Jazz piano great Ramsey Embick was in the house, sitting at the front table until drummer Reinhardt Melz called him up to play the Guiro (also known as "the scratcher") with The SoulMates. It was an ever-so-subtle addition to the sound but it added just that little extra touch. Nice.
Jay "Bird" Koder started the evening in high gear with reaching guitar work. Jarrod Lawson (vocals and keybords) contributed sweet keyboard sounds during the three opening numbers--all instrumentals. But Reinhardt... Reinhardt had just come off of four straight days of playing--playing twice on Sunday alone-- and he still had thunder in those sticks.
The second instrumental, which sounded like a soundtrack for exploring Ali Baba's cave, was the first of those stilling moments. Jarrod's left handed kicking bass on the keyboards was almost hypnotic and Reinhardt's drums sounded like Beethoven's knock of fate. Jay Bird made that guitar sound like the high drone of a million bees.
[Have you heard how Jay Koder got the nickname "Bird?" It came from the way his fingers flew across the guitar's fretboard like a bird. Originally, they called him "Bird-fingers" but was shortened to just "Bird." He was the ripe old age of...wait for it...13 years old.]
In that moment, bass, Beethoven and bees made for a sound and feeling of stunned disbelief. Stop thinking. Just feel it.
Then the band cartwheeled ino Moonflower before the audience could regain their senses. The piece is a perfect gallery for Jay Bird's touch. His guitar solo just lit the place up and Reinhardt turned in one of the most impressive displays of polyrhythmic pyrotechnics ever. Even Reinhardt himself was moved by what was transpiring and, though he is always silent while he plays and simply chews his bottom lip, during the Moonflower drum solo he let loose with an audible "Ahhhhhhh..." This was enough to bring a shout from the audience but the playing called forth an absolute gush of verbal appreciation.
Jarrod's vocals were finally turned loose beginning with Cruisin' followed by Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover. But he hit stride with the Koder composition called I Could Be the Man for You. It was the second moment of being lifted out of oneself. Jarrod was a perfect ease in his vocals with "Bird's" guitar during the bridge and we were at ease with them.
It is a feeling of transcendance. It is being moved above and beyond personal exhaustion or anxiety or sadness to a place of peace and even rest. It is almost like receiving an imposed yet effortless meditation. There is a repose in the midst of this high energy musicianship. But soon, the energy begins to draw you along, out of the repose...
Following some of the bluesiest, yet most subtle, guitar solo playing ever, that peace remains but opens into fun. That is the only word for it: just "fun." Sandra Dee of Mothership added to that when she joined Jarrod for vocals on What We Do for Love and Can't Hide Love.
All Day Sucker ended the first set with the audience cheering in the middle of solos. Now, in the world of live music, the audience politely waits until the end of a solo before responding with applause as the song continues. But not during this song! It was as though the stillness and the beauty of what had gone before had enfused the audience with the energy for play. The audience responded to The SoulMates play with playfulness of their own.
So, instead of waiting for the end of Jay Bird's solo, the crowd just couldn't wait to respond. Then Reinhardt pushed it again, with similar response, only for Bird to return with a second solo. The set ended with shouts and cheers. Nobody went home.
In the second set, Tyrone Hendricks sat in on drums and lovely Liv Warfield added her wonderful, soulful voice to Jarrod's beginning with One Mo' Gin. Jarrod had said before the introduction to the song, "Ya'll this is my favorite Portland singer!"
Bird's solo brought a big smile of appreciation from Tyrone and Liv was all smiles to sing with Jarrod. Even though she laughingly said, "Shut UP!" as Jarrod sang. She shrugged and just said, "Don't make no sense..."
Liv and Tyrone stayed for the whole second set and the fun was felt by everyone. Sweet Rhonda behind the bar said, "Wow! What a fun night!"
During a Bobby Womack song, Liv was supposed to sing back up to Jarrod but stood silent, just watching Jarrod. At the song's conclusion, Jarrod scolded, "You didn't sing!" Liv replied, "You didn't NEED it!"
During the penultimate number, Liv stood with her arm draped around Bird's shoulder. She looked at Jarrod and said, "I just want to watch you sing."
The night concluded with Liv and Jarrod singing That's the Time. Sandra Dee was sitting in the audience, waving her arms in solidarity. That adorable singer Michaelangela, whom everyone loves, had been watching and enjoying the whole night. This was the fun; to see some of Portland's best singers happy to participate in what was happening by just enjoying what was happening. Reinhardt had surrendered his drums to Tyrone and enjoyed watching from the audience. Guitarist Toshi Onizuka was having fun watching Liv and Tyrone with The SoulMates. Jazz pianoman Ramsey Embick was happy to join in by scratching that Guiro.
When the music was over, nobody moved. People stayed together as if, by remaining there, the feeling they enjoyed would continue. Two guys waited patiently as people gathered all around so they could buy The SoulMates' DVD. They wanted to carry the feeling home by any means possible. They waited a very long time to be able to carry away a recording of what they had seen and heard from The SoulMates. They represented what everyone felt. It was worth waiting for it. To get away quickly would mean leaving that emotion behind. It was better to sit quietly and continue to soak in what was still in the room.
I'm sure they did take that feeling home. They got their DVD and it was autographed by all three SoulMates. Those guys left for home with big smiles.
We watched people slowly make their way to the door, carrying that peace and that joy with them. Goodbyes were slower this Monday night.