I love it when a plan comes together!
Actually, I never watched that show, but Hannibal’s catch phrase from The A-Team applies here nonetheless. The opportunity presented itself to see two groups I had only seen once each at two venues I had only visited once each, less than a mile apart! SCORE!
Two days earlier, I had finally made it to Timpano’s Italian Chophouse to hear some great straight-ahead jazz with Acme Jazz Garage. Jazz standards and pop tunes were treated with loving care by the quartet, and they mentioned that they would be at The Independent Bar and Café in Tampa Saturday. Then I saw that Sweet Water Revolver, a wonderful vocal duet I was lucky enough to hear several weeks ago, would be right down the street at Florida Avenue Brewing Company. Wild horses…
Did I also mention that both places have great dark beer on tap (you know, real beer: porters and stouts)? As if I needed any extra convincing.
This promised to be a very different affair than the Thursday night at Timpano’s. That set was perfect for its setting, and it was exactly what I wanted to hear at the time. At the Independent, the group would be able to stretch out and get funky, again very much in keeping with the environs. The Independent is an old filling station from the 30s or 40s (I think), handsomely restored as a bar with the band and many patrons outside on the patio, a perfect fit there in Seminole Heights.
Acme Jazz Garage had expanded to a quintet for the evening, with Rick Runion on tenor sax. He got off to a good start with a nice solo on the opening “Hamp’s Hump.” An Eric Gale tune (“When Tokyo?”) followed with some interesting time changes.
If your group plans to attempt the Crusaders’ “Put It Where You Want It,” the guitar player had better nail his part. Matt Swenson was all over it, as I grinned ear to ear. Runion had fun with this one, too. I was sitting on the bench right next to Bryan Lewis, keyboard player for Serotonic and AJG. On Thursday, he had a baby grand to work with. For this funky workout, Lewis had a keyboard that worked as electric piano and organ equally well, and it was a blast watching him play.
AJG is working on recording songs for a new CD, and next we heard two of bassist Philip Booth’s compositions. “Mr. G.P.” was written in honor of Mr. George Porter, Jr., the king of New Orleans bass. The title harkens back to Coltrane’s tune for his bassist, Paul Chambers, the classic “Mr. P.C.” It was Meters-inspired, and Booth stepped out nicely.
Booth’s second song was “Zag.” Jordan Garno, guitar player for Serotonic, was there and said how much he like Diehl’s approach. Diehl then proceeded to swing his ass off, followed by a great solo from Lewis, Booth’s walking bass and another great effort from Runion. The group then slowed everything down with a superb reading of Duke Pearson’s “Idle Moments.” Swenson and Lewis did the original with Grant Green and Pearson proud; this was beautiful.
Lewis had “Fungi” written on his setlist. So I had to ask: would that be “Fungii Mama” by Tom Browne? Hell, yeah! Then Booth reminded me that Browne covered it, but Blue Mitchell wrote it and recorded it back in his Blue Note days, with Chick Corea! I love music history! And the set closed with Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” the Headhunters version, not the original! Lewis blew this one up first on the electric piano, and Swenson and Runion piled on.
The second set yielded another Booth original, “Rubberman,” that really jammed. Everybody got in his licks on this one. An outrageously funky “Footprints,” the Wayne Shorter tune, came spilling out next. I scribbled, “WOW!” And I was right. WOW.
Songs such as “Back at the Chicken Shack” are perfect vehicles for every band member to hit the funky blues, and again it was a team effort. Booth and Diehl really shone.
Lewis’ setlist just had “Teen Spirit” written at the end. Diehl said they were closing with their version of Nirvana. And what emerged was a spirited, wild, funkified dark look at the Nirvana hit. Booth credits the inspiration for this version to the Bad Plus. The full crowd had been listening all night, but I assure you the band had their full attention at this point. Lewis had a monster solo to launch the tune, and then the band slowed it down for an inventive solo from Runion, followed by Swenson and Lewis battling back and forth.
Swenson channeled Grant Green for me on the encore, Herbie’s “Cantaloupe Island,” with Booth riding herd underneath. Great weather, great music, great beer, great people. If it gets any better than that, let me know.
After ‘forcing’ them to autograph my poster, I headed down the street to Florida Avenue Brewing. I knew it was late, but I was hoping to catch a set from Sweet Water Revolver.
I was doubly in luck. The ladies had one set to go, and this was their last day in the Tampa area. As we speak they are headed back to British Columbia, which is about as far from Tampa as you can get if you’re not Yukon Cornelius.
Sweet Water Revolver is a duet, two musical ladies with stunning voices. For this performance, Rama and Ashton Cheromaya were joined by Nathalia Estrada on drums (and, later, piano, guitar and vocal). Nathalie has a group called Orchid Theory, and I first saw them the night I also ‘discovered’ Sweet Water Revolver and saw another favorite, Christie Lenée, all at FABC, an extremely comfortable listening room.
Rama started the set playing guitar, Ashton on keyboards. They began with a tune of Rama’s titled “MelodRAMA.” Immediately, their soaring harmony vocals were filling the room and my head with magic. Nathalia, who plays guitar in her band, sounded great on traps. Rama and Ashton play beautifully, which sets up their wonderful singing.
At this point, I lost any semblance of a setlist, not that it mattered. Rama played a Celtic-style song next as Ashton just sang. Then Ashton took the guitar, and Rama played her drum. Rama dedicated a song to Ashton, and at some point I wrote this:
“I cannot imagine a set more beautiful than this.”
I confess this genre is barely known to me, and I’m sure there are lots of others making beautiful music out there. But it’s hard to imagine anybody sounds better at what they do than Sweet Water Revolver.
With that, they delivered a magnificent Imogene Heap tune, a cappella, and I melted into a puddle. Nathalia, who is also a wonderful singer, grabbed a guitar, and she and Rama sang “There’s a ring around the moon.”
Double your pleasure, double your fun…
I had a wonderful, wonderful night. Great to see Jordan and Kelly-Ann, Callie, and Ashton’s mom!
Thanks to Veronica at The Independent for supporting live music!
Travel safely home, ladies! And I apologize once again for my lousy photography.
[ACME JAZZ GARAGE: SET 1: Hamp’s Hump, When Tokyo?, Valerie, Put It Where You Want It, Mr. G.P., Zag, Idle Moments, Fungii Mama, Watermelon Man; SET 2: Chicken Fried Snake, Rubberman, (Funky) Footprints, Back at the Chicken Shack, Smells Like Teen Spirit; E: Cantaloupe Island]
February 11, 2015 @ 2:25 pm Philip Booth
Scott: Really appreciate having your voice on the music scene, to give an account of some of the great local and national music coming through our area. On a personal level, I wanna say a great big thanks for checking out Acme Jazz Garage and putting your background, knowledge and writing skills to work — not to mention your time and energy — in your reviews of our shows. You do us all a great service by spreading the word about our music. Keep on trucking!
January 18, 2017 @ 6:49 pm scott
Never saw this comment until now, thanks to WordPress. Thanks! Looking forward to hearing you soon.