Being a professional musician has it’s ups and downs for sure. It’s always a high point though, coming across great new talent and a fresh perspectives on the music. It’s even better when you get to play with them, as I did with the incredible Ron Artis II and his band The Truth a couple weeks ago.
First, Ron is just a beautiful cat. He brought his crack band out to open the West Coast run with G. Love & Special Sauce. He also brought the whole family, wife, two beautiful babies - and his brother Stefan who was just tearing up the drum kit. Even though I personally don’t think Rock and Roll (or much frankly) mixes with children of any sort, they handled it with aplomb, and they really lifted the vibe especially when Kelsey and Lew were out too.
G knows Ron from the North Shore (of Hawaii, where G plays solo every New Year) - so boom, we had him up slaying the six string on the encore right from the get-go. Man, Ron cuts a deep groove in the rock and Chicago blues guitar legacy - he was even killing some like-Prince style climaxes the other night. And then he blessed us with his singing, which was just like, wow . . . this guy is the real deal.
By the end of our tour we were having his brother Stefan come up to just, just - juice the drums! in his own style. This guy plays the kit like you’ve never seen - exuding passion. And I was so glad he was bringing some much needed energy to the, let’s face it - older, Special Sauce show.
Anyhow, Ron just spent a week here, (officially for the Soul’dOut Festival), but I brought my electric out and played a lunch hit at a high end firm beforehand. It was so fun to do a whole gig with them - as well as another member of the Artis clan, Thunderstorm - who has an incredible voice as well.
It was a privilege to be with them, and to do my best to rip into the songs and arrangements. Sometimes, when you have to learn a bunch of songs for a one-off, it can be like an arduous journey - the fine line of repetition vs. poetic disruption can be a lot harder to internalize than the standard forms of jazz. But, Ron’s songs have an internal logic, and a distinct reference point in the cannon - and they let the good times roll! I listened to his CD in the car a few times, then made some notes - found the hidden idiosyncratic bits. And that process is inherently fun and addictive, especially when it takes you into the wholeness of the song. And soon enough you can just follow the lyric, and your adaptive unconscious knows what to play.
Yea, Ron is in the groove, they were tearing up a handful of shows in town. I remember when we had a bit of that back in the day. It’s exciting and cool, but unnerving and disrupting too. Ron was dealing with the classic scenario - suddenly getting called to do another show or run, that starts as soon as you’re done. But that’s how it happens - he’s blowin’ up. Check him out now if you can.
Portland, Cool and Rainy as always.