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JODY MULGREW: ROCKETING TO THE TOP

25 Jul
Jody Mulgrew credit: Jacob Mendez

Jody Mulgrew
credit: Jacob Mendez

Jody Mulgrew has come full circle—returning to his home turf of the Central Coast of California where he woos audiences with his stirring vocals and deftly-played guitar. He performs solo, as well as in a number of groups including Jody Mulgrew and the Skeleton Crew, and the Girls and Boys. He also enjoys writing music and performing with other individual musicians. Jody performs many of his own songs with his music being influenced by Sam Cooke, The Everly Brothers, k.d.lang, Smokey Robinson or anyone who is “a good singer with a good song.” He views his voice as his primary instrument, with a focus on music that is “heartfelt” and “easy to listen to.”

The Skeleton Crew features many of his original songs, but with more of an emphasis on danceable music than during his solo performances. The group plays top rock, rockabilly, Sam Cooke, Steve Earl, and music with “a little bit of twang in it and a little bit of sizzle.” Jody notes the Bay Area-based Girls and Boys band have a great female lead singer, Brianna Lee. The group tours the West Coast. When on the Central Coast, they play alternative rock and Americana along with other styles of music. Jody also relishes the opportunity to perform with the talented Nataly Lola at the Paso Robles Inn’s Cattleman’s Lounge. Recently, Jody has relished working with his “old singing and song-writing buddies,” including Gary Garrett, who lives in San Francisco. Jody described Gary’s music as “thoughtful and humorous,” noting that their two voices blend well.

In April 2013, Jody attended a songwriter’s week in Nashville. When asked if he had received any awards, Jody revealed he was nationally recognized for his songwriting. He received the Abe Oleman award for excellence in songwriting by the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Jody explained that this is a national award, and it was not something he applied for; rather “they found me.” He is thrilled that the award is signed by the current leader of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, Jimmy Webb (composer of By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Up, Up and Away and many more hits.) He was also recognized by the Durango Songwriter’s Expo for his song, I Will Not Fall in Love with You Again. The prize for that win was the opportunity to write a song with hit maker, Shawn Mullins. In 2011, local New Times readers voted Jody’s Rocket Ship, the best new album.

Raised in Morro Bay, California, as a young boy, Jody remembers climbing into a self-built “fort” where he would sing along with the radio. In school, he sang in choirs in school before attending Cal State Northridge where he naturally majored in music. After graduating he spent a few years cutting his teeth in the L.A. music scene, and touring throughout the United States and Europe before he and his wife decided to return to their home turf on the Central Coast.

Jody Mulgrew - Brick - by - Brittany App HI

Jody Mulgrew
credit: Brittany App

The now disbanded group, Johnny Starlings, was one of Jody’s early musical ventures. He and fellow musician, Yohei Shikano, created a full-length album, Aiming Too High. They also composed the song, Slow Dance, sung by Inga Swearingen, which was featured on the nationally syndicated radio program, A Prairie Home Companion.

Besides his many gigs, Jody volunteers in local Elementary and Special Day Classes. His eyes lit up as he described a memorable experience he had the prior day. In this class the students are mostly non-verbal. The children were given percussion-type instruments to play. When it came to an appropriate spot during the Bob Marley song, “one little guy” suddenly shined when launching into an energetic, on tempo, drum solo.

Some of Jody’s favorite local performance venues are the Pony Club in Paso Robles and the Cambria Pines Lodge. Jody smiled as he cited the large oak tree that covers the Pony Club patio as contributing to the good vibe. Jody feels dancers inspire and energize his playing, noting that there are often great dancers at the Cambria Pines Lodge.

Jody’s playful nature and other upcoming performances can be found on his website jodymulgrew.com where he describes he fondness of “fondling figuoas” at the local Farmer’s Market.

courtesy: www.slocoastjournal.com

WORLD CLASS MUSIC IN LOCAL VENUE: D’ANBINO CELLARS

23 Jul
D'Anbino Winery Concert Venue

D’Anbino Winery Concert Venue

Listening to nationally- and internationally acclaimed musicians is always a soul-stirring experience. What many San Luis Obispo County residents and visitors don’t realize is that there are such regular music offerings featuring the rich, deep musical talent that is available on the Central Coast of California.

