Jazz Fusion!!! FUUUUUUUUSION!!! This was to be special night of music. First night of fusion music all year. God that word alone makes me tingly….There are certain things that are constantly stirring in the back of my head on any given day. Oddly enough, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think of fusion…of artists like Al Di Meola, Zawinul, Stanley Clark, Chick Corea, George Benson, Jean-Luc Ponty, George Duke. Just their gorgeous sounds…I hear it in my head all the time…Oh dear lord, I’m getting heated. If you have never listened to these artists, I DEMAND you download anything by them…IMMEDIATELY!
Those artists were my musical muses in that genre when I was growing up. I remember buying my first Al Di Meola cd as all my friends were buying the new Dave Matthews Band cd, back in 9th grade. I remember the looks I got and being told what a waste of money that was. Some people just can’t be taught 🙂 I have to give a shout out to my father for playing jazz around me all my life and blocking MTV/VH1 and BET from the cable lineup! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Fusion is my favorite genre of music and for you funk lovers, I apologize but that is the way it is! Nothing will ever change it. The beauty about this evening was that Richie Goods & Nuclear Fusion would be delivering a heavy hand of funk laden fusion music and I was SO HAPPY!!! Having been invited to the performance by Jeffery Lockhart, we spoke prior to the show and he sounded terrible. The poor dear was sick as a dog but he is a rager and was making his way from Boston! The show must go on…
Heading to the venue, terribly excited about shooting the show and reviewing it, I heard a piano player in the subway and saw an upright being played by the stairs. How the HELL did he get that thing into the subway? I knew I had to take a picture but as I want for my camera, it wasn’t there. Are you kidding me? I NEEEEEEVER forget my camera and there was no time to go and get it before the show started. I was devastated…yes, devastated.
I arrived at The Zinc Bar 30 minutes before the show. Members of Nuclear Fusion were gathered near the front of the venue as the band playing before them was still occupying the stage. There was poor Jeffery, half sprawled out on a couch trying to hold his head up and fighting the groggy meds. Hugs and introductions were exchanged and the first thing Jeffery says…”Let me see that camera you work with!” I about died, of course. “That’s ok, you are talented and will figure it out.” He’s a good man!
Being introduced to Lionel Cordew, a last minute drummer replacement, he was super chatty and nice. We spoke about autistic children who are musical geniuses. About the kid who writes complete symphonies in his head and only writes them out when he has finished mentally composing them. And the kid who, once you ask him to play a song, can play it in any musical genre you want. It’s amazing how the world works! Richie Goods walks over and introductions make their rounds again. He recalls me from our discussions over Facebook and smiles abound. This is a great group of men, a great group of talent. I am a lucky, lucky lady!
The Zinc Bar is just swanky cool, with a long bar to your left leading the way to a intimate space with the stage in the back. There were oriental rugs under my feet and on stage, lovely jazz music like Etta James, Dean Martin and Billy Holiday being played on the speakers. The small round tables were candlelit, 2 to 6 seaters, very intimate. The lights were low and the mood was romantic. There were numerous people on dates and it was a good choice on whoever’s part as the music that night was perfect for date night! Someone’s gettin’ lucky!!!
I take a seat in the front so I could ATTEMPT to capture pictures with my camera phone, yes, my camera phone. Oh the horror….I am disgusted at my forgetfulness. Especially, as I turned in my seat and saw Jeffery’s cheetah print guitar case that I so desperately wanted a picture of! Jeffery comes over and places his glasses on my table, “These are prescription,” and with that he takes to the stage with Richie Good and Nuclear Fusion.
Wait a minute, who was this lovely female sitting down at the keys? A FEMALE fusion keys player! WORD!!!!! Her name is Helen Sung and she is fierce. But more about her later…
The manager sees my notebook and pen and introduces himself. He is the one and only Jean Claude of The Zinc Bar who has been with them 15 years and I felt like I knew him immediately. An infectious character, his energy and charisma alone makes me want to go back to Zinc, just for a hug 🙂
After a little technical difficulty with the amps, it was show time. The stage, from left to right, went: Lionel Cordew on drums, Richie Goods on bass, Helen Sung on Keys and Jeff Lockhart on the guitar. Yes sir! Sound check commenced, I heard the bass tease a little and I sat a little straighter in my chair. The immediate thought I had in my head, which I scribbled into my notes at that point was: There is so much positive to embrace right now, it’s quite easy to release the negative. The music hadn’t even started yet and already I was getting emotional in my heart and poetic in my mind. All it took was a strum of Richie’s bass.
What a lovely combination of artists. And Jean Claude fully agreed. Introducing the band in his lovely thick French accent, he fiercely praised Richie Good as they had been working together for over 15 years. What a friendship. As he descended the stage to let them play, he literally skipped away with happiness.
Going right into the first song, a medley of tunes written by Richie and intro written by Helen called Soul Glow, they got it started. The introduction to the song showcased Helen and I was immediately hooked. A female fusion keys player…I loved it! After Helen brought us in with the fusion, Richie and Jeff picked it up with the funk. Jean Claude makes his round to the front screaming: “YES! YES!” It’s Jeffery’s turn to plug a solo, filling the space that needs to be filled. Richie’s bass is funk throughout and Helen’s smile never fades as she keeps the fusion sound flowing through the funky bass laden song. Jean Claude comes over to my table, kisses me on the check and darts off again. Jeffery gave us a lovely solo again before he nods everyone else into the mix for the ending.
Sorceress by Lenny White would be next. Jean-Claude screams “Talk to me now! Yes! Bring it!” Richie’s bass teases in the guitar. I was reminded of Victor Wooten and focused directly on Richie. The scene on stage was not loud and intense by any means but the feelings that were coming off of Richie’s facial expressions were deep and it looked like he was screaming when he played. This was his time to shine….he raged, slapping the bass with funk, for a solid 3 minutes. Moving to the front of the stage and radiating his feelings of music through his body and out his fingers. And then it was time for the Nuclear team to come together. Jeffery has some major foot play with his pedals. There was a lot of droney note holding and manipulations of his sound. At one point it reminded me of the Sirens from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou! After some playful instrumental banter between Jeffery and Helen, Helen moved forward with Richie to lead the song. I LOVED HELEN! I just loved how her fingers swiftly and fiercely struck the keys, she barely taped them it appeared. Her fusion vibe threaded through out every song that night under the funky beat of the strings. It was now time for a drummer solo rage from Lionel. He was chewing gum and is also a face making machine so it provided for some interesting combination of looks!! This was his first time playing with the group as the original drummer, Mike Clark, was unable to make it. (Jeffery coughs ~ Poor Jeffery) Helen soloed again and Jeffery snuck in with a few scraps of strums of his strings. At this point, a conga player (later find out his name is Victor Jones) sat down at some rouge congas and started playing. Smiles between the players abounded.
“Welcome to The Zinc Bar,” says Richie as he addresses the crowd for the first time that night! He shouted out the names of tunes which helped me drastically. He explained that this 3rd song is what he feels a fusion/jazz/funk band might sound like in the desert, thus Desert Jam ensued. The opening solos by Richie and Helen were gorgeous. It was ethereal, floaty throng of space action, beautiful bass play over the twinkling of the keys. One of only two original songs on his CD, Desert Jam was slow, gorgeous, light. Eyes were closed, light taps on the cymbals. Mmm, bouncy bass, funky keys and guitar together….definitely a tune with its fingers in some kind of Arabic/tribal undertones. They conversed on a solo and Jeffery was to take the reins first. He took his trip around the desert and it was AWESOME!!!! With a slow, strummy pickin’ of his guitar, changing his sounds as the others on stage gave him a pallet of to fill in the blanks at his leisure. There is a time and place for every note to be played. Jeffery knows when to hit it, when to wait, when to plow in and when to give slow restraint. Heavy deep drawn out notes come from his guitar as if he were having a fight in that desert. It was upbeat, as if he came to fight and with their shifty eyes, the group all came back together in play. Richie rages a high noted solo that brought him up on his toes!! It was deep and brought a bit of funk to an other wise relaxing song. Lionel’s sticks go down and he uses his fingers and hand on the drums to get his sounds heard! I started picturing camels, sand, oasis…I quite literally felt Richie Goods had encapsulated just what a funk/jazz/fusion band would sound like in the desert. It was my favorite song of the night.
