Rob Pawilngs

Jay Stolar EP Release at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Jay Stolar released a new EP (The Acoustic EP). Numbered CDs were available for sale at his headlining show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

JayStolarSingingGuitar

If you read my last post about Jay then you know that we weren’t going to miss this show (and there was strong competition for our attention down in Philly!). We made the correct decision, as I can summarize the show/performance in one word: Wow!

Seriously, among the many things Jay has going for him, the top three are:

  1. Extraordinary voice
  2. Unreal stage presence
  3. A band that can keep up with him (at every position!)

I couldn’t help thinking how lucky we are (were) to experience them (Jay and the band) in such an intimate (yet mobbed!) spot like Rockwood 2. I have no doubt that Jay has the energy to fill Madison Square Garden to every fan’s satisfaction. I hope to get the chance to verify that claim some day.

In addition to playing all four of the EP songs, Jay mixed up his classic Soul/Rock/Pop genres to keep every song fresh throughout the set.

I’ve mentioned before that Jay could thrill on his own. He likely couldn’t do that at MSG though. He certainly could with his 4-part harmony and kick-a** band. Left-to-right on stage:

Jason Wexler on grand piano and vocals. We’re big fans of Jason’s and our fandom grows each time we see him (we had seen him guest with Jeff Litman the night before). He was atypical last night in playing only the grand (no electronic keyboards) with such a big sounding band. That’s perfectly fine with me, his piano skills are exceptional.

JasonWexlerPiano

In addition to singing a ton of background vocals throughout, Jay gave Jason a really long lead during When I’m Acting Crazy. Holy moly Batman, Jason slayed it (and everyone in the room).

Jay took over the piano duties on one number and Jason stepped to center stage and played the accordion.

JayStolarJasonWexler

Grace McLean on vocals. Fantastic, but no surprise (other than I didn’t know Grace would be singing with him). I recently saw her for the first time at one of Sam Teichman’s Leave a Lasting Mark benefits and was instantly taken with her voice (and performance). I may as well repeat what I said about her that night:

Grace McLean was the final newcomer to us. Grace performed perhaps the second most famous song (to me at least), Chain of Fools. Let’s see if I can be succinct in describing her: Wow! (OK, that was succinct, but not sufficient, how about: Holy Wow, Unreal!, yes, that’s better).

GraceMcLeanSingingJayStolarGraceMcLean

In a small-world story, Grace’s upcoming EP was mastered by my good friend (and expert Masterer) Larry Lachmann. I discovered that just days after seeing Grace for the first time.

JayStolarGraceMcLeanWailingJayStolarGraceMcLeanReachingForTheSky

Seth Faulk on drums, percussion and vocals. Seth completed the vocal superfecta. In addition to adding his wonderful voice to the mix, Seth was one of two drummers/percussionists, another touch that makes Jay’s shows so special (I think 10 drummers might be too many, but less than that is all a plus for me, as long as they’re good, and these guys are more than good!).

SethFaulk

Here’s Seth as part of the 4-part power harmonies:

PowerVocals

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny is always great. Having him coordinate with Seth cranks it up a notch and is a sonic joy. Kenny and Seth are a large component of why I feel that Jay could fill MSG with sound. Let’s get on that one folks, please!

KennyShawKennyShawDrums

Rob Pawlings on electric bass. I’ve written about Rob a number of times lately and they’ve all been raves. No difference last night, another amazing performance.

RobPawlings

Paul Maddison on electric guitar. When I last saw Paul, on May 12th, I wrote that I would finally introduce myself to him at the next show. I can’t say I totally followed through, but we did shake hands, so I’m making progress. He’s getting married on Sunday (tomorrow), so I didn’t want to break his concentration. Winking smile

RobPawlingsPaulMaddison

On a more serious note, Paul is an excellent guitarist and Jay gave him one long lead with a bunch of other tasty licks. Wonderful!

PaulMaddisonGuitar

That takes care of the core band. There were three additional guests.

Wil Farr came up to sing with Jay on a song they co-wrote. Very well done. Wil was the front-man for the band that was up next, so I’ll be writing more about him shortly.

