A tribute to Stevie Wonder would have been enough in itself to get my wife and I to attend but there was an added and even greater draw for us. That was Porter's inclusion of Reinhardt Melz and Jarrod Lawson as members for this unique concert mini-series. The two of them are permanent members of The SoulMates, the band that has been identified as "Portland musicians' favorite band." Porter also chose to include sometime SoulMates member Jans Ingber. However, while Stevie Wonder may have been the focus in absentia, Jarrod and Reinhardt stole the show.
A further word about the line-up. The band included:
Joey Porter - keyboards and musical director
Reinhardt Melz - drums
Jarrod Lawson - keyboards
Paul Creighton - vocals
Dan Scollard - bass
Jans Ingber - vocals and percussion
Joshua Cliburn - sax
Max Ribner - trumpet and flugelhorn
It is well-known in Portland that Stevie Wonder is well-covered by local musicians. The SoulMates provide their unique arrangements of Wonder's tunes and Paul Creighton's group InterVisions have a great love affair with Wonder's songs. It is always a treat to see Paul Crieghton visit The Candlelight Cafe where Jay "Bird" Koder and The SoulMates hold court. Creighton joining The SoulMates for All I Do (Is Sing About You) is about enough to you feel that your hair is on fire...I mean that in a good way.
The Saturday night performance began with Do I Do and had Jarrod, Paul and Jans all on vocals together. It was a good start for the fun to follow. Jarrod continued with lead vocals on Please, Don't Go. After the Jans Ingber's rousing Living for the City, Jarrod returned to lead vocals for Ordinary Pain. There is good reason why it has been said of Jarrod that "Everything he touches turns to soul." On Saturday night, all of those reasons were in evidence and the audience took clear notice.
One of the nicest treats of the evening was watching Paul Creighton. As stated above, I have enjoyed watching Paul sit in on occassion with The SoulMates. He has always been a delight and I have always admired his respect and demeanor during those performances.
On Saturday night, I became even more enthusiastic about him. I mentioned his respect and it showed itself in a few ways. One of those ways was in how he did not demand or even desire to have the attention on himself. The stage was full and the performers' space was certainly limited. When Paul was not singing, he would squat down on the floor to allow the audience to see Reinhardt on drums behind him or Dan Scollard on bass.
Plus, he is just a fun vocalist to watch and hear. His singing of All I Do and For Once in My Life were just joyous! In the latter song, Jarrod again got a rousing ovation for his playing of the melodica.
In the second set, Paul was lucky enough to get the nod to sing Superstitious, Higher Ground and Jesus Children of America. The opening of Higher Ground got a little convoluted but Reinhardt absolutely seized control of the direction and Paul and Jarrod joined in. The song was powerful.
Reinhardt's performance truly made the audience stop their dancing. They stood with mouths open and eyes wide. After the song concluded, my wife said that Reinhardt's entry into the song was like the arrival of "God's own thunder."
Jans got the lead vocals for Always and Jarrod's keyboard playing was sweet. In fact, it was Jarrod's solo that got the best response from the audience. Soulful as always.
I Wish was a great choice to end the second set. Jarrod and Reinhardt literally slammed the door shut. Happily, there was an encore. It was something that I had been wanting to hear from Jarrod for a long time. I am endebted to Joey Porter for picking Jarrod to sing
Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing as the final song.
Good Lord, what a finish! It seemed as though the band was determined to go home with no energy reserves left in themselves. Joey Porter on his keys, Dan Scollard on bass, Reinhardt on drums, Joshua and Max on the horns and Jarrod Lawson singing his heart out with Paul and Jans joining was a great finish.
When the concert was coming to an end, a big guy standing close to us had something he wanted to remember. Maybe he knew he was a little drunk and wanted to make sure he didn't forget. He stood there, transfixed, and kept repeating to himself "Jarrod...Lawson. Jarrod...Lawson. Jarrod...Lawson. Jarrod...Lawson. Jarrod...Lawson."