Regatta Bar

Debo Band – October 18, 2013

Dear Debo Band,

YOU GUYS ROCK.

Bobby.

For those of you not in the group, Debo Band is a 10-piece Ethiopian-American jazz-funk-rock group unlike anything you’ve probably ever heard. The band is led by saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and fronted by vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. Debo Band brings energy, musicality, and performance together in ways that are unique but still engagingly accessible. This is partially because of its eclectic influences, partly because of its distinctive collection of instruments. A drum kit, a trombone, a sousaphone, a violin, a guitar, a bass, a trumpet, a sax, an accordion, and a vocalist make up one of the more distinguishing ensembles on tour. Debo Band’s eclectic sound is what makes them so interesting, but it is the band’s energy that makes them so fun. The cohesion of the group, infusion of accordion solos, rhythmic violin, and wall of brass sound help carry the energetic vocals.

You’ve probably experienced bands that make people get up and dance. Maybe you were at a dance hall. Maybe you were at a music festival. Until Friday, I had never experienced this in a jazz club in Cambridge. By the time the band reached the end of their set, half of the audience was dancing with the vocalist, and the other half was keeping time. This band is supremely fun and Tesfaye is so engaging that any audience would have a hard time not getting involved with Debo Band’s performances. It’s hard to capture this kind of group’s energy on recording, but if you want to get a taste for the flavor and energy that Debo Band brings live, “Belomi Benna” is a great place to start. If you get the chance, see this group live and check out their debut self-titled album.

~ Bobby Ortega (blues guitarist, graduate student at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology)

Dr. Stanley Sagov

Saturday, October 5 at The Regattabar

When you talk to a musician about the sound he/she is trying to attain, the words “color” or “texture” are more than likely going to come up. In many regards, the concepts of sound, sight, and feelings are often combined when a musician thinks about qualities of music he/she is trying to attain. Stanley Sagov & The Remembering The Future Jazz Band exemplify this. Along with performance painter Nancy Ostrovsky, the band makes you question whether you’re hearing more colors or seeing more sounds in the course of a performance.

Ostrovsky’s painting captured the color and the feel of what the performance was like. Striking, vibrant, smooth, and cool describe both the sound of the band and the paintings. To be honest, though, I don’t think the word “cool” even does this group real justice. This group is comprised of jazz veterans who make performing at a high level look as easy as walking into the room. The group plays a smooth fusion of American and South African Jazz, with the occasional inflection of blues, as was most evident in their rendition of “Stormy Weather.”

Dr. Stanley Sagov leads the band on piano and, along with being an excellent pianist, did a phenomenal job of selecting pieces, always seeming to know what the audience needed to hear at various points of the performance. John Lockwood (bass) and Bob Gullotti (drums) provided non-stop driving rhythm, while Robert Douglas Gay (alto sax), Stan Strickland (tenor sax, flute, vocals), and Mike Peipman (trumpet, digeridoo) belted melodies and monstrous solos. On several occasions, Wannetta Jackson joined the group as primary vocalist. All members of the band were highly engaged with the audience, which only made this particular performance more memorable. SS&TRTFJB are currently promoting their new CD, Always Remembering the Future.

– Bobby Ortega (blues guitarist, graduate student at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology)

MusAner at The Regattabar

MusAner: you’re probably trying to figure out what that name means. You might even be unsure of what the band plays. There’s good reason for both of these. MusAner describe themselves as a “folk-fusion” group, but I think even that is a little ambiguous. This group’s music is really hard to pin down in all the best ways, sometimes sounding like smooth jazz, at times like gypsy rock. The Boston-based group takes Armenian folk influences and mixes in jazz, and maybe a hint of Western Classical music. What adds even more to this group’s unique performance is its constantly rotating cast.

The group typically features its pianist, Ara Sarkissian, who also arranges for the group. This week’s performance will include vocals by Aleksan Harutyunyan, a traditional Armenian singer. Personally, I think this is one of the coolest groups out there at the moment. The constantly rotating cast, the group’s ability to move from jazz jams to Armenian folk dances, and above all, the band’s undefinable sound makes this one of the performances that I’m most looking forward to watching this year.

MusAner will be playing at Regattabar at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, October 8. Doors open at 6:50.

~ Bobby Ortega (blues guitarist, graduate student at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology)