We were finishing up a day at the Humboldt County Fair, which is more or less a day at the races. (I managed to hit a couple of exactas and come out ahead.) While perusing the canned fruit, model trains, quilts and other exhibits in the Home Ec building, we chanced upon an old friend, Karen Dumont. You may remember Karen from her years as director of the Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir, or from her time as a blues and jazz chanteuse fronting various bands. She moved up to Oregon a couple of years back, so I had lost touch. We caught up.
She was at the fair to sing backup for Spanky McFarlane, who was on a break between sets on the Midway Stage. As it happened, Karen had a copy of her brand new CD, Blues Cruise, in her hand. She claimed she knew she’d run into me and it was for me. We do have some sort of psychic bond since, as we discovered years ago, we were born on exactly the same day, so maybe she really did know she would see me.
I slipped the CD in the car stereo on the way home and grooved on down the road. Great stuff! Karen is in fine form, backed by some fine players on neo-electric blues tunes that range from smooth and jazzy to rough and bluesy as required.
“I’ve got six songs on there that I wrote, so I’m stoked,” said Karen, who noted that she’s having a CD release party Saturday night at Six Rivers Brewing, which will also serve as the unofficial Buddy Brown Blues Festival after-party. (Check the calendar section for a detailed piece on the B.B. Blues Fest.) “I will be out in Blue Lake handing out my little handbills and sitting in,” said Karen, before we returned to discussion of the album.
“Part was recorded in Portland with some musicians I’ve been working with up there, then I came down here to finish the project with Mike Kapitan and Chris Matheos producing. I’ve got Doug Vanderpool on my little “Blues Cruise” song (the title track). Julie Froblom’s on there playing sax, and I have a lot of hometown people.” Among them are some of her Gospel Choir buddies, Halimah the Dreamah and Barbara Culbertson, plus the afore-mentioned Spanky.
“On Saturday at Six Rivers we’ll do a lot of songs off the album,” she continued. “I’ll have the group from down here with me -- Chris and Mike, Julie and Doug, Rob Anderson on drums, Dan Perez on guitar, a perfect group. And since we have the whole night, we’ll do some of the funk we used to do. It’s going to be great. You have to come.”
Well, I believe I’ll have to. Incidentally, if you compare the names above with the players at the Buddy Brown fest, you’ll see that just about all of them will be out at Perigot Park. Getting Karen up on stage should be a breeze.
Elsewhere Saturday, the city of Arcata presents another Arts in the Park in Redwood Park. They’re calling this one Tango Under the Stars, although I don’t know how many stars will be out at 7 p.m. Music is by Yo Tango. While dancing is encouraged, I imagine doing a tango in the grass might prove a bit complicated.
As you may recall, Lorna Brown, aka Madame de Squeeze, is the accordion player for Yo Tango. You can hear her play solo on Tuesday morning, Aug. 19, at the Old Town Farmers’ Market. That same day at the Fortuna Farmers’ Market Spanky McFarlane sings amidst the fruits and vegetables.
Arcata’s Saturday Farmers’ Market is reason enough to make it down to the Arcata Plaza, but this week there’s more: The music is from the marvelously mellifluous Pan Dulce, who make sweet sounds beating on steel drums.
Returning to the subject of accordions, Monday, Aug. 18, the Monsters of Accordion tour hits Humboldt County. I wish they were coming to Arcata, but they’re not, just to Beginnings Octagon in Briceland, which is great for SoHummers, but not for me. What, or who, you might ask are these accordion playing Monsters? Top of the list is Jason Webley, a young punkish dude from Seattle who knows how to work a crowd. Quick shorthand for his style: Imagine if Tom Waits played accordion and was 20 years younger. The second Seattle Monster is Amy Denio, an unconventional composer/multi-instrumentalist who plays with the Tipton Saxophone Quartet among others and has worked with everyone from Bill Frisell to Chuck D. Then there’s Duckmandu (aka Aaron Seeman), an Oakland-based squeezeboxer last seen locally (and in Briceland) as part of the amazing Fishtank Ensemble.
The fourth Monster is Mark Growden from San Fran, who is allegedly “the Bay Area’s sexiest accordionist.” His band, Mark Growden’s Electric Piñata, borrows several players from Tom Waits’ current touring band, although he won’t be with his band for this show, where an accordion overdose is almost guaranteed.
