The Bass is in Place
Soundbites: Rob Duguay, Afrobeat, Ameranouche, Johnny Winter
Bassist, bandleader and ex-Burlingtonian Rob Duguay has had his share of adventure — musically and otherwise — since splitting the Queen City a couple of years ago. Following his graduation from UVM, Duguay headed to New Orleans, where he immersed himself in the Big Easy music scene. Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina soon sent him packing. Only he didn’t have time to pack much: Duguay was forced to abandon his instrument and all of his written compositions in the dash to avoid disaster.
It didn’t take him long to get back in the groove, though. After a brief stint at his parents’ Connecticut home, Duguay entered New Jersey’s William Patterson University, where he’s currently completing his Master’s degree in Jazz Bass Performance. “It’s an excellent program,” Duguay recently told me. “I got resettled really quickly, and I must commend William Patterson for what they did for me.”
Between studies with bass maestro Marcus McLaurine and ensemble investigations with Mulgrew Miller and Vincent Herring, Duguay somehow finds time to gig. “I’ve been performing in [New York City] quite a bit, as well as New Jersey,” he reports. “And last summer, I lived in Washington, D.C. I played a lot of the clubs and made a lot of connections down there.”
Duguay will wrap up his official studies this spring, and he’s currently pondering his next move. “I’ve got an international business degree from UVM, and will have a Master’s degree in music — it’d be my ultimate goal to combine them,” he says. “Maybe I can get in the creative side of business.” Parents often tell artistic children to make sure they have something to fall back on. Duguay’s folks must be psyched.
The bass whiz will be in Vermont for two performances this week: a late night set at Radio Bean on Friday, January 26, and Parima the following evening. Accompanying him are two talented musicians, including drummer Geza Carr — already a star in the area jazz scene — and saxophonist Dave Schnug, who also attends WPU.
The shows will feature original Duguay compositions as well as “new outlooks on jazz standards.” He claims his new music is “an amalgamation of lots of things,” including swing and Latin styles. “My current stuff is more harmonically advanced than it was before,” Duguay relates. “It focuses on more than just rhythm.”
Although he won’t have much time to rehearse with Carr, Duguay is confident in his ability to keep up. “Geza can read any chart I put in front of him,” he says. “And if I sat down at the piano and played my songs for him, he’d get it in a second.” It’s nice to have friends you can count on.
THEY’VE GOT THE BEAT
Afrobeat — a polyrhythmic and profoundly funky style of world music — is no longer geographically bound. Sure, it’s still closely associated with the legendary Fela Kuti, the Nigerian bandleader who shepherded the genre until his death in 1997. But the music’s cyclical grooves and message of social reform have been embraced well beyond Africa. The Boston Afrobeat Society, who appear at Nectar’s on Friday, January 26, are a great example of the music’s ever-expanding influence.
I recently sampled a handful of songs at http://www.MySpace.com/BostonAfrobeat, and was impressed by the group’s naturalistic feel for the genre. Afrobeat is tricky to get right — its unfolding arrangements often stretch past the 10-minute mark, testing the endurance of even seasoned players. And simply “jamming” won’t cut it; Afrobeat is packed with detailed horn arrangements and intricate rhythmic cues. When performed by appropriately soulful musicians, it sounds majestic and organic.
TBAS came together in 2005 and have since built up quite the reputation in their hometown. Praised by local music rags and DJs, they’re now primed to take their music to wider audiences. They won’t be depleting any resources to get there: The band recently entered a partnership with Boston’s Green Grease Monkeys, an organization that converts diesel engines to run on veggie oil. Now they’ve got themselves an eco-friendly Afrobeat school bus. Bet that’ll look sweet parked outside of Nectar’s.
Ameranouche are a nationally acclaimed Gypsy-jazz trio based in southern New Hampshire. They’ll make their first central Vermont appearance at Montpelier’s Langdon Street Café this Saturday. The band performs manouche jazz, a style popularized by the late six-string wizard Django Reinhardt, whose impassioned licks still sound incredibly fresh.
Also known as “acoustic hot jazz,” the genre is noted for its technical virtuosity and liveliness. Ameranouche don’t disappoint in either department. I recently checked out a few samples at their website, www.Ameranouche.com, and was enthused by their sound. The guitar playing isn’t quite up to Django’s searing standards — whose is, really? — but it does contain plenty of gusto.
In addition to Django covers and their own compositions, the group delivers standards by Cole Porter, Hoagie Carmichael and George Gershwin, each re-imagined as Gypsy-jazz workouts. Sounds zippy to me.
STILL GOT THE BLUES
This Friday, Higher Ground and 104.7 The Point bring Texan guitar legend Johnny Winter to town for an evening of blistering blues. Winter, who was signed by Columbia Records way back in 1969, helped bridge the gap between the heavy electric sounds popularized by Englishmen Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, and Southern-fried porch blues.
Instantly recognizable by his snow-white hair and extensive tattoos, Winter is a truly an icon. He jammed with B.B. King at the tender age of 17, and enjoyed a close personal and professional relationship with the late Muddy Waters. Not bad for a scrawny albino kid from the wrong side of Beaumont.
Although trends have come and gone since he first appeared on the scene, Winter has always stuck to his musical guns. His creed is best summed up by the title of his most recent Grammy-nominated album, I’m a Bluesman.
Opening for Winter are local heroes the Nobby Reed Project, who’ve been belting the blues for more than a decade. Visit Higher Ground for further details.