Saturday, April 10, 2010

Recap: A Celebration of Life

The night began respectfully low key, with no pageantry or fanfare, as Son Jack Jr. & Michael Wilde played an impassioned and tasteful set of back porch blues. The Highway 99 Dance Band (Scotty Harris , Lissa Ramaglia, Andrew Cloutier, Justin Kausal-Hayes , Tony Gable) warmed things up with their cozy blend of west coast swing and classic soul. The great Kim Field sat in for a tune to close their set. Then Jimmy Holden got on stage and commanded everyone’s attention with a heartfelt monologue during which you could hear a pin drop as easily as a tear trickle. He comfortably slid into a slow groove with a makeshift version of his band featuring Danny Hoefer, Butch Harrison, Tony Gable, and Steve Sarkowsky. Lady A sat in for a couple tunes as well. From there, modern day jazz legend and one of Seattle's favorite sons, Michael Powers, demonstrated that an electric ukele can rock the house indeed. Michael arrived solo and assembled his band tonight on the fly - with Tony Gable, Andrew Cloutier & Paul Richardson - and they sounded like they've played a thousand shows together. Michael & Co. blew the roof apart with a set-closing instrumental version of James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)." At this point, Highway 99 owner Ed Maloney delivered a rousing and heartfelt toast to Greg. In the last five years, Ed has possibly spent more time with Greg than with his wife. Add an acute case of stage fright and fear of public speaking to his heavy heart, and clearly, this was a difficult moment for him.It was from the heart, he fought the tears back by removing his glasses to avoid eye contact, and in the end we all raised a glass.

Next up, Bump Kitchen (Tony Harper, Everett James, Mark Bittler, Dave Broyles, Joe Bevens, Tom Mazzuca) re-channeled the energy in the room into a bumpin' dance party. When they closed their set with a raucous version of Bill Withers' "Use Me," Greg's widow was dancing in her booth. Then, Teri Wilson & Suze Sims of the Red Hot Blues Sisters did their thing with a pick-up band anchored by Steve Sarkowsky behind the kit, with Nick Vigarino, Greg Lyons and Tony Gable sitting in. For their closer, the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There" the sisters were joined by Lee Oskar.

The showstopping set was delivered by Lee Oskar & Friends, comprising Scotty Harris, Lissa Ramaglia, Andrew Cloutier, Tim Lerch, Paul Richardson, Tony Gable, and 2009 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees Harold Brown & Lee Oskar. Suze Sims sat in on percussion. Ed Maloney snuck in there and slapped the bongos during "Low Rider."

As the show was coming to a close, the great Jon Goforth and Steve Banks showed up straight from their gig at the Snoqualmie Casino. They knew the proper show as over but they wanted to jam, so they grabbed Jimmy Holden and played an hour-long set of sweet, casual grooves with drums, organ and sax.

In addition to all who played on this special night, there were many great musicians in the house who didn't get stage time but who just came down to support and honor a friend. Among those folks were Patty May, Jeff Herzog, LJ Porter, Flo Braxton, Greg Roberts, Robin Moxey, and Mark Whitman.

Rich Clark from Triamp Productions donated the backline, without which an event like this is not possible to pull off. For the non-musicians out there, backline means drums, guitar amps, bass rigs, keyboards, and guitar stands. By setting the stage with backline that everyone will share, the musicians only need to bring their instruments, turning the stage over from one band to another does not require breaking down one drum kit and setting up another (20-30 minutes), replacing amps and so forth. This allows for a more continuous flow of music with much shorter breaks, which means more entertainment in a shorter time for the audience, also allowing for more musicians to get stage time. Rich's contribution here can not be overstated.

Scotty Harris, on two days notice, stepped up as bandleader. Herding dozens of musicians to execute a stage production schedule like this one normally requires a whole lot more lead time than two days. We could have done this event a few weeks later with a more reasonable and rational time frame to pull it off. But we wanted to raise money and get it into Greg's family's hands before this weekend's burial, to ensure they wouldn't have to go out-of-pocket for anything. It wasn't easy, but Scotty was up to the task and he pulled it off marvelously.

It was a Wednesday night, always a tough night to get people out of the house. This thing was put together in five days and nobody saw Greg's untimely passing coming. With the help of many kindred spirits spreading the word via telephone and Internets, most noticeably our friends Chollo Willsin and Michelle Burge, 141 people donated a total of $3208 to the Thompson Family. Terry Gottlieb from American Music, who had graciously donated his time to run sound and production, threw down another $500. Ed Maloney hit the ATM and matched it from his personal bank account, bringing the total funds raised to $4208, which was given to the Thompson Family at the end of the night.

All we wanted to do was raise money for the Thompsons, show the family a good time at a time when they could really use one, and celebrate Greg's life. And with everyone's participation and contributions, together we did it. Not bad for a bunch of like-minded blues and jazz lovers on short notice. Some photos:

Nick Vigarino w/ Suze Sims & Teri Wilson

Michael Powers, Andrew Cloutier (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Lee Oskar & Suze sims (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Bump Kitchen (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Lady A (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Kim Field, Scotty Harris (photo by Erika Olsen)

Teri Wilson (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Scotty Harris (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Jimmy Holden Band (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Ed Maloney (photo by Jef Jaisun)

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