Over the Weekend...Jason Vigil, Rob Drabkin, Reed Foehl, Joshua Novak, Gregory Alan Isakov, John Common, Tito del Barrio Malaga and Greg Harris Vibe Quintet @ Westword Music Showcase

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Westword Music Showcase
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge

I’ve seen a ton of jazz shows at Dazzle -- since the place does primarily bring in jazz acts -- but I’ve never seen the place rock as much it did on Saturday with energetic sets from Jason Vigil, Joshua Novak and their bands.

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After Vigil’s vigorous set, which included “Because of You” and “Everything,” Rob Drabkin took the stage, saying he had played a bridal shower earlier that morning, and joked that he was a still a bit traumatized from the event. But it didn’t seem to affect him enough to get in the way of fine set. Accompanied by cello players Leslie Dawe and Wesley Michaels and violinist Ian Short, Drabkin and company delivered solid versions of “She Comes and Goes” and “Sweet Things.” Then a guy from the crowd yelled, “Whole New World.” Drabkin didn’t seem too keen on the idea, but he relented saying, “For the next two minutes I’m going to make a fool of myself, but I’m cool with that.” He then busted into the hit song from Disney’s Aladdin, which got some laughs as he sang the female parts in falsetto. Gotta give Drabkin props for being a good sport.

The first I’d heard Drabkin was also at Dazzle about a year and half ago when he organized songwriter in the round show with two other performers on Saturday’s bill: Gregory Alan Isakov and Reed Foehl. Early in Foehl’s solo acoustic set, he played a new song that he’d written for his friend’s wedding that will appear on his forthcoming album, which he’s been recording with the Be Good Tanyas in Vancouver. He also did some superb renditions of “St John’s Smith Square” and “Chances Are” from his Stoned Beautiful album.

Following Foehl’s stoic set, Novak and his band upped the energy level with “Tidal Wave” and kept things buoyant throughout the their half hour set. Seeing him solo is one thing, but with his rhythm section backing him, Novak and crew really kick things up a notch.

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That first time I saw Isakov solo at Dazzle a year and a half ago, it was a damn near magical experience. When he plays solo, I’ve seen him completely captivate audiences. On Saturday, he had his band, the Freight, with him. He was up against a more boisterous crowd who talked through a good portion of his set, but it didn’t stop him from laying down a great set, especially the jazzy “Salt and Sea,” which always reminds me of Cole Porter’s jazz standard “Night and Day.” Jen Gilleran laid down some wonderful brush work throughout the tune. The band followed with the upbeat “Drank All Wine,” with Jeb Bows adding some deft violin lines.

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I’d seen John Common perform Tom Waits’ brilliant album Rain Dogs in its entirety twice. Any guy who’s that big of Waits fan is all right in my book. When common played his new “love song” called “Go to Hell With Me,” I head a bit of Waits in there. After he played “The Dreamers,” Common asked the crowd if they wanted to hear something intense or pretty and beautiful. The crowd seemed to be split, but Common decided on something pretty, and played “Good Heart,” with some sublime vocal help from the lovely Jess De Nicola Mefford.

Tito del Barrio Malaga, who followed Common, raised the temperature in the room a few notches with a fiery set of world fusion that incorporates the music of seven countries, with Latin and Arabic influences being quite prominent. After a cumbia tune, the group launched into “Mi Esposa,” which will appear on the group’s new album alongside the truly awesome “Que Neccicito.” These dudes were burning on all cylinders fueled by some robust percussion and swift flamenco playing by Samir Es Yesfi.

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Greg Harris was one of the highlights of last year’s Westword’s Music Showcase at Dazzle, and with his Vibe Quintet in tow he delivered another remarkable set. Harris and crew dug deep into some grooves, especially the push-and-pull feel of “Flank Fuzz,” in which Harris fully tore it up on the vibes. Harris and guitarist Matt Fuller also took full command of things on an extended jaunt through “Frames,” which also appears the band’s live album Frames Live that the group recorded at Dazzle in 2006.

-- Jon Solomon

Critic’s Notebook
Personal Bias:
Unfortunately most of the jazz acts couldn’t make this year’s showcase due to prior commitments or being out of town, but it was still a damn fine eclectic group of acts.
Random Detail: A guy who looked like an older version of Brett Michaels seemed to really dig Novak’s set.
By the Way: The room was packed for nearly every act.



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