Friday night, April 20, 2012 will see SoulMates at Jimmy Mak's in Portland for the SoulMates Tribute to Donny Hathaway. The Blue Diamond crowd, however, was treated to a preview of the Hathaway material on Monday night.
After a couple of opening instrumentals, SoulMates moved to a third such with the 1960's hit Caravan. The song has been recorded by the Ventures and even Les Paul but none of them, not even the legendary Les Paul, plays it with the same heart as Jay "Bird" Koder. I admit, I watched the Les Paul performance again on YouTube and was horribly disappointed. In comparison with the Bird version, Les Paul's rendition is bland and emotionless.
The SoulMates version came in fulfillment of one patron's request for something that featured drummist Reinhardt Melz. He wound up cheering the song and Bird and Jarrod as well as Reinhardt and, during the song, it became clear that Reinhardt couldn't hear very well. He then set finesse aside and turned into Thor with thunder and lightning for drumsticks. The guy who had requested the Reinhardt number yelled out "Yeahhhhhhh!"
Before the evening progressed much farther, a special song was sent out as a birthday greeting to Chieko, everyone's favorite SoulMates fan. The song was Sukiyaki and has always been a delight to SoulMates audiences. Monday night was no exception as the audience was moved in appreciation. Bird's playing of this can turn the stoniest heart to jello and everyone responded to it.
What was interesting was watching the audience. One guy admitted to getting teary-eyed when he heard the song. Another guy who looked like a veteran from the battle of Jutland sat in the back and even his weathered face and craggy smile turned into springtime as he listened to Bird's playing. But almost everyone was watching Chieko during the song for her. The regulars who know her were watching her and smiling warmly. However, even people who were new to the band kept their eyes on Chieko and smiled as Bird played for her. This is Chieko; she causes even strangers to smile. She is SoulMates' soulmate.
With the band and the audience warmed up, SoulMates launched into the vocal selections of the set. It began with an original composition entitled Her Twisted Mind or, as Bird calls it, "That Twisted Sister thing." The song is a bit enigmatic and a listener can't just listen to one verse or line and think they understand it. It is raw in its emotion with lines like "Your teeth are stained/ With the lies you claim." And Jarrod's throaty delivery brought cheers that were just as raw from the audience. Exclamations of "Well, DAMN..." and "Don't take that!" were heard throughout the room. After some back and forth lyrics, Jarrod announced to the crowd, "This is the last verse. It will explain everything." To which Bird answered, "Yeah. Sure." Sure enough, the payoff line was "I am an innocent man/ Just a victim of circumstance..." Ah, there was the answer and it was in the title all along.
Then attention was turned to the great Donny Hathaway (1945-1979). This became a preview to the SoulMates' Tribute to Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack. The performance of Love, Love, Love, I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know and I Believe in Music certainly served to whet the appetite for more to follow on Friday night, April 20. All this along with the set-list standard Valdez in the Country and SoulMates are tuned and ready for such a memorable tribute.
Love, Love, Love contains the sweet lyrics "I looked out into empty space/ And all I saw was your pretty face." It was soulful and wistful and it brought the audience to silence again. That seems to happen very often when SoulMates play.
If this was the preview for the Donny Hathaway tribute, just imagine what the full show will be like with Saeeda Wright joining them to do Roberta Flack's parts and Farnell Newton adding his horn.
It is the show not to be missed. If there is only one musical performance to see this spring, it must be...it has to be...Friday night, April 20th at Jimmy Mak's with the SoulMates Tribu