Samba + love = SambAmore. That's the derivation of the name for Arcata's drum/dance/music ensemble, a 10- to 25-piece outfit that came out of the even larger Brazil/Mardi Gras-inspired Samba da Alegria that plays at the North Country Fair. Jesse Jonathan founded the group around five years ago starting with samba and drawing on influences beyond, including AfroCuban, African and Middle Eastern rhythms and music.
"We love samba, but we want to do more than just that -- we wanted to expand it," said Jonathan who has traveled to Brazil to see samba in action. "Samba is a living art form; it's changing all the time."
A few years ago Jonathan connected with Jordan Rain, aka Yogoman. When Rain's Yogoman Burning Band came to town from Washington, a battery of SambAmore drummers would open the show with some classic African-inspired Brazilian batucada. The Burning Band horns would join in, fusing their brassy funk/ska sound with the rhythm. SambAmore expanded on that notion, adding its own horn section and electric bass and guitar.
Last summer, the local musicians embarked on what they called Operation Water Dragon. They joined Yogoman for a West Coast tour and ended with a SambAmore show at the Arcata Playhouse. Before that show, the band spent the day recording its repertoire for a CD titled, you guessed it, Operation Water Dragon. (Good stuff, BTW.) SambAmore returns to the Playhouse Friday for a release party. Catch a preview Thursday at noon when the band crams into KHUM's studio for a live session.
When I spoke with Jonathan on Monday, he was heading for a rehearsal of another band he plays in, Motherlode. He's the baritone sax player, part of a killer horn section. Started last year by guitarist Greg Camphuis from Bump Foundation, the 10-piece Motherlode starts with straight-ahead funk a la James Brown and adds shades of Funkadelic and Afrofunk a la Fela. As drummer Pete Ciotti explained, "We've been working hard getting into the roots of funk; it's definitely got me going back to my roots. People think funk is really simple, but sometimes being laid back is difficult."
Motherlode is gearing up for a really big show Saturday night at Humboldt Brews with an extra special guest on trombone, Fred Wesley. As funk aficionados know, Wesley served as bandleader/musical director of James Brown's band, The J.B.'s. His writing credits include hits like "Hot Pants." He also spent time playing with Parliament-Funkadelic and led a spin-off known as The Horny Horns. Getting him on board was surprisingly easy: Ciotti found his email through his website. "We sent him our Facebook link with videos and stuff and showed him some of our songs; I guess he liked what he saw." The plan is to record Saturday's show for a live Motherlode/Wesley album including some classic J.B.'s tracks like "Good Foot," along with Motherlode originals penned by Camphuis. Needless to say, the band is psyched. Ciotti admits he's also a bit nervous, "feeling some of that James Brown don't-miss-a-beat-or-you'll-be-fined vibe." I'm sure he'll do fine -- the band is tight -- and on the good foot. Should be a great night.
Speaking of recording CDs, the wild country quartet Gunsafe is throwing a launch party in advance of recording a bona fide album Friday after Arts Arcata at the Bat Cave (1164 11th St. in Arcata). The plan is to auction off some cool stuff donated by friends; DJ Knickerbocky will be doing one-dolla on-the-spot portraits and the band will roll out some on-the-spot new tunes. Sounds like fun.
Other options? For starters there are a bunch of benefits.
Eco-activist Richard Gienger's 11th annual Pisces Party on Friday at Beginnings is a birthday celebration/benefit for forest and watershed restoration work with the rollicking Casey Neill and The Norway Rats down from Portland for the occasion, plus Carlotta country swingers Falling Rocks.
Animal Carnival, the third annual Animal Costume Party Friday at Portuguese Hall, is a benefit for KMUD/KMUE with The House of Vibe Allstars featuring Chali2na from Ozomatli, Deploi, Kelley Mak and Piper.
Saturday there's the Arcata Eye Ball benefitting the Arcata Ridge Trail with an auction and various local luminaries playing music.
There's also a benefit for Humboldt Community Breast Health Project at Sewell Gallery that night, with stories and songs by Jeff DeMark and The LaPatinas plus the jammy string trio The Spindrifters.
We have dueling Fab Four tributes Saturday night. The Arkley Center has Come Together: The Beatles Concert Experience, a touring show covering the band's entire history with costume changes, light show, etc. Have to say, when I caught the Experience, the costumes were pretty bad, particularly those for the Sgt. Pepper era. Humboldt's own Beatles cover band, Silver Hammer, plays that night at Cher-Ae Heights in crazy cool Yellow Submarine/Pepper costumes.
Bear River Casino lists Saturday's show as "St. John and The Sinners' Farewell Performance Extravaganza." As you may recall, the bluesy Sinners won the Journal reader's poll as "Best Band" two years running. Guitarist/bandleader St. John Hunt is moving to Florida at the end of the month so this is your last chance to dance and to say goodbye (unless you're a member of the Elks Lodge, where they'll be playing at the end of the month). Vocalist Christina D'Alessandro and some of the other Sinners plan on continuing on in some form, so the band will not disappear completely.
The Pine Box Boys return to Six Rivers Brewery Saturday night with more songs of murder and misery. This time the Boys are bringing along some friends: Colonel Jimmy and The Blackfish, a "hellbilly countrygrass" outfit from Sacramento made up of former punk, metal and alt. rock players who claim to "have country in our souls and rock in our blood."
Portland garage-rock, indie-pop psychedelic-soul trio The Quick and Easy Boys plays the Jambalaya Saturday.
Underground hip hop veteran Alejandro Ocana, aka 2Mex, came out of L.A.'s Good Life Café/Project Blowed scene 20 years ago. He's still at it, bringing his show to the Red Fox Saturday night with the ubiquitous Pressure Anya DJs opening.
Take a traditional bluegrass line-up, swap Dobro for fiddle, add a healthy dose of rock, spread with jam and you have Greensky Bluegrass. The picking is good, the songs likewise. The quintet from Kalamazoo has been touring relentlessly for years, working up the jamgrass ladder. The boys hit the festy circuit come summer -- Telluride, Electric Forest. NW String Summit, etc. -- but first a West Coast swing brings them to Humboldt Brews Tuesday with the Ryan Montbleau Band opening.
World Famous continues its electro barrage with two shows this week. First up, a party at the Jambalaya Thursday with a two-hour set by Machinedrum, aka Travis Stewart, a beatmeister based out of Brooklyn, with local support from Zanapod. Then there's a triple bill next Wednesday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge featuring Emancipator, aka Douglas Appling, a producer known for a more organic sound. His latest, Dusk to Dawn, draws on American folk sounds -- banjo, hammered dulcimer and the like. He'll be joined by violinist Ilya Goldberg. He's touring with British downtempo producer Little People and Seattle-based production duo Odesza, made up of Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight.
A couple of shows on the alt. side: Seattle garage duo Pony Time is on the road with a new CD/LP, Go Find Your Own. A tour with electro-pop duo Stickers stops at the Shanty Thursday. The Lost Luvs open.
Then Tuesday at the Lil' Red Lion, it's yet another PDX band, Appendixes, with Beth Morgan and Eric Sabatino with what they call "slightly psychedelic dream-pop about dinosaurs, rainy weather and unrequited love." Also on the bill: Blood Gnome, who play "cutesy ball-busting all-girl synth pop ... I guess," according to keyboardist Natalie Arroyo. I guess that works.