D’Anbino Vineyard and Cellars’ tasting room is arguably the premier local venue on the Central Coast for live music. The owners, John D’Andrea and Carmine Rubino, had many years of successful, award-winning careers in recording, film, and television before moving to the Paso Robles area. Growing up together in an Italian neighborhood in New Jersey as brothers (even though John is actually Carmine’s nephew), several years ago they purchased a vacation property in Paso Robles for their extended family to relax in what they described as the friendly, cozy small-town atmosphere, away from the workaday bustle of Los Angeles. The vineyard and tasting room were not originally part of their plans, but at the suggestion of their realtor they decided to grow grapes and make wine. They combined their last names to name their winery.

Carmine’s son, Michael (a composer), and his wife, Sharon conceptualized the tasting room theme, focusing on music and displaying the many memorabilia and awards the men had acquired in their careers. The tasting bar cleverly incorporates parts of real pianos.  The elevated stage with state of the art sound and acoustics was originally only intended for the “Family Band’s” occasional performances for special events.  Carmine related that when many people visited the tasting room they would inquire when the music was being performed and were disappointed when told that there were only occasional shows. In the meantime, John and Carmine started live performances in conjunction with a monthly Paso Robles wine and arts event.

As musicians became aware of the caliber of the tasting room’s music-friendly atmosphere, they began asking to play there even though they receive little remuneration. These include local, talented musicians with impressive performance resumes, but also touring and other nationally known musicians who like to perform in this friendly, and relaxed, yet intimate, tasting room. Enhancing the music experience at D’Anbino’s is Carmine’s wealth of experience as a sound engineer which he uses to actively mix the music as it is performed.

Carmine Rubino and John D'Andrea

Carmine Rubino and John D’Andrea

D’Anbino is presently hosting the Central Coast Famous Jazz Artist Series with renowned vibraphonist, Charlie Shoemake, formerly with the George Shearing Quintet. Charlie manages to book legendary jazz musicians to perform D’Anbino’s  intimate setting. During a performance in San Luis Obispo in March 2013, Wynton Marsalis, gave recognition to Charlie as mentor to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s saxophonist, Ted Nash.

D’Anbino features their reasonably-priced seven red and rose wines crafted by Carmine from their Syrah and Cabernet grapes. Some of the wines have musical names such as Orchestration and Quadraphonic. Carmine shared a story about the Quadraphonic wine name. While working in a New York music studio, Carmine was the sound engineer for the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show, which he did in “quadraphonic sound.” John Lennon, who was recording at the same studio, asked Carmine if he could remix John’s music in quadraphonic sound. Thereafter, John referred to Carmine as the “Quadfather,” which was around the time the movie, The Godfather, had become popular. John (D’Andrea) also has a storied history, originally being recruited to California to be the next teen idol, along with Frankie Avalon and Fabian, but when the Beatles hit the scene, young people’s interests changed. Besides playing the sax, John is an acclaimed musical arranger, composer and director. Memorabilia from John’s and Carmine’s activities and awards are on display.

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Courtesy: www.slocoastjournal.com.

ROYAL GARDEN SWING ORCHESTRA

22 Jul
Royal Garden Swing Orchestra at Mother's Tavern

Royal Garden Swing Orchestra at Mother’s Tavern

Under the energetic direction of Dr. Warren Balfour, The Royal Garden Swing Orchestra (RGSO) has been performing their upbeat big band sound from the swing-era and beyond since 1985 when they first played at the Santa Ynez Winery [now Kalyra Winery] in Santa Barbara County. The ten piece band is comprised of the energetic brass, saxophones and rhythm section. Warren characterized the type of music RGSO plays as “swing band; standards, old and new; a more contemporary big band.” They also play Latin and Brazilian music including Tito Puente and Antonio Carlos Jobim, with over 200 arrangements in their repertoire. All are professional musicians with many storied early training and experiences. Besides directing RGSO, Warren plays trumpet and flugelhorn.

Warren is a native Angeleno who became interested in playing music when a band performed at his school assembly. After his parents gave him a cornet, he began taking private lessons. As were many musicians of his era, he initially was trained as a classic trumpet player. He had the good fortune and talent to train with several historic trumpeters. One mentor was Jane Sager, a historic jazz trumpeter, band leader and educator; she taught jazz greats Chet Baker, Herb Albert, and others. Another formative instructor was Irving Bush, who played with many great jazz groups and who was Nat “King” Cole’s first trumpet player. Irving Bush was author of the influential Artistic Trumpet Technique and Study.

Warren’s diligence in practicing was rewarded when he was hired as a professional musician to play in the Pepperdine University Orchestra starting when he was in the 11th grade. That orchestra consisted of a combination of professional and student musicians. As an undergraduate, he studied at Los Angeles City College, California State Universities in Los Angeles and Long Beach. An ingrained lesson from his university professor, William Pfund, was “Beautiful sound is the greatest measure of correctness,” a mantra by which Warren still lives.

