That sweet sexy soul came right us from the opening instrumentals. Sure, we know that the instrumentals are supposed to be the warm-ups but for the audience, they may well be the cool-downs from the harsh day… preparing to get you warmed again in the right way.
The opening number slows you down just right. It is a gentle recline into musical repose and cares begin to wash away. Then into a cool blues send-out to Michael Magaurn, who loves the blues. You start to breathe easier now. But then the trading between the guitar and the keys kind of gets your heart going again…and Reinhardt…well, Reinhardt is dropping this blues groove that has been described as being like a drum solo with keyboard and guitar laid over it. The guitar alternates between charming and haunting blues.
When the piece ended, Michael Magaurn—a former drummer—complimented Reinhardt’s performance. It was something that would need to be repeated after the next song…
Bird introduced it as “a little something from the Caribbean.” Reinhardt dove headlong into the rhythm as if he were diving into the blues waters off St. Croix. He was playing only his drum kit but it sounded that there were steel drums, maracas, guiros and congas being played by ten different people. Bird played underneath with rapid-fire guitar licks and Jarrod kept a solid structure throughout. This was stuff to warm you up in the right way. The applause was riotous.
What followed was one of the most perplexing exchanges I have ever heard between Jarrod and Bird. Bird looks to Jarrod and asks, “What do you feel like doing?” Jarrod’s reply was, “I dunno... Feel like making love.” Now, of course, we all know that he was referring to his choice of the next piece as being the song Feel Like Making Love by Roberta Flack. Still, it made me tilt my head like a confused puppy when I heard it. Getting past that, SoulMates’ rendition of the Roberta classic was as soulful as it ever was.
Immediately after this song concluded, Jarrod then asked Bird, “What you thinking ‘bout, Jay?” I swallowed my drink quickly in fear of what his answer might be because I didn’t want to spray anyone near. Fortunately, the next selection was She’s Right (And I’m Wrong).
It was fine blues; so fine that all I could do was close my eyes and just hear it. Bird’s undercurrent was slow-moving and delicate. The guitar solo was fascinating—not blistering or intricate but enthralling in the choice of chord changes and tempo. Bird kept up that magic throughout the song. Jarrod’s powerful vocals in the bridge could almost make the hearer overlook that guitar thread. All the while, Reinhardt has a fine groove of his own which does not draw attention away but is completely supportive.
This is the thing: to use a word like “supportive” may bring to mind a style of playing that is less than refined or simply in the background. This is not the support given by SoulMates. Their support is in terms of holding up, of providing a structure, which is based on complete mastery. It means that the playing allows for the listener’s attention to go elsewhere. Reinhardt’s playing on this piece allows you to hear Bird’s guitar and Jarrod’s vocals. That is musicianship.
What followed was a rare treat. Let’s Stay Together is one of my favorite pieces of all time and it has been a long time coming into SoulMates’ playlist. It was worth the wait.
Let’s stay together
Loving you whether
Times are good or bad
Happy or sad
This is the happy refrain that is indicative of SoulMates’ approach to life and love. It is something that I have learned from them or, at least, have been reminded by them so often. In friendship and fellowship, let’s stay together.
The truth of the nicknames was fully in evidence when they broke into September for the next song on the set list. Jarrod doesn't reprise the electro-funk version of Earth, Wind and Fire, but writes sweet sexy soul all over it, SoulMates style.
Likewise, Bird creates a guitar melody with a repeated four-note descending scale that draws the listener into the ease of the soul. When the song returns to the vocals, all is at peace.
At the end of the song, an audience member asked incredulously, "Are you KIDDING me?" Jay "Bird" answers with simply, "SoulMates, baby."
Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay was rendered with such wistfulness that it turns Redding's blues upside down. Jarrod's delivery and Bird's guitarcraft steal the despair from the song and leave it with a smile. The audience loved it and Peter was shouting his approval from early on.
Reinhardt cuts straight into the groove for You Were Meant for Me. If you have read these articles for any length of time at all, you know how much Donny Hathaway means to me. You know how much SoulMates mean to me. So, you will have no problem in determining what impact it has on me when SoulMates do a Donny Hathaway tune.
But this one in particular... all three SoulMates take possession of this song like few others. There is a gentleness and a devotion in their delivery that is breathtaking. The chord changes and the solos and the vocals and the rhythm rain down pure paradise in the hearing of it. Sublime.
By request, Can't Hide Love was the next and final song of the first set. SoulMates turn loose the church-funk on this one and Peter reacts with joy to it. There is the call and response between vocals and guitar but then the audience picks up the response and soul-church is now in session. When the coda comes around, almost every voice in Quimby's is full-throated in their joining with the vocals.