WilFarrJayStolarWilFarr

Matt Simons joined for one song on the sax (I believe it was When I’m Acting Crazy). We had seen Matt perform a solo set on the grand piano right before this one. Now he switched to the sax and when he was let loose, he destroyed the room. That he ended up taking such a great solo in the same song that Jason did on the piano, made a great song all the more amazing.

MattSimons

Jim Perry on drums/percussion. Jim joined for two of the final numbers. I think I heard Jay say that Jim co-wrote one of those songs with him, but don’t hold me to that. For the first number, Seth gave up his kit (Seth stood and played a tambourine and shakers while singing). On the second number, Jim took over Kenny’s kit and Kenny played the tambourine between Seth and Jim. Jim did an excellent job in both spots.

JimPerryKennyShawJimPerryDrums

SethFaulkSinging

Here’s the set list:

SetList

An absolutely incredible show. When do we all get together to do it again? Smile

AlexBergerAyelet

The Thang Band at Lagond Music School

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The Thang Band headlined a set at Lagond Music School last night, closing out a fantastic show. I already posted about the set before them, Greg Mayo Band. I have seen The Thang Band once before and was really looking forward to seeing them again. I was nervous and excited for Lois to see them.

I wrote an incredibly long description of The Thang when I first saw them. I was tempted to reproduce it in its entirety here, but 1/3 of it doesn’t apply (because it wasn’t the same audience and they toned down their act a drop because this performance was at a school after all…). You can read the full description for yourself about 1/2 way down this one-year-old post.

Basically, The Thang are top musicians, irreverently performing for their pleasure. The rest of us are given permission to enjoy it with them (in fact, we’re encouraged). The irreverence touches everything they do, including the innuendo-laden tongue-in-cheek lyrics and the dramatic acting (presentation) of some of those lyrics. It’s a thing of beauty (or is it a thang of beauty?), if you can let go of societal norms for a little while. Winking smile

Even in a slightly toned down show, there is something that simply can’t be contained: Energy. Their shows are upbeat, joyous spectacles.

They went through three wardrobe changes. Each was layered, so it was only a matter of removing a layer of clothing. The photos will tell the story, but you have to come to a show to experience the deep dialog that is coupled with each change. Winking smile

TheThangBand

I normally mention band members from a left-to-right perspective, but that feels wrong with this band, so I will simply cover them in the order that I feel like at the moment.

Paul Maddison is one of three front men, but I declare him to be slightly more forward than the others. He plays the guitar (obviously), but that actually takes a back seat to both his vocals and his overall showmanship. Paul is like the conductor (of an orchestra, not a train). In addition to interacting heavily with every band member, he’s constantly drawing the audience in.

PaulMaddisonGuitar

That last phrase is literal as well as figurative. He beckoned (more like insisted, strongly) that people come right up to the stage and bunch up and become part of the show. They did. If they were reluctant to begin with, that feeling faded right away as everyone was swept up in the show.

PaulMaddisonSinging

I have never taken the time to introduce myself to Paul. Last night, during the opener, he was standing right next to me. For whatever reason, I still didn’t introduce myself. That’s just stupid (on my part), since he brings me a lot of joy and he deserves to know it directly from me. I will correct that next time, pinky swear!

PaulMaddisonMuscleShirt

Dan Golden on keyboards, harmonica and vocals. He’s nearly equal to Paul in front man duties and as I noted the last time, definitely up to that enormous challenge. He’s excellent on both keys and vocals. On occasion he even steps away from the keyboard and sings (or talks/raps) directly to the audience (something Paul does a ton).

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DanGoldenFancyKeyboardsPlayDanGoldenPaulMaddisonFrocks

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Rob Pawlings (a.k.a Bobby Bananas) on electric bass and vocals. I wrote about Rob in my earlier post about Greg Mayo Band, where he filled in for Chris Anderson. In this set, he cranked the bass up a notch (hard to do, as in some of the Mayo songs he was really wailing) but here he added quite a bit of vocals, including a fair amount of lead.

