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Acid Jazz at the Fox 

Plus: a night with Strix Vega, and music from Zimbabwe

They call it the "Red Fox Acid Jazz Experiment" with B. Swizlo and his Funky Friends, promising a "new line-up every week," on Monday nights at the Red Fox Tavern. This coming Monday they're up to Vol. 3, and the plan, says keyboard whiz Brian "B" Swizlo (aka just plain Swiz), is to keep it going through the summer and into the fall.

"The idea is to provide a structured jam scene, but not really an open mic," said Swizlo, calling on his cell on the way home from a Nucleus gig in L.A. "Every Monday there'll be at least one put-together band, maybe two, always different players from the local scene. We're assembling these groups to play upbeat funk and acid jazz."

What is acid jazz? Some music journalist coined the term back in the late '80s to describe a revival of '70s soul-jazz with some disco elements. But speaking from experience, I'd have to say the term was applied very loosely. If you bought a CD that said it was acid jazz, there was no telling what it might be — anything from throbbing house music to smooth organ-based jazz.

"For me, it comes from that era where guys like Idris Muhammed, Melvin Sparks, Johnny Hammond and Jimmy McGriff were doing jazz funk music for dancers, four-on-the-floor, kind of like the boogaloo style," said Swizlo. "In the '80s, when the hip hop thing got going, they were dancing to some of that music, and DJs were putting it in the mix. Greyboy and the Greyboy Allstars brought it back in the '90s, and jam bands like Galactic and Vinyl picked up on it. It was all about getting down."

The A.J. Experiment concept is similar to Swizlo's old project the Hip Hop Lounge, except for the fact that that band evolved into a regular gigging group with set membership.

"The Red Fox guys, Rick and Brad came up with the idea," he continued. "We want to bring back that fast dancefloor funk, improv style, and get things going. But more than just having a gig, we're recording the sessions. The ultimate plan is to record every set, to document everything and then put out a series of CDs: Acid Jazz Experiment Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and so on. We want to create a forum for improv in that funky fashion."

So far the musicians have come from an inter-related group of Arcata funk combos — Bump Foundation, Moo-Got-2, Afromassive and the like — plus guys like Tofu Mike from Absynth Q and Derrol Nys. This week they had DJ Rickshaw scratching with the band. Swiz is recruiting players from the many bands he plays in, and he plays in a lot of bands. He's in Nucleus, which means he's also in Subliminal Sabotage; he's with Bump Foundation; he recently joined Moo-Got-2 fulltime, and he started playing reggae with Massagana.

So, see what it's all about some Monday night at the Red Fox; they'll be jamming every week starting at around 10. And wear your dancing shoes.

For another sort of dancing, check the next episode of Yo Tango! at the Jambalaya Thursday, May 22. This time the dramatic Argentine dancing is followed by a late (10 p.m.) set of "revved up rockabilly" from The Chop Tops out of Santa Cruz, music for yet another sort of dancing.

Strix Vega makes its casino debut Friday at the Wave out in Blue Lake. Most of the time the indie rockers share the bill with one or two other bands, but this time they're flying alone, which means they'll have to play three full sets. They've indicated that there's a special plan for the middle set, but I'm sworn to secrecy. I will give you a hint however: Monica will love it. Josh will hate it.

SoHum rockers N-P-K make a foray north to play Friday at the Pearl Lounge. When I interviewed the band a few years back, I innocently asked about the name. The initials could stand for "Natural Pain Killer," I was told, or maybe something else. I finally figured it out when I noticed the three letters on a bag of fertilizer at a friend's farm. In that case, N-P-K stood for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (K is the symbol for potassium on the Periodic Table of Elements). Now I get it.

Did you notice that it's graduation weekend? The "Schools Out Party!" at the Red Fox Friday features reggae by Chico's Mystic Roots Band, the folks who have been backing Pato Banton of late. DJ Jimmy Jonzof Rude Lion Sound spins before and between. And master promoter Tech Williams has some grad thing going on Saturday at Mazzotti's. He promises it'll be a thumpin' good time.

