Summer News from La Playa

PERFORMANCE UPDATE Like much of our transition from our busy life in the USA to the slower, but surprise laden pura vida of the sub-equatorial tropics, returning to life as a performing musician has been somewhat of a whirlwind experience since I took out my guitar in public for the first time here a few short months ago. One of our first ventures out into the local music scene here was to attend an annual 3 weekend music festival back in March that's held just down the road from us. I was eager to check out more of the region's music, but I actually ended up sitting in for most of the second set of one of the concerts with one of the latin jazz bands at that festival, Plan B, when their guitarist wasn't able to make the gig. That turned out to be the kickoff of a great season of playing for me. Since mid-April, music has been keeping me very busy - so much so that I'm very much enjoying a break this week from the intensity of my playing schedule the last 6 weeks, cutting back to 3 nights instead of 4 or 5. No, I'm no longer on "permanent vacation." The opportunity came along for me to plug into the local music scene, and suddenly I was playing 4 - 5 nights a week here at 3 or 4 different venues for 2 solid months. Puerto Viejo offers a unique opportunity for a musician like me who is comfortable and reasonably competent playing in a variety of styles and genres. Being the primary ecotourism destination on this coast, the town gets a regular flow of travelers from North America and Europe coming through, so there is almost always a good share of new listeners in the audience, many of whom are interested in the local culture as well as some contact with their own usual musical leanings. Another plus about my main performance venue here, El Loco Natural, which is our favorite eating and drinking spot, is its emphasis on natural foods and a very comfortable atmosphere for both listening and just relaxing and hanging out with friends, which has made it a popular local ex-pat hangout as well. I now play at the Loco 2-3 nights a week, with each night offering a different musical combination and flavor. So currently, if you should come to Puerto soon, you'll find me playing a variety of styles ranging from the local Calypso, reggae rock, Latin pop and Bossa, to straight ahead jazz, blues, funk, and even some hiphop, along with my originals and jazzed up acoustic instrumental arrangements of a growing repertoire of my favorite cover tunes. On Thursdays I'm the lead guitarist with a semi-traditional Limonese Calypso group led by Junior Alvarez, a 62 year old AfriCaribean guitarist/vocalist from Nicaragua who also played bass for a few years in Jamaica with a lot of big names in the reggae world. The Bluefields style Calypso that we do is great fun music for dancing and a lot of fun to play. Then on Saturdays the Loco house band, the Playa Negra Social Club, does a repertoire that includes some of my songs, some newer tunes by Michael Franti I've brought in, along with new arrangements we've put together of old blues, R & B and rock covers from the 60's and 70's - everything from the Beatles to Hendrix, and of course, a dose of Santana and Bob Marley, along with some original reggae stuff the other 2 guys have been doing here for years. The core group is a trio, with Junior Alvarez on bass and Carter V (house percussionist and venue co-owner) on drums & congas, but we're frequently joined by percussionists Sandro Anderson and Jeff Et, as well as other special guests. And Sundays I've been doing an all acoustic duo or trio with Carter on congas and most recently, young Argentinian guitarist Luciano Gomez - a nice change and a chance to do more jazz and guitar instrumentals - something I've always wanted to get into more. And, oh yeah, I've also been doing some solo nights at another club on Tuesdays on an occasional basis, and a coffeehouse concert night at another cool venue is in the planning stages. RECORDING Something I never anticipated was to so quickly get back into recording again after arriving in this new environment, but like the gigs, opportunities to do just that presented themselves almost immediately as well. In late June I began engineering and playing lead guitar on a recording of Junior Alvarez, who has been an integral part of the regional music scene here for years, and his Calypso band that I sometimes play with here. We've made the recording to demo songs for Papaya Records, a great independent label based in San Jose that has interest in releasing an album of Junior's music. This has been not only a lot of fun, but also pretty exciting for me, since Papaya Music is an outstanding and very artist-oriented label with international distribution (check out their website at Beyond my now ongoing music schedule, since early May I've also been recording and performing with Jasmin, a really talented 25 year old singer from Australia who was in town for just a 6 month stay that just ended this month. It's been great fun working with her though, and a completely unexpected opportunity that has reconnected me with the current reggae scene a bit - much of which is, to my ear, more like hiphop with a Jamaican flavor - as well as some great retro-soul covers ranging from Stevie Wonder to Jill Scott. This got me back into doing some computer based tracks with live guitar and voice - also a lot of fun for me. Jasmin is now back in Australia finishing her degree in environmental science, but plans to return and prepare to record a CD in Jamaica early next year. And finally, now that things have slowed down to a more manageable level in the performance schedule, my next recording project is going to be an all-or-mostly acoustic collection of originals, culling from my newer material along with some favorites that didn't make it onto the dotcombo CD. I'll start posting tracks here on the website as they are completed, along with some previously unreleased older tracks I discovered in my archive collections during the digital transfer I completed during the move preparation. I'll let you know when that happens. 'Til then . . .

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