Remember last week I mentioned that ex-Weary Boy Mario Matteoli is playing the H. County Fair? That’s tonight, as in Thursday. Friday Mario hits the Jambalaya for a show with Snakebeard Jackson from Sioux Falls, S.D. Who’s that? “Snakebeard Jackson is your old shoes and worn out hat, your last cigarette and life on the tracks, your hometown, your heroes, your happy regrets, your mother, your brother, and still drinkin’ uncle ... growing up, being sold, all of the stories you tell when you’re old, the trainwreck, the shipwreck and all of the smoke, all of the thoughts you thought were your own.” That sounds like a song, and maybe it is.
When I tracked down Robert Szeles of Kiss the Girl, he was walking down a San Francisco street on his way to a Vietnamese restaurant called Condon Bleu (he says it’s the best in the city). Szeles used to live in S.F. but now calls L.A. home. He came north to do some studio work with his Kiss the Girl bandmate Jaimeson Durr, and to play some solo shows, including a few in Humboldt.
So, what kind of music does Kiss the Girl play? The band website say it’s “music to move you and make you move,” and that’s a pretty apt description. “I guess I’d say we’re a rock band,” says Szeles. “It’s melodic, but rhythm based -- our last album was all sampled drums, not that you could tell. Even though we’re both guitarists it’s very groove-oriented with influences from ’70s soul and bands like T-Rex.”
That said, the economics of touring means that Szeles is coming here alone. “I find that the songs come off quite powerfully with just me and the acoustic guitar,” he assures me, so, not to worry. The itinerary: Friday morning he’ll be hanging around the KHUM/KSLG studios for live sessions with John Matthews, 9-ish, then with Jen Savage at 10, both on the Slug. Around 11, he’ll be on KHUM with Mike Dronkers. That night Szeles plays the Pearl Lounge with The Broken Scones, a self-described “funky experimental dance band” that’s been playing most Tuesdays at Six Rivers. (The Scones are off this week at the brewery, replaced by the debut of The Dust Bowlers. Clever name -- I’m guessing we’re talking country music). Saturday Kiss the Girl/ Szeles is at the Jambalaya with Mendo’s Kerosene Kondors (replacing The Blushin Roulettes) and The Rubberneckers. I’m told ’Neckers frontman, Clay (also the Jam’s booker), has his face bandaged up as a result of trying to stop a member of Loud Mouth Soup (they played the Jam last Friday) who was getting kinda rowdy after their set. When Clay interceded, he got a fist in the face. I would not expect a Loud Mouth return engagement any time soon.
As I was finishing this column I got a call from Michael Curran reminding me of Friday’s jazz night at Persimmon Gallery with the Michael Curran Trio featuring bassist Ken Lawrence and guitarist Jim Wilde. Of course, Jim is also the driving force behind the Benbow Summer Jazz Series, which resumes Sunday with the Dena Derose Trio: the Bay Area vocalist joined by drummer Akira Tana and bassist Peter Barshay. After skipping Monday the series continues Tuesday, Aug. 19, with the Sam Maez Quartet, in which the trumpet man is joined by Michael and Jim, with Geoff Daugherty on bass. Wednesday it was going to be the Jim Wilde Quartet, but now it’s Humboldt Time, meaning Jimmy Durchslag on trombone on top of Jim, Sam, Michael and Geoff. Thursday Aug. 21, they have guitarist Lee Waterman and Jazz Caliente, who according to Michael are “totally Latin.” Lee’s band includes Tommy Kesecker on vibraphone and crotales (a chime-like percussion thing) and the legendary Melecio Magdaluyo on sax and congas.
Anyone up for an Elvis impersonator? At 27, local faux Presley Tim Breed is clearly in young Elvis mode, and he definitely has the sneer down. He also has a back-up band, The Hound Dogs, a good touch. (They’re not to be confused with Buddy Brown’s old band.) You can catch Elvis and the Hound Dogs Sunday, Aug. 17, at Trinidad Town Hall where he’s the featured attraction at a benefit for Westhaven Volunteer Fire Dept. To make a full evening of it, you can show up at 7 for a Southern-style dinner. Pay $15 for the meal and show or eat at home, come later and pay just five bucks for Elvis imp alone. The dinner? Expect fried chicken, mashed potatoes, okra and, yes, they’ll have the King’s favorite food: grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches.