Quimby's had seen people stop by, peek in, and scout before finally the date was scheduled. To make things even better, the sweet and lovely Rhonda was now working there, having found a home there after the demolition of the beloved Candlelight.
There was the ever-hoped for chance that this could be the new Candlelight.
A call was put in to Lance Giles to inform him of the change of venue and day. Lance made the trip from Seattle for the special event. Everyone wanted to be there, showing up early to get prime seats and peruse the menu. We were soon joined by Michael and Theresa G and the Magaurns. Toshi and Adam would have to wait until Toshi was finished with his own gig before they could arrive.
Quimby's welcomed everyone warmly. Sarah was the perfect hostess and she detailed the plans that they have envisioned for the place to accomodate the music. The place is warm and the staff is just as warm. After the music ended, many of us stayed until 2:30 am and we were never rushed out or felt anything other than welcome and gratitude for being there. We could stay and talk about the music of the night. This was beginning to feel like it could be home.
When SoulMates began to arrive, with Jarrod Lawson always first to get there, everyone was chatting up the new site. Only one thing was left to check and that would have to wait until the music actually began...
And when it did begin, it was what we had craved: good acoustics and a good sound system. The first song proved it. The brick wall behind the band posed a challenge for a moment but with an adjusted monitor here and a repositioned speaker there, the sound was good for everyone, band and audience.
At this point, Lance Giles walked in the front door which resulted in a whoop from everyone...or maybe it was just me being loud all by myself.
The opener was a sweet instrumental and it set the finest of moods for the evening. After Jay "Bird" Koder's first guitar solo, Matt in the audience (himself a guitarist) commented aloud, "Man! That's the very first solo?" Then Jarrod Lawson followed with some of his most beautiful piano work. As I have often said, it is too easy to overlook Jarrod's keyboard playing because of his amazing voice, but Jarrod is a first-rate pianist. Never forget that.
Reinhardt Melz laid down the solid rhythm which were expanded into the following number, also an instrumental. From that groove sprung Jarrod's amazing turn at kicking bass and Bird's solo was just gorgeous. It was emotional. It was tender. It was what every grieving heart needed to hear.
SoulMates celebrated the first night at Quimby's in style with old favorites send out to old friends in a great new setting. Valdez in the Country was shouted out to Mikey G. In fact, the SoulMates version should now be called Mikey in the Country. This song is a great showpiece for Reinhardt's stickwork and he always provides something new and exciting. It is one of Donny Hathaway's brilliant forays into jazz and SoulMates can work a Hathaway composition like nobody else can.
One Mo 'Gin is a great vocal piece for Jarrod. It is slow and soulful and Reinhardt provided such a cool groove to it. The slow ascent is stirring. The lyrics are inspired and meaningful and Jarrod makes it his very own.
Then Bird begins the spacey riff of Fly Like and Eagle. I will freely admit, I was not much of a Steve Miller fan when he could be heard on fm-radio about 20 times a day. It wasn't until discovering the early Steve Miller Blues Band that I appreciated his guitar performances. I came late to that party. But Jay "Bird" takes the Miller piece and runs it through the SoulMates soul-maker and "turns it on its ear," as the Bird puts it.
This particular night, the Bird just shreds the guitar solo. Now I dislike using musical cliches like "monster chops" or "hot licks" but shredding is the only way to appropriately describe what is happening. Especially...ESPECIALLY...when Bird is doing it with one hand while the other hand hangs loose by his side. Wait...what? Yes, a one-handed "shred."
Then comes the sweet return of Donny Hathaway with You Were Meant for Me. Trumpet great Paul Mazzio walked in at this point, just in time to catch the beautiful intonations of Jarrod's vocal delivery. Ah, but there I go again... Jarrod's piano skills are more than equal to the piece. Sometimes I just focus on watching Jarrod's playing. It is effortless in appearance but so emotional and so very warm.
There are not that many who can pull off the warmth in their piano playing. Mostly, when I think of piano warmth I think of Oscar Peterson...and Jarrod Lawson. The great Hathaway song was rearranged SoulMates style and Bird, Jarrod and Reinhardt took it higher than ever before. It's what they do.
In a future article, I will devote the whole piece to this song. For now, however, let me say that this: the song is about finding the essence of what life is. It is about being in the presence of those we love.
This is the message that we can carry away with us; that it is not things but people that matter in this world. Relationships and not possessions are the things of the spirit and the soul. This was what Bird was saying to those in attendance--that wherever we go and in whatever situation we find ourselves in this world, we have everything we need when we are in relationship with our SoulMates/soulmates.
It is the sound of Jarrod's voice in our heads that can get us through a difficult moment. It is Reinhardt's full-throated laugh that turns away sadness. It is the light in Jay "Bird's" eye that banishes grief. Indeed, we have everything we need.
The rendition on this Wednesday night was simply flawless.
It was followed up by yet another composition of Jarrod's done in cooperation with Farnell Newton and Steveland Swatkins. The title is Everything is Clear. It can be found on Farnell's CD Class is Now in Session. Toshi and Adam joined the Quimby's audience during this moving piece. It was a well-timed entry as it gave them a moment to catch their breath and relax.
They moved on to the blues ("Because Krissie Magaurn loves the blues") with She's Right. Reinhardt was crossing up the groove in a cool, bluesy way and it was a pleasure to hear. Sometimes we get so used to the thunder and lightning of Reinhardt's drumming that we forget how subtle he can be. It is in those subtle moments that his unmitigated brilliance shines in a completely different way.
It was also a moment of Bird's sweetest guitar work. It is the downplay that makes one sit up and take special notice. It is as someone once said about a whisper being the best way to draw attention. So it was with the whispers from the trio at Quimby's. Those heartfelt quiet moments were overwhelming.
That sweetness remained in Lovely Day, another song that never grows old for me. It was another moment of some of Bird's most intriguing guitar solos which was brought to a conclusion by one of Reinhardt's crash-stops. It was the final number for the first set and we were immediately struck with a feeling that the night just could not end. At least, we did not want it to end.
The break was filled with photo-taking and hugs and everyone was enjoying Quimby's and the home that they had provided. Those who usually would have departed after the first set remained for friendship's sake. Nobody was wanting to say good-bye and everyone stayed late.
The second and final set opened with Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover. Reinhardt was working his magic in new and wondrous ways. It was the finest version heard yet.
From Fifty Ways... to Greatdayndamornin, a Lance favorite. It gets him up and dancing every time. Watching Lance dancing made me stop and look around at those gathered together. At our table were the wonderful Michael and Kris Magaurn, he the noble patriarch of the SoulMates family and she the Woodstock girl who is as adorable as she must have been back then. Toshi Onizuka, the brilliant fusion guitarist and dear friend was seated beside me and beyond Toshi was Adam Gloria who is one of the gentlest souls ever known. The Earlys were close by. Music fanatic Randy Corby was seated with Paul Mazzio. The lovely Miss Connie was beside my sweet wife Chieko. Miss Connie was the one who inspired the Bird song Man4U; she is the love of his life.
Then my sight came to rest on Michael and Theresa G. Two of the most inspiring people ever. He is an inspiration to me and she is a ray of sunshine. I'm sure she gets angry but I have never seen it or heard tell of it. I'm sure he gets down but he never speaks a word of anything less than light and love. Someday maybe they will let me tell you their story--it is worth hearing. I thought about how all of this began for Chieko and me; how it all began with Mikey G.
We were walking down the sidewalk in downtown Vancouver in March of 2011 and Mikey was standing outside his guitar studio. We were introduced to Mikey by a mutual friend and the friendship with him was instantaneous. We talked about music and Mikey invited us to join him on Mondays at the Candlelight to hear a friend of his "who has this band called SoulMates." I asked him who his friend was and he said, "Jay 'Bird' Koder." I knew who Jay Koder was! He had been with the Jeff Lorber Fusion, had recorded with Freddie Hubbard and Chick Corea, toured with the Steve Miller Band and the Doobie Brothers, and had been a member of the Stilettos...and on and on...
We went to the Candlelight the very next Monday and life would never be the same. I owe it all to Michael G.
I was brought back to the present when Bird asked me what the next song should be. The choice was obvious for me. It was the song that got my dear Chieko through a difficult week. It was the song that filled our heads and hearts with the sound of SoulMates. It was Stevie Wonder's Knocks Me Off My Feet. It is the sound of rejoicing.
I thought about the history of that song with Chieko and me. I then began to watch Bird and Jarrod and Reinhardt as each one contributed their mastery to this singular piece. I thought about the wonderful journey that life can be when you travel the road with people like Jay "Bird", Jarrod, and Reinhardt. When I think about them and what they mean to us...well, it knocks me off my feet.
The final song was Ain't Too Proud to Beg which was wildly fun and a riotous end to the evening's celebration. It was a great way to part company for a little while. To our delighted surprise, Jonah and Monica--the most adorable couple ever--burst in after the music was finished. Just because they wanted to enjoy even the last portion of sharing the night with everyone.
As I said, we all stayed late and talked about the music and the future and a fine place called Quimby's.
Here we were at a transitional moment when new possibilities opened and we were finding a home. We were welcomed by Quimby's but home is where we are together; where a person can have "great comfort in his friends on the long grey road."
It truly is... everything I need.