Warren has performed with such legendary artists as Jerry Lewis, Debbie Reynolds, Roger Williams, Donald O’Conner, Bobby Vinton, Diane Schuur, Toni Tennile, The Temptations and Manhattan Transfer. While he relished the opportunity to perform with these great artists, early on he recognized that a performance career “wasn’t stable enough” for family life; he mentioned that he married right after high school. Instead he decided to pursue a career in teaching music. He eventually received his doctorate in Music Education-Jazz Pedagogy which he completed in 1989.

Warren started out teaching at a John Muir Junior High School in 1962. After a performance by the school’s 100 piece orchestra, Warren was approached and complimented for the orchestra’s outstanding performance by Nobel Prize winner, Willard Libby. Libby, who helped develop radiocarbon dating, helped Warren get a music teaching position at the then prestigious Palos Verdes High School. After 10 years, Warren took a job as an instructor at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, California, where he eventually became Director of Jazz Studies. Warren directed nine major European concert tours with Cuesta College Jazz Ensemble and Vocal Jazz Ensemble, which included performances at Den Hague in the Netherlands and at the famous jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland. As Director of Jazz Studies at Cuesta, Warren arranged workshops and “in residence” with such jazz greats as Wynton Marsalis, Stan Getz, David Benoit, Joe Pass, Anita O’Day, and the Woody Herman Big Band. After 30 years, he retired; he is presently Professor Emeritus at Cuesta College. He proudly pointed to five of the RGSO band members who currently teach at Cuesta, with tenor saxophonist, Ron McCarley, the current Director. Due to his love of teaching, Warren is now back on staff at Cuesta as the Applied Trumpet Instructor.

RGSO: Dr. Warren Balfour lower right

RGSO: Dr. Warren Balfour lower right

Warren remains active helping young musicians by acting as an adjudicator and clinician at major jazz festivals throughout the western United States. He has guest directed the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association Honor Jazz Band, the All-Arizona State Honor Jazz Band, the Bay Section CMEA Honor High School Jazz Ensemble, and the Nevada State High School Honor Jazz ensemble in Reno. Warren shared a moving experience when recently adjudicating the Braille Institute’s Johnny Mercer’s Children’s Choir. The Choir is dedicated to helping blind and visually-impaired children age six to 18 to learn vocal music and performance techniques, gain confidence and overcome isolation. Warren recalled how he and the other judges shed tears during their poignant performance.

When asked to share about fun or interesting memories of his career, Warren initially joked, “None that you can print.” He then shared that when RGSO performed for the late Jane Russell’s surprise 80th birthday, she and other famous attendees gave enthusiastic accolades to the band. British-born American big band singer, Beryl Davis, who was then performing on cruises, told Warren she wished she could take the band with her for her performances. On another occasion, after performing at a wedding in Edna Valley, Harry Smith from CBS praised RGSO for their “high driving” jazz.

RGSO used to play big band swing music once or twice a month to energetic dancers of all ages at Mother’s Tavern until it was sold. Currently RGSO plays once a month on Saturday afternoon, starting at 2:00 p.m. at D’Anbino Vineyard and Cellars tasting room, which is near the train station in Paso Robles. There is no charge for admission, but a small fee if one wants to wine taste. They also play other special events such as at Hearst Castle. More details about their upcoming performances can be found on www.rgso.net or www.danbino.com. Also on the RGSO website are details of each of the other band member’s impressive training and performance bios.

Courtesy: www.slocoastjournal.com.

MEET ADAM LEVINE!

21 Jul
Adam Levine

Adam Levine

Meet Adam Levine! Not the front man for Maroon 5, but the local guitarist, composer and arranger who lives and performs on the Central Coast. His group, Human Nation, which has roots in jazz, blues, Latin and funk, melded with world rhythms, will be releasing their first CD later this year. Human Nation has performed to admiring followers at his favorite local venue, D’Anbino Vineyard and Cellars tasting room, as well as other wineries, the Paso Robles Ballroom, the Paso Robles City Park, and private functions. Adam’s precise finger work is featured in his upbeat composition Django’s Delight, an “homage to my guitar hero, Django Reinhardt,” the pioneering European virtuoso “gypsy” or “hot” guitarist.