RobPawlingsFrockRobPawlingsMuscleShirt

In one number, parodying any typical big-name rock band, he would have slammed his bass on the stage and jumped on it (for the full effect), except that it’s unlikely that any of them can afford to smash (and replace!) their beloved instruments. So, he went through the motion, but instead very gently laid the bass down on the stage and gestured at it as if he were hurting it. Winking smile

As opposed to my inexplicable lack of introducing myself to Paul, I went out of my way to find Rob before the show and introduce myself. I’ve become a big fan of his, in particular when I saw him play with Abby Payne (also filling in for Chris Anderson that night). This was the fifth set that I’ve seen Rob play (including the one right before with Greg Mayo).

RobPawlingsSinging

Dave Freedman on electric guitar. Dave is the quietest one in The Thang. He doesn’t sing or talk, but his guitar play speaks volumes. Paul is good enough to play lead in this band (or any other!), but by having Dave there to fulfill that role (brilliantly), Paul is really freed to run the show. Wait, because of Dave, Paul is a freed man. Hmmm, perhaps it’s all an illusion, and there is no Dave Freed Man. Winking smile

DaveFreedman

Last but certainly not least!

Kenny Shaw on drums, cowbell, shakers, conducting and even light vocals. I mentioned in the previous post that I would heap a bunch more praise on Kenny. Of course he was great in the Greg Mayo Band set. The Thang is non-stop upbeat rock. The drummer (Kenny, in case you’re not paying attention) is in constant motion. He’s so fluid, fast and tasty that it’s a thing of beauty to behold.

KennyShawKennyShawCamouflage

On one number, Kenny came out from behind the drums, Dan left his keyboard, and everyone but Dave sang a cappella with their arms around each other. Yes, that includes Kenny, pushing out some sounds through his larynx. Late in the song he whipped out a shaker (in the shape of an egg), which got a lot of hoots because it was the only instrument used on that tune. (Well, I think Dave gave them some very light-touch guitar accompaniment as well.)

TheThangACappella1TheThangACappella2

KennyShawEggShaker

Toward the end of the number, he broke away from the others (Paul, Dan and Rob) and conducted the end of the song by moving his arm up and down, so that they knew whether to raise or lower their voices. Nicely done by all of them.

KennyShawConducting

Martin Rivas was a guest on the previous set. He missed this one because he was performing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 while this show was going on. He tweeted two short videos of Kenny Shaw with a halo of lights over his head (from the previous set!). Here’s a still that makes Kenny look more like an alien:

KennyShawAlien

Late in the set Paul called up two very special guests. Both are/were students at Lagond. I’m not going to link to them because I have no idea how they intend to promote themselves, but each was easy for me to find if you care to check them out yourself.

Alex Silverstein on electric guitar. Paul admonished the rest of the students in the room to get back to their practice, given what they were about to hear out of Alex. One might assume that Paul was simply complimenting a student (encouraging him), but no, no no no, he was giving the rest of the guitarists in the room fair warning that Alex is the real deal and they better get on the stick.

AlexSilverstein

I don’t even want to tell you how young he is (it would make both of us cry!), but trust me, he’s still a kid (who knows if his voice has broken yet). Let me assure you, he doesn’t play guitar like a kid. He’s got the skills and the feel for the music. Bobby Bananas (Rob Pawlings) gave him a lesson in theatrics during one song, which Alex followed perfectly. He’s the complete package.

AlexSilversteinLeadGuitarAlexSilversteinSolo

Kevin Myers on drums. Kenny stepped to the side and played the cowbell and shakers while Kevin took over the drum kit. Those are some big shoes to fill, especially during the same set that Kenny just tore it up. And yet, another holy cow, Kevin was up to the task (and more). He really was fantastic on both numbers (very long ones).

KevinMyers

There was another benefit to having Kevin behind the drums (aside from his incredible play). It freed Kenny up to play a cowbell solo, seriously! In addition to the solo itself being awesome (Kenny didn’t just hit the outside of the cowbell in various spots at various tempos, he also rapidly beat up the inside of the cowbell with a drumstick.

