Although SoulMates' fans never need a reason to celebrate, this was as good a reason as could be hoped and the celebration was on. Fresh off the Hathway/Flack tribute, there was sweet music for celebrating as the tribute continued from the previous Friday night.
And it all started with an instrumental of Roberta's huge hit Killing Me Softly. This instrumental version proved the depth of the material as one would tend to think that the strength of the song was in the agonized lyrics. But Jay "Bird" Koder, Jarrod Lawson and Reinhardt Melz proved that the foundation of the piece was indeed to be found in the music.
After another couple of warm-up instrumentals, SoulMates concluded the intro section with their own instrumental composition entitled Bacchus. The fingers, gear, audience and the voice were truly warmed by now as Reinhardt worked over a barrio beat while Bird had taken flight with his guitar solo. The keyboard solo also proved that they were ready to roll.
Attention was then turned to Monica and Jonah as it was announced to the audience of Jonah's proposal and Monica's acceptance. Full-throated cheers went up in acknowledgment and celebration. SoulMates then sent out Jonah's favorite song to the couple, Otis Redding's Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay. Fortunately for the newly-engaged young woman, the song does not reflect the young man's work ethic. "Sittin' in the morning sun/ I'll be sittin' when the evening comes..." is not what a future wife wants to hear about her man's prospects for employment. But it was a swinging, cheerful version and was affectionately received by the lovely couple.
With Donny Hathaway still in everyone's mind, SoulMates moved to I Believe to My Soul which contains the great lyric delivered so well by Jarrod; "Last night while you were sleeping I heard you call my name 'Oh, Ronny.' ... When you know my name is Donny!" Jarrod's intonation was filled with bitter irony and it worked. Great stuff.
With Knocks Me Off My Feet, Bird took ownership of the room...again. His guitar solo took him into the audience like a medieval minstrel passing amongst the nobility in a great hall. He was greeted with awed, wide-eyed stares as he played before the assembly. While he was passing between the tables and patrons, it became clear that a metamorphosis has taken place over the weeks since SoulMates had set up shop in the Blue Diamond at 20th and Sandy in Portland's eastside.
The audience had changed. It was no longer just the Blue Diamond regulars who had been there all along nor was it the SoulMates regulars who had followed the band after the closing of the Candlelight. The crowd were now filled with young people. There were 20-somethings in the audience and they were making up a larger and larger percentage of the audience. These listeners had heard the sound of Bird's guitar, Reinhardt's drums and Jarrod's voice and had begun to attend and to bring their own crowd with them. Here was fresh energy and a fresh outlook on music that we had grown up hearing. These listeners arrived after the original artists, in many cases, had already passed. The music they were hearing was not their parents' music but was music that has been reinterpreted and reinvigorated and it is now their music just as much as it is our music. They do not bemoan the fact that Donny Hathaway passed before they were even born. Rather, they breathe in the timeless music of Donny Hathaway or Marvin Gaye or Otis Redding as retold by the SoulMates who belong to them.
They rejoiced in Earth, Wind and Fire's September as offered up by SoulMates. They loved Bird's funky guitar and Reinhardt's blistering drums and Jarrod's celebratory vocals. It became clear that the new audience was also breathing new life into the old audience. It has made me see the music as celebration and not simple reminiscence. Hearing the music alongside them has made me hear the music afresh; not just as great versions of eternal classics but as great music played with...soul.
Now the Remy Shand song Colour of the Day is from their time. Once again, however, SoulMates have made it their own and have given a depth to it that did not seem to exist before. The story of Remy Shand is rather a bleak one, if you will permit me.
Remy Shand was born in Winnipeg, Canada. At the age of 19, he sent in a demo tape which was presented to Motown Records and Shand was signed to the label and released his widely received 2002 debut album The Way I Feel. The album was a huge success in Canada and the US, selling over half a million recordings in the US alone. It received the 2003 Juno Award for best R&B/Soul Recording and was even nominated for a Grammy.
In 2003, Shand was set to release his highly anticipated sequel A Day in the Shade. It was never released and the reasons are not known. More than simply that, the whereabouts of Remy Shand have remained unknown. In 2006, someone who claimed to be an insider stated that Shand had been through a bitter divorce and had suffered from depression. He was returning to music in 2005 when his mother passed, leaving him so broken that he could not even attend her funeral.
The quest to find Remy Shand had become a near-obsession from 2005-2007 but the public have moved on and only infrequently do searches reappear. His website now redirects to the Motown website and email addresses are seemingly dead-ends. His original of Colour of the Day can be heard on the YouTube link below.
Donny Hathaway got a final nod of the night with Love, Love, Love as the young couple were still being celebrated. It was near closing time but few were making any moves toward the door. But the crowd was sent off with the roar of You Haven't Done Nothing or, as Reinhardt calls it, "the doo-da-wop song."
Feeling that good makes it difficult to leave the place that gave that feeling. As long as any SoulMates were around, so were music-lovers. It's tough to leave those who bring such joy. Especially, when you have to wait a whole week...