The right way to get the weekend started was with a trip over to Yoshi's in Oakland to see Charlie Hunter. With a belly full of sushi and a head full of champagne bubbles we headed into the show a little before ten. Pre show speculation about special guests, song breakouts, etc., has always been a hobby of mine but walking in but I actually laughed at a guy who was jumping up and down in line trying to convince his lady friend that tonight was the night that Skerik or even Stanton Moore would show up. "Silly fool," I whispered. "Silly fool..."

Anyway, we grabbed some seats on the far wall to the extreme left of the stage. Great views of Charlie and his sometimes scary facial expressions. He was joined by the two percussionists, Stephen Chopek and Chris Lovejoy, that he has been playing with for the past year or so and also by a tenor sax player, John Ellis, that I had not heard before.

The show started off in typical Hunter fashion with a couple of Jazz heavy tunes. All of the players were technically amazing and it showed that they have been playing together for a while. The crowd was into it as much as they ever get into it at a jazz club type show. The small venue allowed some of the more 'enthusiastic' fans to get some banter going with Hunter which was funny in a Star Trek Convention kind of way. It was all good though and everyone was having a good time. The alcohol and shrimp tempura maki were starting to catch up with me but we agreed to stick around. That's when it all started to happen...

Hunter finishes up a slower song, stands up and says that he would like to thank all of the great musicians here tonight, including the ones in the crowd. Then, "Ladies and gentlemen, would you please welcome Mr. Stanton Moore and Skerik!" At that point, I say holy shit out loud, spot the guy I made fun of in line going nuts on the other side of the venue, and turn around to see both Stanton and Skerik get up from the table right behind us which I hadn't even looked at earlier. After two 'go get em' slaps on the back from me as they walked by, they made their way up the stage.

Skerik grabbed a sax and Stanton just kind of stood there waiting for some direction from Hunter as to what to play. It was agreed that they would start the song with Chopek on his stripped down kit (bass drum, snare, cow bell, cymbal) and then Stanton would jump in mid way. Well, the song got going and about a minute in, they made the switch - Stanton proceeded to shred the little drum kit for the next 20 minutes - often times by himself or with just a small bassline from Hunter. It had me wondering what the first guy was doing up there all this time. Hunter was having a great time on stage with his former Garage a Trois band mates.

Skerik spent the time on stage alternating between standard horn fills and menacing gestures and facial expressions to the crowd and the rest of the band. John Ellis was looking pretty frightened when Skerik did finally unleash a solo that had half the house going nuts and the other half staring with their jaws hung open wondering what the hell this guy was doing. Very impressive stuff all around although much more reserved and tame that some second set rips that I have seen him take when playing with Les Claypool. It seemed as though he knew he was in a jazz club and that he didn't want to scare the management too much.

As the 12pm curfew came, the band finished up and then came out very quickly for an encore. Excited from what I had just seen and heard, it took all the willpower that I had not to shout FreeBird as loud as I could - instead, seizing the opportunity of having a guy that was taping the show sitting next to me, I leaned over towards the mics and shouted Lee Bouyea as clear as I could. A nice touch to end the show I thought.

All in all a nice surprise for a slow Thursday night and a good warm-up for things to come tonight. See you all there.

Frank Speno
JamBase Bay Area Correspondent
Go See Live Music!

Submitted by Lee Bouyea

[Published on: 12/29/00]

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