It would have been amazing at that, but I would also swear that at one point, the sound guy quickly alternated between the left and right speakers, to that every other strike of the cowbell came from a different speaker, creating a phenomenal stereo effect (like there were dueling cowbells). If I’m wrong about that, then it’s time to get my hearing checked (which very well may be the case)…

Steven Salcedo was called up to play a long sax solo in one of the last songs. Paul personally walked the microphone down from the rear of the stage so that Steven could serenade us up close. Thanks Paul. Getting another taste of Steven’s play (he was a highlight during the previous Mayo Band set) was a nice way to top off an extraordinary evening.

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StevenSalcedoDaveFreedmanKennyShawDanGoldenKevinMyers

And, what show is complete without someone doing push ups on stage?

PaulMaddisonPushUps

Now all I have to do is start training to stay up real late, as most Thang Band shows start at midnight or later. That made last night an extra special treat. Smile

Greg Mayo Band at Lagond Music School

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Greg Mayo Band headlined a set at Lagond Music School last night. This is one of three posts from last night. I’ll spend more time talking about Lagond Music School (LMS) in the final one.

Greg is a teacher at LMS (lucky kids!). LMS puts on shows on a regular basis. I don’t know if this was a special one, but this is the tenth anniversary year of LMS. Any show that Greg is part of is special to us. Smile

This was a classic Greg Mayo Band (GMB) show, with one exception and one substitution. The exception was that Rebecca Haviland (who normally sings harmony and some lead vocals) had a previous commitment and couldn’t attend. We’ll get to the substitution below.

Otherwise, the sound was perfectly faithful as was the extraordinary energy that is present at every GMB show. Greg played with the opener as well (covered in the third post, not yet written) so he was fully warmed up vocally and digits (fingers).

GregMayoKeyboards

If this was your first GMB show, you might have thought that Greg was particularly loose and connected with the audience, because a number of his students were there. You’d be wrong. He’s equally comfy on any stage (large or small) and always has a connection with the audience. He feels the music (or rather he exudes the music) and as a result, so do you.

GregMayoSinging

Martin Rivas had a gig earlier in the day up in Westchester and he headed over after that to enjoy the show in the audience with the rest of us. Greg probably would have called Martin up to sing anyway, but with Rebecca unavailable, that became mandatory. Martin sang on one song during the set and was called up again for the encore (the only cover song). What a nice treat (and surprise) for us.

MartinRivas

The rest of the exceptional band, left-to-right on stage:

John Liotta on baritone saxophone (once again, no good individual link). John regularly brings up the bottom of the brass section, doing a great job last night.

JohnLiotta

Josh Reed on trumpet. Josh also teaches at Lagond and is a regular member of GMB. He took a mind-blowing solo during one song and was excellent on the rest.

JoshReed

Steven Salcedo on tenor saxophone. Steven also teaches at Lagond (and if I have my facts straight, was previously a student there!). He’s one of a number of sax players who rotates with GMB and I promise to be thrilled any time that he’s in the lineup. He’s a very special person and musician.

StevenSalcedo

Here’s a shot of the brass section, behind Greg at the keyboards:

GregMayoBandBrassSection

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny is such an integral part of the GMB sound and is so intimate/familiar with it. Great job. I’ll heap even more praise on him in the next post though.

KennyShaw

Rob Pawlings on electric bass. Rob was the one substitution. Chris Anderson normally plays bass for GMB. While I will never be happy about Chris Anderson being replaced, ever, if it has to happen, feel free to make it Rob Pawlings any time! The biggest difference in their performances with GMB is that Chris sings a lot and Rob (who sings well!) doesn’t know the numbers well enough to sing along. Otherwise, his bass play was spectacular. Stay tuned for more on Rob in the next post.

RobPawlings

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals as well as being a teacher at LMS. Paul was excellent on guitar (much more on him in the next post). He always sings with GMB, but had to carry a bit more of the weight last night, actually taking one of Rebecca’s parts in one song. He’s always a blast to watch on stage as well.

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Greg called up a very special guest late in the set.

Charlie Lagond joined the great brass section on two numbers, playing his saxophone. What a treat (more on him in the final post about the school and the students).