As the set concluded, Jay "Bird" introduced the band with the words, "SoulMates! At the drums...Mr. Reinhardt Melz! And in this corner... the man made of soul himself, Mr. Jarrod Lawson!" Jarrod took over the intros with "And the Fingers of Fury... Mr. Jay "Bird" Koder!" A satisfying set.
After the intermission, Jarrod began the keyboard introduction and Reinhardt joins in as Bird picks up his guitar and Bird looks wide-eyed over at Jarrod and says, "I was going to call that, I swear." The song was Colours of the Day. It is a slow blues/soul bit that allows lots of room for vamp and drizzle and SoulMates turn it on. Truth is, the best portion of the song is what SoulMates do with it during the vamping. Just turn these guys loose and magic is the result.
It is a cool slide into Man4U which follows right on the heels. This is Bird's great composition--and he has many--that is just riveting. Riveting, I say! It gets Jonah Kobayashi shouting out and Peter Winchester singing along. Then there's that bridge that is the musical version of Bifrost. Add "Bird's" solo on top and you've got a treat.
I wrote at length about this song here: http://travisrogersjr.weebly.com/2/post/2012/07/birds-masterpieceman4u.html. Of course, it all bears repeating because the song is just that magnificent.
Someone requested a Stevie Wonder tune and SoulMates answered with A Place in the Sun. They had introduced this into their repertoire at the Water Front Blues Festival back in July. It fits them and they fit it. The andante tempo gives the feeling of stroll to find that place in the sun and Bird's stroll through the audience is representative of just that. But he brings the sun with him and wherever he plays is our place in the sun.
They stayed with Stevie Wonder into the next song which Bird called "some baby-making music." It is Chieko's favorite of all Stevie songs. Knocks Me Off My Feet is definitely one of those refuge songs. SoulMates' version has long been a place of strength and comfort for us but I have written of this before. It is a song that contains some of Bird's most ascendant guitar work, Jarrod's most demanding vocals, and Reinhardt's coolest groove. Can't get enough.
From Wonder to Gershwin... the great work Summertime followed after. It was written by George Gershwin as an aria for his opera Porgy and Bess. The lyrics were written by DuBose Heyward, who authored the novel Porgy upon which the opera is based. The song has been covered over 33,000 times, making it one of the most recorded songs in history.
It was first recorded by Abbie Mitchell and Gershwin himself in 1935. It was none other than Billie Holiday who made it a hit with her 1936 recording. Since then, it has become a jazz standard with subsequent recordings by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald in 1957, Sam Cooke (also in 1957), Miles Davis (1958), Janis Joplin (1968) as well as The Zombies in the same year. The Doors recorded the song live on such albums as Live in Boston. In 1998, Hubert Laws recorded the song for the Gershwin tribute album entitled Red Hot + Rhapsody. Norah Jones and Marian McPartland performed and recorded it in 2003. But nobody--and I mean nobody--has treated it as well as SoulMates.
The song's A minor tone make for a bluesy lullaby. In fact, the first time it is sung in Porgy and Bess, it appears as a lullaby. Billie Holiday made it straight-up blues, Ella and Satch made it the jazz standard, Miles Davis turned up the jazz, the Doors did something unholy with it by combining it into a mish-mash with Light My Fire/Summertime/My Favorite Things. Horrible. Then Janis Joplin turned it into a Baroque-psychedelic bombast. This just has to be seen and heard. Below is a YouTube link to a performance of Janis with Big Brother and the Holding Company in Stockholm, 1969.
It was time to close the music out for this Monday night but there is always time for one more Donny Hathaway song and Love, Love, Love is the perfect ending to send the audience home with a smile.
Love love love, why'd you take so long to come to me, oh baby
Love love love love tell me where you hiding
From me all the time
Each time I try to find someone to take your place
It was all in vain, no their lips were never quite the same
When I was kissing someone new, deep inside I was missing you
Oh baby, you make me fall in love with you
Now I don't know just what I'm gonna do
I looked out into empty space and all I saw was your
Love love love love can't imagine what you did to me, baby
And love love love every time you smile, it goes
Through me all the time
Day by day I'm falling more in love with you
And that's no lie, cross my heart and, honey, I hope to die
'Cuz I'm not trying to mislead you, believe me, girl, I really need you
Yeah, you made me fall in love with you
Now I don't know just what I'm gonna do
Yeah, I looked out into empty space and all I saw was your
The evening ended with smiles on every lovely face. No matter what the day holds, Monday night belongs to SoulMates.