STEPPING OUT FROM BEHIND THE SCENESI've long been fascinated by session musicians, those people whose names are never as familiar as the people whose albums they've played on, but whose résumés are far longer, and often, more impressive.
While there's still somewhat of a market for these studio masters--especially if they're willing to play on the pop tart of the day's next single--the golden age of playing on a dozen or so great albums a year is long gone. And, if bassist Harvey Brooks--the subject of one of our feature articles this week and a guy whose CV includes some of the most important recordings of the 20th century (Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited)--seems to have settled into a new life here in Tucson, you've got to wonder what happened to the countless others who have played on similarly impressive records, but whose era has come and gone and left them without the name recognition (or management, or charisma, or any number of factors) to have their own big careers.
It's an interesting subject, and this week, we can check in on another such musician. While nerds like me, who tend to pore over album-liner notes, may recognize the name Bobby Keys, here's a brief introduction for the rest of you: In SAT-analogy style, Harvey Brooks is to the bass as Bobby Keys is to the saxophone.
While those who recognize his name more than likely associate him with the Rolling Stones--aside from a six-year gap, he's played on every Stones album since 1969, and he's gone on every tour, too--he started his career at age 14 playing with Buddy Holly and Bobby Vee. Since then, he's played baritone sax on Elvis' "Return to Sender" and contributed to George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen and countless other works, including albums by Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, John Lennon, Faces, Harry Nilsson and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
This week brings the opportunity to catch Keys performing in relatively cozy environs, and it raises a couple of questions. Who will be playing in his band? (Probably no musicians any of us have ever heard of.) What will he play? (Your guess is as good as mine, though I would imagine he'll re-create some of his most famous sax parts.)
Get the answers to these questions and more when Bobby Keys performs at Nimbus Brewing Co. , 3850 E. 44th St., from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 16. Cover is only $6. Call 745-9175 for more information.
STEVE CONFONTS HIS FEAR OF ACOUSTIC POPAnother artist whose recordings Bobby Keys once played on is the late, great singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, who served as the inspiration for the name of one of two local acts releasing new albums this week.
While you'd be forgiven, especially in these parts, for assuming the band Mariachi Static plays mariachi music, its name actually comes from Zevon's 1976 song "Carmelita," whose opening line is: "I hear mariachi static on my radio."
When I mentioned Zevon to the band's singer-guitarist, Alex Gilblom, in an e-mail, he wrote back, "I'm really glad you caught the Zevon thing. Next to John Lennon and Pete Townshend, Warren Zevon is a huge influence on the writing in our music."
I'm not sure I caught the Zevon influence in Mariachi Static's music, but that's just fine. The group's self-titled debut falls mostly into the acoustic pop category, which, for me, is something of a red flag--but as the band's album is teaching me, it probably shouldn't be.
I can't exactly put my finger on why, but I would have guessed after hearing the album that Pink Floyd was an influence, too. You can hear elements of that band (and David Bowie, too) in the atmospherics, the vocal tone and melody of a song like the fine "Tokyo Rose," which manages to be subdued and bouncy at the same time. Elsewhere, "Losing Night" is a fine little ditty that reminds me of Varnaline and benefits greatly from an arrangement that includes vibes, mandolin and some reverbed slide guitar, while "It Won't Kill You" is a subtly British Invasion-influenced pop song that makes good use of the drumbeat from the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows."
Not everything here is quite as successful: Songs such as "Man in the Car" and "Old No. 7" (aside from its odd falsetto bridge, anyway) are a bit middle of the road, and the band relies too much on the trick of opening a song in skeletal form before the rest of the band kicks in. But Mariachi Static avoids a trap into which too many young bands fall: While many are content to remain in a similar vein from song to song, the songs here are pretty varied while still sounding like the same band. It's a promising debut, to be sure.
Mariachi Static will perform at a CD-release party on Saturday, Jan. 17, at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. with opening sets from Butcher and the Melancholy, Triple Double, John Clark, Tragik Ruins and Kings of Arizona. Tickets are $7 in advance, or $9 at the door. For further details, call 629-9211.
FROM THE GOOD DOCTORThose who keep abreast of all things local music are familiar with J. Daniel Twelker, better known as Dan Twelker, and even better known as Dr. Dan, the current host of Locals Only on KXCI FM 91.3. Twelker recently recorded a debut album of his own, which provokes a question: Will he play his own music on the air?
If conflict-of-interest issues--or those regarding ego--don't prevent him from doing so, he probably should. On the self-released Recycled Love, Twelker draws upon the connections he's made in the local music scene--and why not? The album boasts a stellar cast of backing musicians that includes Jeremy Michael Cashman, Jose Saavedra Iguina, Vicki Brown, Will Elliott, Tom Walbank and Michael John Serpe, who also produced.
You'll note that there's no drummer in that list of names, and that's because Recycled Love is a drumless, rather hushed affair that seems to be tossed into the 21st century from the singer-songwriter movement of the '70s. There's a whole lot of finger-picked acoustic guitar going on here, and Twelker is obviously a fan of Nick Drake, whose influence permeates the album. If it weren't about Tucson, "Walking Man" could almost be passed off as a Pink Moon outtake; it benefits from some lively language, too: "Snap, crackle, pop, electrical shocks / the world around me rocks / Thunder and lightning can be frightening / I am not afraid."
Thankfully, Drake is not the only influence here. The vocals on "You and Me" bear the stamp of Joey Burns' phrasing, while "Come Ride With Me" sounds a bit like Calexico playing the blues. "Forever," meanwhile, draws upon traditional British folk. In most cases, though, Twelker uses his influences as jumping-off points rather than mimicking them.
Other highlights include "Friendship," a gorgeous instrumental guitar duet between Twelker and Saavedra; "My Girl's Tall," a lovely slice of folk based on ee cummings' poem of the same name and aided by far-off electric guitar by Cashman; and "Bones Within," a delightful celebration of the human body with a graceful violin turn from Brown.
J. Daniel Twelker fetes his debut album, Recycled Love, at a CD-release party at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Wednesday, Jan. 21. John de Roo opens at 9:30 p.m., and admission is free. For more info, call 798-1298.