CharlieLagondCharlieLagondGregMayoBandBrassSection

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Greg and Martin had to scoot once the set was over. A little over an hour after they were done here, they were on stage at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, supporting Robbie Gil in a set devoted to some of the greatest The Who songs. My heart ached to miss that, but there was no way we were walking out on the next set at LMS, covered in the next post.

GregMayoMartinRivas

I’ve been sick for two weeks, finally nearly back to normal. This was our first musical event in over two weeks. We missed quite a number of shows that were tough to pass on, but this was a very nice way to break the ice.

Jay Stolar at Rockwood Music Hall

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Jay Stolar headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall. That, in itself, is not news. Jay headlines there every Thursday, but, at 1am, which we have yet to keep ourselves awake for. Yesterday, he kicked off the evening with the first set, at 6pm. For us, that’s as good as it gets.

JayStolar

For most people it’s not. Typically, even when someone awesome plays a 6pm show, the place is relatively empty. Not so for Jay. It was the best (biggest) crowd we’ve seen for an early show.

This was our first full set seeing Jay. Now that we’ve experienced it, I want to hit rewind and catch every one of his previous sets (including staying up for the 1am ones!). I don’t mean to sound surprised by Jay’s performance. We’ve seen him sing (at least one song) five times before, either at a benefit or as a guest. The longest stretch was at a Backscratch, where he sang three songs.

Here’s what I wrote when I saw him for the first time, in January 2011:

Jay Stolar (lead singer for Julius C) was up next, and he shared the stage with Chrissi Poland. He was also incredible. What a voice and what passion and energy on stage (very theatrical, in the best sense). I shouldn’t be surprised. For the past month, every time I ask a question of a friend in an audience (like: “Who’s that guitar player”?), the answer often comes back: “Oh, he’s in Julius C, you really need to check them out!”. Indeed, I do!

Ignore the Julius C part, they no longer exist. Since then, Jay was known as Jay and the Birds. I no longer see him use that moniker either. Now it’s just Jay Stolar, or Jay Stolar and Friends (for the 1am shows). No matter, Jay has enough talent to shorten it even further, to just J. Winking smile

JayStolarGuitar

So, it’s obvious that I knew before last night that Jay has an incredible voice. That’s been evident at every show. We also got a few tastes of his guitar play, so that wasn’t a surprise. Last night we found out two additional things. 1) He writes great songs and 2) he plays the piano quite nicely.

JayStolarSingingJayStolarPiano

I have absolutely no doubt that we would have loved the set if Jay came out solo, accompanying himself on the guitar and piano. Jay had more epicness in mind though. He had more than a full band supporting him, left-to-right on stage:

Catherine Brookman on vocals. She was fantastic on every number. Very powerful and crisp voice. She never sang lead on a full verse, but she took the lead on a number of bridges/choruses, where Jay was playing around (amazing us) with his voice, dancing around Catherine (and the others). Catherine has been on Broadway in the revival of Hair (and possible some others). I can definitely see her in that kind of role.

CatherinBrookmanSingingCatherinBrookmanJayStolarCatherinBrookmanPaulMaddisonJayStolar

Paul Maddison on electric guitar. I’ve always been impressed by Paul, but most of the times that I’ve seen him, the guitar hasn’t been highlighted (The Thang Band was one exception). Last night, Jay let Paul rip it a few times, and even when he wasn’t soloing, the lead guitar was an integral part of the sound. Excellent!

PaulMaddisonPaulMaddisonGuitar

Jason Wexler on grand piano, accordion and vocals. Wow. I’ve only had glowing praise for Jason on every show we’ve seen him (which is eight times including last night). Toward the end of the set, Jay stepped aside to let Jason take a long lead on the piano. Holy moly, it was so fast, so clean, so interesting. Basically, mind-boggling. When Jay took to the piano, Jason came center stage and played the accordion. He also sang harmony on practically every number. An all-around wow (to repeat myself).

