Steve Butler of Mighty Music Corp. gets major props for putting this together. And I get a hearty “D’OH!” for not knowing about the Houndstooth Pub having a music venue earlier.
Walk into the Houndstooth, and immediately you’re greeted by dark wood, exposed brick, and behind a few tables bordering the bar, you will find a wrought-iron staircase heading down to an expansive show area. Right away, you’re greeted by the downstairs bar, and two drum setups. Why two? I’ll get to that in a mo’.
That is where last night found me, my coworker, and my coworker’s husband heading to. I kinda-sorta jumped the gun and bought my ticket before I got the news that I won a pair. So the pair went to my coworker and the hubby.
The first person I saw upon walking in – Shilts! Ex-saxman for Down to the Bone, and one of the first people I met aboard the All Star Cruise 2009, always a laugh and a half on stage, I jokingly think of him as an honorary New Yorker owing to his music style. He definitely kept to his roots in DTTB funk and parlayed it into a series of successful albums, the latest of which, Going Underground, I’m looking forward to in a handful of weeks.
First up, however, was not Shilts – it was Stix Bones.
Who is Stix Bones, you ask? And I say that he is a drummer, educated at SUNY Purchase, and one of the few drummers who can hit it backwards, while walking around the kit, etc. and not miss a single beat. You may have seen him around the tri-state area, and I’m sure you’ve heard him on many a hip-hop recording, but what he showed off alongside DJ Rafe Gomez while the band was setting up was a phenomenal bit of handiwork. Whether backtracking to what DJ Rafe was playing or going solo with a groove, this guy was certainly an excellent prelude to the night.
The second up was a familiar face from Berks Jazz Fest: Matt Marshak, a guitarist whose style is John Tropea meets Wes Montgomery.
I’ve not seen Matt since the opening for Guitarzzz at Berks and that was a definite treat; twice so because of the smaller venue as opposed to the huge performance area of the Crowne Plaza. I really got a chance to listen into his music and, when he started in with Seduction, I knew that I had a new addition to my favorites list. A slow, trippy funk rhythm and an occasional casual bend of the strings that, in conjunction with the rest of the melody, might as well translate to a casually raised eyebrow. Seduction indeed, and if you consider that I’m a sucker for a great guitar… yeah. I think I have myself a new playlist addition right there. And medleying Affirmation, Breezin’, and We’re In This Love Together was enough to convince me, particularly the middle. I enjoy old-school George Benson, and I certainly enjoy a new take on an oldie-but-a-goodie.
Indeed, Matt proved himself a master of the old-school, when he covered Santos and Johnny’s Sleepwalk. Old-school indeed, for that song goes way back to the fifties and, between Matt’s stylistic touch and Kenny Harris on the bass, I couldn’t help but momentarily reimagine the Houndstooth pub as a malt shop. Way before my time, I’m aware, but it was one of those moments where a melody just puts you into a completely different frame of mind.
Next up was Nate Najar, and I will admit that I had no idea what to expect. Also a guitarist, Nate leans a bit into the easygoing direction. It’s a Good Day was a light, upbeat sample of his style, engaging in his own right, and also a good addition to my list.
What I noticed about Nate Najar was that he handled a lot more of his acoustic than the electric. That is not to say that he didn’t bend those strings either; for Sunday Serenade, that was the instrument of choice, and so was the slightest Gospel accent. Adding to that, he made a tour of everyone in the audience, much to their delight.
In checking out Nate Najar’s material on iTunes after the show, I will say this: get this guy’s stuff if you’re like me and have an affinity towards big-band and swing. Swinging with the Nate Najar Trio reimagines that era into Nate’s easygoing, conversational guitar.
The final man up was none other than Shilts. And if you haven’t seen him, I recommend it: aside from the great tenor sax, he makes for a hysterical emcee. After opening up with See What’s Happened, and following up with Look What’s Happened (I see the pattern too, believe me), he talked a bit about his new CD. Which, of course, gave root to this moment:
Shilts: Is anyone from Lon…don..? *trails off at lack of hands*
Audience member: I’m from there.
Shilts: Really? Whereabouts?
Audience member: Manchester.
Shilts: That’s not bloody London! That’s nowhere near London!
And, being the DTTB expat that he is, Shilts finished with my favorite combination of Staten Island Groove and Brooklyn Heights.
Also a surprise: “Third” was in the mix as well, as the drummer to both Shilts and Nate Najar – and also a participant of Jammin’ in Jamaica 2009.
In all, a fantastic night! The acoustics of the Houndstooth Pub venue room were excellent; there was no distortion that I could hear because of the layout; whether I was sitting at the bar or at my table, the sound was carried very well. I truly do hope this becomes a regular series; the Houndstooth isn’t far from where I work, and thus a fantastic location to escape to for the purposes of music-chasing.
PS: …that audience member turned out to be from Queens. :)