Roots Report

Roots Report: First Official Online Column!

Okee dokee folks … This is my first “official” online column. My columns have been online, but just in versions of the print issues. This piece was written especially for the online issue. It took me a while to come around. Yeah, I am stubborn, but it is the wave of the future – actually it is the wave of the now.

I had a busy week going out to hear music. Thursday was Steve Forbert at The Met. Friday night I drove to Marlboro, MA, to hear the gypsy jazz of the Jason Anick Quartet. Saturday night I caught the sold out Hey Nineteen show at the Greenwich Odeum. I was going to go for one more on Sunday, but alas, I was fried.

The Met in Pawtucket is the as of yet undiscovered acoustic listening room. While it hosts plenty of rock shows, The Met is a great spot for the quiet acoustic shows. Steve Forbert reinforced this last Thursday night. He is best known for his song “Romeo’s Tune,” which reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1980. Armed with just one Gibson guitar, Forbert strummed quietly through his two sets. His passionate foot stomps echoed in the room and punctuated sections of his songs. Though Forbert was finicky about his sound during the first set and kept calling for adjustments, the sound was fine. He sounded great all night. The Met was set up café style with tables and chairs, and the venue takes great care to make sure the room is conducive to the crowd. Often Rich Lupo himself will set up chairs and tables – he told me that he likes to do it! The night got a local start with a solo acoustic set by multi Motif Award winner, Mark Cutler. He played acoustic versions of his familiar band tunes and introduced a couple of new songs. He apologized up front for his “novice playing” before donning a harmonica rack and blowing harp Dylan-style. It was fine. The show ran a bit longer than I thought it would for a Thursday night (“school night”) acoustic performance, but I am sure that all in attendance would agree that it was worth staying up a little bit later.


On Friday night I was invited up to check out a new venue in the city (town?) of Marlboro, MA. Does anyone else have a hard time pronouncing that or is it just me? My mouth gets all funny and it comes out as “maralralburrowowow” or something like that. Luckily, I don’t smoke or I wouldn’t be able to ask for those cigs! Oh, yeah, DON’T SMOKE! BAD! Anyway, one of the venues that I perform at, The CoffeeLoft in Marlboro, was the sponsor of this show and the owners wanted my take on the show. While I am not a huge Gypsy jazz fan, I really did enjoy the music of the Jason Anick Quartet. I have heard many Gypsy jazz bands and this one was probably the best. After five years of touring the globe with Grammy award winner John Jorgenson, Boston-based jazz violinist and Berklee College of Music instructor Jason Anick brought his virtuosic violin playing back home to Marlboro where he began his musical journey. The quartet included some of the more talented Gypsy jazz musicians performing today – Olli Soikkeli from Finland on lead guitar, Vinny Raniolo on rhythm guitar, and Greh Loughman on bass. At one point in the show, Olli Soikeli was playing a lead run and I was watching his fingers fly across the fret board. He nonchalantly looked away from his hands, looked at Jason, there was the unspoken communication that band members do, and all the time his fingers continued to blur across the strings. As a guitar player I know what it takes to play like this. I can’t. I know very few people who could even come close. If you like this style of music, definitely check out the Jason Anick Quartet.

I was excited when I learned that a new tribute band formed and they would cover the music of Steely Dan. I am not a hardcore SD fan, but I grew up with the hits and did see them once, about 20 years ago, at the Providence Civic Center. That PCC show was disappointing. The beauty of a tribute band is that they can usually recreate the music and the sound that you want to hear. The hits. This is something that a lot of big names don’t like to do. Take Bob Dylan. Errr. Let’s not, I’ll just anger the Dylan fans. Anyway, bands get tired of playing the hits and don’t perform them much, if at all, or change them so they are totally unrecognizable (un-enjoyable). I didn’t mean Dylan specifically, but yeah, he does that.

Getting back to Hey Nineteen’s debut show at the Greenwich Odeum last Saturday night – it was a huge success. The show sold out the 400-plus seat capacity of the Odeum. The 10-piece band members, Dale DeJoy, Ajay Coletta, Colin Nagle, Steve Caraccia, Joanna Casinno, Doug Siqueira, Beth Hammond, Greg Cambio, Joe LiVolsi, Don Smith and Doug Woolverton, are masters of their instruments and the music of Steely Dan. The crowd, made up of friends, SD fans, Main Street business neighbors and such, was enthusiastic and everyone really enjoyed themselves. Unfortunately, there were sound issues. I felt that it detracted from the show. I wasn’t sure who provided the sound, but I think a 10-piece band was more than they could handle competently. The other thing that drove me CRAZY all night (ok, it’s not a far drive) was the fact the lead guitar player was the band member who was farthest back on the stage, behind other members. He was in shadow the whole night – even during his solos. The BEST thing about the band is the two female singers, Beth Hammond and Joanna Cassino. They dress the part (complete with costume changes), have the voices, the moves and the live stage experience that was somewhat lacking in other areas. All in all, the band has the talent to pull this off and pull it off well. Like anything new, it all has to be worked in a bit to become a well-oiled machine. I am sure that they will just keep getting better. I would definitely recommend them and go see them again.

While I am in the recommending mode, here are just a couple of shows that you may want to get to. While I’m not a fan of those TV singing shows, I know that a lot of you are. I am, however, a fan of Luna’s Ladies Nights at The Roots in Providence, so maybe we can achieve a little promotional harmony here. On May 17, The Voice contestant Suzanna Choffel will headline Luna’s Ladies Night. Her performance of the Fleetwood Mac classic “Landslide” on the third season of NBC-TV’s The Voice landed her a place on Blake Shelton’s team. And with it came an outpouring of praise from fans and media from all around the world. Rolling Stone called her “the most intriguing” contestant on the show. Opening the show will be Susan Sousa.

Saturday, May 18, Biscuit City performs as part of Bill McGrath’s Music Series at the American Legion, Post 15 on 1016 Main Street in East Greenwich. The Biscuit City band has been invited back, and this time, special guests will include Chris Brooks on pedal steel and Cathy Clasper-Torch on fiddle. Finally, Frankie O’Rourke and his band will be celebrating 40 years of music with friends at The Met on Sunday, May 19 from 4 to 8 pm. Special guests include Kenn Reynolds, Tim Shaw, Ken Johnson, Paul Mellyn, Mike Kennedy, Tex & Yo, Brian Minisce and others. Admission is free.

So, I may be doing an episode of MotifTV soon. Look for that. Maybe I will get to that faster than writing for the web version of Motif! By the way, just a public service message for all you guitar players out there – BRING YOUR OWN DAMN GUITAR CORD to a gig. It is VERY UNPROFESSIONAL not to! Thanks for reading.

John Fuzek