Saturday night at the Red Fox it's Absynth, and lest you get confused, this is not the local gypsy-jazz quintet — it's a trio out of South Lake Tahoe, an electronica jamband on the drum 'n' bass side. DJ Kinetic Kutz spins, and my MySpace friend Reba will be there painting whatever the music and the spirit suggests.

Bob Smith sends word of another music event:The First Fieldbrook Folk Festival,from noon to sundown at the Fieldbrook Market with folky music by The Spindrifters, Pilot Rock Ramblers, Kindred Spirits, Backwoods Capo, Moonsong and Joe Garceau.

Folky songwriter Mare Wakefield stops by the Jambalaya Monday on her way north. "She's based in Nashville and writes for Performing Songwriter Magazine," according to local songwriter Lila Nelson, who might also do a set. "She's touring her new record around, Ironwood. It has that the Lucinda Williams sound as opposed to her earlier singer-songwriterly stuff." And she's pretty darn good.

You may have seenIan Caliendo around town accompanying his lovely wife Lila (see above) on the mbira (you know the Zimbabwean thump piano with the hypnotic sound). In his never-ending quest to learn more about the mbira, he's bringing Master Musician Musekiwa Chingodza here from Zimbabwe this weekend for a show at Muddy's Hot Cup on Sunday at 7 p.m., with backing from some local mbiraists (Ian among them). According to Musekiwa, "Mbira music is both medicine and food, as it satisfies and heals both the living and the ancestors."

"An mbira player since the age of five, Musekiwa is also an accomplished ngoma (drum) player in the Shona tradition, and he excels in playing hosho (gourd shakers), singing and traditional dance," says Ian, adding, "Musekiwa has recently started a project, Serevende Music and Cultural Arts Center, where visitors can come and learn in depth about mbira, singing, dance and other aspects of Zimbabwean music. It's aimed at helping orphans and other impoverished people in his village in Zimbabwe to attend school, attain life and literacy skills and sell their crafts." And in that part of the world those are crucial thing. Musekiwa will also be teaching classes locally May 18-19. For details check in with Ian at northcoastmbira@gmail.com or call 228-0372.

Band name of the week: Flowers From the Man Who Shot Your Cousin (actually just one guy, Morgan Caris). He plays alt. folk Monday at the Pearl Lounge with Jenny Jenkins from Olympia and locals The Gnarwhals.

More on the dub front: DubConscious from Athens, Ga., offers their version of dub Wednesday at the Red Fox, mixing in a touch of Afrobeat and lots of straight-ahead reggae.

CenterArts closes its '07-'08 season this Thursday with a return engagement at the Van Duzer by the iconic Lily Tomlin, the smart comedienne from Laugh In, who's on an eternal search for intelligent life in the Universe. Think she'll find any in Humboldt? Perhaps.

After that CenterArts takes a break. Over the summer, brochures go out with offerings for their '08-'09 season. One show that won't be in it is The Black Crowes Sept. 10 show at the Van Duzer with Howlin' Rain opening. The Crowes want their whole "Euphoria or Bust" tour offered at once, which means those tickets go on sale May 31. Incidentally, semi-locals Howlin' Rain, who are doing the whole Crowes tour, also play next Wednesday, May 28, at the Jambalaya with Arrogant Hare and Zak Institute. Act fast. Tickets for both of these shows will be snapped up quickly.

Details on the season proper have not been released, but it's not hard to find out who's coming — just check the online version of Pollstar, the concert bookers guide. Among the shows listed for early in the season: Gipsy Kings, Aug. 21 at the John Van Duzer, The Waifs at JVD on Aug. 26, with Steel Pulse the same night at the Kate Buchanan, "Weird Al" Yankovicthe next night, Aug. 27, again at the Van Duzer. Do not call the box office asking about tickets, they are not on sale yet — and with the exception of Crowes' tix, they will not be for some time.

One more thing: There's info in our Calendar section about the final Redwood Jazz Alliance show of the season featuring Ben Allison and Man Size Safe. I forgot to mention that Allison will also present a free workshop entitled "Composition and Improvisation: Two Sides of the Same Coin" on Friday, May 16, at 11:00 a.m. in HSU's Studio Theater (Theatre Arts Rm. 115). One local jazz singer told me these workshops border on religious experiences. Go. Get religion.

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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

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