It was time for Richie to address the crowd again. “Judging by what I think your ages are I think you all might know this song. However, not many people have heard it in a jazz vein before. It’s a pop tune from the 80’s and I want to see how many of yall figure it out.” (Jeff coughs – poor, poor Jeff) And they went into it!! Richie started off with his bass, picking up the intro to the song, a sexy sound came from the bass. It took me until Helen played the chorus on the keys to realize it was Shout by Tears of Fears. Honestly, I only knew the lyrics and was singing it under my breath as soon as it started but couldn’t place the band. But they certainly “let is all out” during this song. I always love hearing songs being performed out of their styles. It’s one of the beautiful things about music. I love manipulation of sounds. With both Jeffery and Richie playing in unison, Lionel was granted a little drummer rage and then Helen. Richie smiled as Jeffery holstered his guitar on his leg, the song turns into a jammy jammy tune when Helen raged the keys, as Richie blasts that giant white smile of his! So cute! Even though this song was one everyone knew at points, during the solos and the breakoffs you would never know what song it was. Improvisation is one of the beauties of fusion. Everyone plays and it comes together to create a complicated grouping of sounds that work as one. Then it was a full stop, you could hear a pin drop, and then the drum SLAMS into a FUNKY beat, the remaining players bring the song to a close.
Man, so at this point some drunk girl tried scatting…it was HORRID! Being ADHD and being able to hear EVERYTHING in the background like a damn (insert non-hard of hearing animals type here), it overwhelmed my senses immediately and immediately began ruining my experience. So, being the bratty musical bitch I am, it only took me a few minutes before I finally had to just turn around, look her dead in the eyes and just say fiercely, “NO WAY MAN! STOP!” A few patrons clapped and smiled at me and I knew I had done the right thing. I didn’t feel like a bitch anymore hahahaha!
Time for the CD plug!!! Richie Goods & Nuclear Fusion: Live at The Zinc Bar!! I was lucky enough to be given a CD by Jeffery and have been listening to it the entire time I have been sitting here writing. It is gorgeous and fun and pretty and full of funky fusion vibes. I encourage you all to buy it.
The last song was another Lenny White cover called Dark. The strings and drums start off the first few measures as the keys float in shortly after. Helen stood out in my ears during this song. As well as Richie’s giant smile! I had run to the restroom at this point and on the way back, caught myself dancing behind the tables and the hippie in me wanted to call everyone to their feet. The KAREN in me wanted to run around pulling everyone out of their seat 🙂 It’s hard to sit down at concerts…SERIOUSLY hard for me! Richie came in with another bass solo that brought him to the front of the stage, back up on his toes when he hit those higher notes. He is non-stop with that bass. His flow, his determination, his body movements, his facial expressions…he is a whole package of funky fusion bass playing and I fell in love with his sound and energy that night. He has the distinction of being the youngest person ever inducted into the Pittsburgh Jazz Hall of Fame. I encourage you all to check him out immediately. He must have raged his solo for at least 5 minutes. It was FUNKY with what felt like Latin undertones coming through…hot, slow, fast, just HOT! The Latin vibe made way for the fusion/funk again and the droney sounds of Jeffery’s guitar picked up and the pedal work commenced. Helen backs out on the keys and it’s over. Just like that.
There were two sets played that night. I enjoyed the first set so much that I remained for the entirety of the second. During the set break, Jeffery sat down and we talked about music, family, him being sick and feeling like death. Poor Jeffery! I asked him what influenced him to pick up a guitar and he explained that his brother had brought home a Jimi Hendrix CD and played Purple Haze. Yeah, I can see how that might want to make someone pick up a guitar also hahaha! The second set was identical to the first with a few rearrangements of the song set list and with a whole new sound of improvisational jazzy funk fusion. Richie blasted right into his bass rage and I knew their first set had warmed them up for an explosive second. And so I closed my notebook, propped my feet up and soaked up every note with a huge smile on my face. Thank you Richie Goods for putting together a fantastic set of artist and making my Wednesday night complete!