz Saxophonist throws a big party at Thornton Winery

When Euge Groove walked out onto the Thornton Winery stage last Sunday afternoon, he said into the microphone in an almost inaudible tone,
“Y’all feeling alright?”  (cheers from the crowd).
“Let’s try that again. I said y’all feeling alright? (louder cheers) “
“Y’all ready for a party? (crazy loud cheers)
“Alright, then let’s do this.” (L.A. Kings-winning-the-Staley Cup-cheers)
With that, Groove launched into his classic Born 2 Groove and the dance floor filled up within seconds.  The party was on.

Euge Groove wows the crowd with his
mashup of Just My Imagination and
Let's Get it On. Photo by Nancy Wilson

The Miami-born Groove who expertly mixes soul, pop and jazz, put on a crowd-pleasing performance that never waned.  As the Temecula summer weather cooled when Groove took the stage in the late afternoon, he immediately turned the heat up and the appreciative crowd partied along with him.  He performed all of his hits, including XXL, Chilaxin’ and Livin’ Large. 
He loved talking to the audience (I found it strange that the more I drank, the easier it was for me to understand him.  Go figure..).  Groove waded into the crowd during a soulful mashup of the Temptations classic “Just My Imagination and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On.”  The music even took a spiritual turn with the brilliant “Sunday Morning.”
I have seen many smooth jazz saxophonists over the years, but Groove (along with Eric Darius) are – in my opinion – the best.  Groove has the phrasing skills of Kenny G, but unlike most players, his sound is multi-layered and incredibly soulful.  It probably comes from his days with Tower of Power.  He specializes in the tenor sax, but he played a beautiful soprano on Tenderhearted Lover.
Beyond his extraordinary musicianship, Euge Groove is a tremendous showman.  He seems to have so much fun and the fans have fun with him.  And his act works well in the intimate setting of Thornton Winery.  Groove’s band was terrific.  John Stoddart on keyboards, Alex Al on bass and Danny Jacob on guitar provided great backup and a good groove.
The concert was opened by jazz-fusion group Down to the Bone.  These young guys can really play.  They reminded me of a young Weather Report.  Led by bassist Rufus Philpot, the band includes drummer Iahji Hampton, saxophonist Katisse Buckingham, keyboardist Lao Tizer, Gabriel Johnson on trumpet and Steve Sorcon on guitar (who was so new the group that he was using sheet music to play.).  Mixing jazz and funk, this tight group effortlessly played songs like Supercharged and Future Boogie.  The Thornton crowd gave them a standing ovation at the end of their set.  This band gets a big thumbs up from me.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

PACIFIC STANDARD TIME REUNION CONCERT

A Magical Night for Guter, PST
Ten Year Reunion Concert is a testament to CSULB vocal group and its teacher

Alumni join current PST for finale

Christine Guter said that she was an emotional wreck in the days leading up to last week’s Pacific Standard Time reunion concert featuring her former vocal jazz students from the last ten years. 
She had good reason to be emotional.  More reason to be proud.
Before an appreciative and enthusiastic audience at the Link Theater, student by student, act by act, paid tribute to both Guter and PST, the group that she founded when she came to Cal State Long Beach as a young teacher in 2002.
The performances were superb.  The emotion was palatable.  
One would have thought that the music for this special evening would have been strictly jazz.  But the performances were eclectic.  To begin with, the house band – or Alumni Band - was hot, with Steve Blum on piano, Anthony Shadduck on bass, Sean Fitzpatrick on drums and Dan Kaneyuki on saxophone.  They provided solid backing for a wide array of music.
As for the performances, all were of an extremely high level.  It showed just how much talent Guter had cultivated over the past ten years and how much she meant to the lives of so many.  Nearly all said small but heartfelt “thank you’s” in tribute to the woman who guided them through a pivotal time in their musical journey through Cal State Long Beach.
With all of this talent, the bar was set extremely high.  And with each singer, the bar was cleared.  The night got off to a rousing start as Franchesca Preponis opened with a hot rendition of Chick Corea’s You’re Everything.  Next was the duet by Christina Wilson and Michael Funk who sang a playful version of Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.  Abby Carlson, Andrea Calderwood, Courtney Gasque and Ann Palmer followed with a bluesy rendition of You Don’t Know Nothing, showing off flawless four-part harmony.  Palmer and Campbell returned to sing the melodic and gorgeous Winter Song.
Calderwood blew the crowd away with her solo on Such Great Heights.  Backed by Sean Fitzpatrick’s vocal percussion, Andrea’s vocals went up and down the musical scale and her scat technique was brilliant.  And the hits just kept coming.  Alexandra Domingo, Christina Wilson, Maria Dowell, Rachel St. Marselle, Abby Carlson and Genevieve Artadi sang the toe-tapping Aquarela de Brasil with Domingo performing the lead.
The show continued with Renee Motteler, who flew in from Albuquerque, New Mexico sweetly sang Rosana Eckert’s At the End of the Day.  Sean Fitzpatrick and Steve Blum followed with September in the Rain, with Fitzpatrick doing the vocals and Blum showing off his dexterity on the keyboards.  Then the audience had some real fun.  Steve Boyett, Carnell Harrell and Michael Funk performed The Sugar Hill Gang’s rap classic Rapper’s Delight word for word and note for note.  To close out the first half of the show, Genevieve Artadi and collaborator Louis Cole brought the crowd to its feet with the techno Things About You.
And that was only the first half.  The audience needed it just to catch its breath.
The second half of the evening opened with Christina Wilson and Sean Fitzpatrick’s swinging, swaying arrangement of Almost Like Being In Love.  The ensemble featured Wilson, Fitzpatrick, Alexandra Domingo, Virgil Rosales and Luc Kleiner and a jumpin’ sax solo by Dan Kaneyuki. 
Carrie Mock and Cathy Terrones performed an absolutely gorgeous rendition of the Terrones original composition Slow Like Honey with Terrones on guitar accompanied by Mock’s soaring violin.  Tim Buchholz displayed his fine vocal talent as he joined Steve Blum on Farmer’s Market.  Carnell Harrell had the audience hooked with his latin-influenced arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s You & I.  The alumni portion of the show closed with a roof-raising vocal by Virgil Rosales of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.
It was now time for the current Pacific Standard Time to perform and they rocked the house, sounding better than ever.  The group opened with the rollicking Down South Camp Meeting Time, then moving to the soulful Tight and closing with Ian Brekke’s  beautiful arrangement of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower (assisted by members of Jazz & Tonic).
The magical evening closed with the current Pacific Standard Time joining the alumni for stunning ballad Maybe brought the crowd to its feet, brought hugs from the singers, and brought tears to the eyes of Christine Guter, whose voice cracked as she thanked everyone involved in making this evening a runaway success.

Carnell Harrell, Christine Guter and Steve Boyett

The evening was a wonderful testament to Guter, the program and the school.  Guter has nurtured a family environment that all feel a part of.  Everyone was happy to come back home to say thank you.  And the best of Guter and the award-winning PST may be yet to come…