Besides Adam on acoustic and electric guitar, other regular Human Nation band members include Danny Pelfry on sax, clarinet, flute and steel pan; Bill Wingfield on acoustic and electric bass; Brett Mitchell on keyboards; and Dean Giles on drums and percussion. Dave previously performed around the world as a bandleader and sideman on luxury cruises, at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, as well as with The Temptations, Manhattan Transfer, Smokey Robinson, and Marvin Hamlisch. He presently teaches sax at Cuesta College. Bill started performing professionally at age 16. After a musical career hiatus, he returned to playing in 1999, and like Adam, he also has been an instructor at the National Guitar Workshop. Brett studied at NYU with many famed musicians including Paul Simon, and he wrote music with classmate/friend Melissa Manchester. (For detailed information on Brett, see the February 2013 Mostly Music column). Dean has worked with many successful artists, and recorded music for film, television, and commercials. The Human Nation CD was recorded locally and they are presently finishing mixing in Los Angeles where they were pleased to have Ron Wagner, percussionist with Cirque du Soleil, lay down tracks.

Before coming to the Central Coast, Adam played too many places to name, some highlights being Branson, Missouri (known as the “Live Music Show Capital of the World”), New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He does composing and arranging, and has done studio session work including Capitol, Warner Brothers, and Motown Records. His commercial credits include McDonalds, Taco Bell and television show such as “Cheers,” “Simon and Simon,” “Merv Griffin,” and “Lawrence Welk”. Following the birth of his son in 1995, Adam and his wife, a classical pianist, decided to move to the beautiful Central Coast, where they had previously visited, seeking a more family-oriented environment.

Adam expected to find a shortage good local music on the Central Coast. Instead, he was surprised by the many talented musicians with whom he has been able to work, and he is now busier than ever. In addition to Human Nation, he regularly plays in three other groups. Counterpoint is a cabaret-style group, primarily spotlighting Big Band and contemporary pop, featuring vocalists, Brett and Julia Mitchell, Mostly Music column), Karinda Scott, and Steve McAndrew, with Brett on keyboard, as well as Human Nation musicians Bill Wingfield and Dean Giles all comprising the core group. It is very common for musicians, especially those doing jazz, to perform with multiple groups. This is the case for the two groups, the No Ego Amigos, which features Adam, Brett Mitchell, and Mike Swan on bass; the other trio features Adam, Brett and Judy Philbin on vocals. Both trios draw from the Great American Songbook during their regular performances on Thursday evening at the La Bellasera Hotel conveniently located on the southern outskirts of Paso Robles. La Bellasera is an intimate venue where one can relax by the fire and enjoy food or drink while the band plays within a few feet of the audience’s seating. This locale has the added benefit of easy access, no cover charge, and an early starting time of 6:30 p.m.

Raised in Baltimore, Adam started playing guitar at the same time his father took up guitar. According to Adam, “my father turned me on to bossanova.” Then Adam discovered the Beatles and decided he would play guitar for a living. He has studied at the Berklee School of Music and the Aspen Music School. He has studied privately with the venerable Joe Pass, generally considered to be one of the greatest jazz guitarists of the 20th century. Adam is passionate about teaching guitar, including at the Aspen Music School, Musician’s Institute and National Guitar Workshop in San Francisco, and the Grove School of Music in Los Angeles, and currently with his local private students. Regarding his present 20 students, Adam relates, “I love teaching. It keeps me balanced.” His students have done on to play with such stars as Norah Jones, George Benson, and Celine Dion.

He also relishes collaborating with other local musicians, such as George Wilkins, whose many accomplishments include a seven year tenure as Composer in Residence at Walt Disney Production, as well as Director of Music for Walt Disney Imagineering. Adam shared that this past Christmas, he and Human Nation and other musicians got together for an impromptu jam session, which included George Wilkins performing rare vocals; Kenny Lee Lewis, former lead guitarist, now bassist with the Steve Miller Band; Danny Pelfry, former sax player with Tower of Power, on guitar this night; and Danny Weis, one of the founding members of Iron Butterfly.

Asked about memorable or amusing anecdotes, Adam recalled that when performing on the Merv Griffin Show, Scottish singer, and guitarist, Donovan, asked to borrow a “plektrum.” Unsure what that was, Adam offered his guitar pick; a lucky guess apparently, as the pick was never returned. Adam recalled another memorable incident during the opening night of the Lawrence Welk Show when the bubble machine went out of control, dropping soapy liquid onto the sheet music, causing the ink to run.

For more information about Adam, Human Nation’s release date and performances for Human Nation’s new CD, or performances by other groups in which Adam plays, find him on AdamLevinemusic on Facebook, or www.Human-Nation.com.

Article courtesy of: www.slocoastjournal.com.