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Rob Pawlings on electric bass. This was my third time seeing Rob. Last night’s performance was super solid, but not flashy. Obviously, he plays what’s most appropriate to the specific set. Here’s what I said about him the last time I saw him, when he supported Abby Payne:

Rob Pawlings on electric bass. Rob was absolutely incredible. I’ve seen Rob once before, as part of The Thang Band, where I also had only superlatives for his performance. Given that this was a trio, Rob carried a lot of weight and he never spilled a drop of water all the way up the hill. He sang a bit, but mostly too far from the mic to really be heard. I heard him sing with The Thang Band and praised him that night, so he should bother to step up to the mic next time he sings with Abby as well.

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Seth Faulk on partial drum kit, cajon, percussion and vocals. Of course Seth was great on the drums, percussion and cajon, but I’ll admit publicly, that the biggest thrill was getting to hear him sing harmony on every song. I’ve written many times about how good Seth’s voice is, but it’s usually a taste here, a sip there. Last night it was every single song. It was almost always 4-part harmony (Jay, Catherine, Jason and Seth), but Seth’s voice was so easy to pick out and enjoy.

SethFaulkSinging

That Jay, who is such a great vocalist, shares the vocals with three others, is a thing to behold. Kudos to all four of them. In fact, there were a number of a cappella moments (or very near a cappella, with a very soft guitar, or extremely light touch drums) where the singing was a nearly religious experience.

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Kenny Shaw on drums. One of Kenny’s floor toms was split off for Seth, who sat to Kenny’s right. On Monday, I noted that it was unusual that we had gone two weeks without seeing Kenny play. Last night was only two days later, so things were back to normal. Whew. Winking smile

KennyShaw

I often write about my fantasy of having multiple drummers on stage at Rockwood. It’s happened occasionally (closer to rarely), so last night (in particular at Rockwood 1), it was a surprise and a major treat. Even though we were so close to the drum kit, even with two them hitting at the same time, not a single strike was too loud. Fantastic.

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Jay’s songs vary in feel and genre, keeping the set interesting throughout. Rock/Pop/Soul/R&B, even a bit of Gospel feel. Quiet, loud, full band, a cappella and everything in between.

When he was done, the crowd would have none of it. Practically everyone in the place was chanting for more. It wasn’t obvious to me that he would give in, but eventually he did. He gave the audience a choice of a new song, or a favorite that a number of people called out. The overwhelming response was for the new song.

Wow, what a finish and what a great song. It’s obviously not on the set list, since he really didn’t expect to be forced to sing it. Smile

SetList

Abby Payne at Rockwood Music Hall

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Abby Payne headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. I’ve been waiting a while to catch Abby again (schedules didn’t overlap). I’ve only seen one full set and while I enjoyed it, I had a few complaints about the technical side of the show (mostly volume).

I am so glad that I trusted my instinct that Abby is a talent that I should follow, because I was right! Smile

AbbyPayne

Last night Abby had only a trio (including herself) and that made all the difference. Let me repeat the three things I knew about Abby before yesterday:

  • She’s a superb keyboard player
  • She has a lovely voice
  • She writes catchy songs

What I didn’t know were whether the lyrics would grab me. They did! Abby has a really good flair for story telling. The volume in the last show made it hard to listen, last night, no issues!

Abby played only the grand piano, whereas the last time she was exclusively on electronic keyboards. For every keyboard player, I typically prefer the sound of the grand, when they are good at it, and Abby is very good!

Abby dismissed the band for two songs which she played back-to-back (taking no break between). She did a terrific job. While her band enhances her sound a lot, she can easily handle a solo show

AbbyPaynePiano.

Supporting Abby, left-to-right:

Rob Pawlings on electric bass. Rob was absolutely incredible. I’ve seen Rob once before, as part of The Thang Band, where I also had only superlatives for his performance. Given that this was a trio, Rob carried a lot of weight and he never spilled a drop of water all the way up the hill. He sang a bit, but mostly too far from the mic to really be heard. I heard him sing with The Thang Band and praised him that night, so he should bother to step up to the mic next time he sings with Abby as well.

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Kenny Shaw on drums. Once again, Kenny delivered a thrilling performance (not that he ever misses). Like with Rob above, the drums were such a critical part of the sound of the trio. Even the slower numbers had very driving beats which Kenny nailed.

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We happened to sit at the same table with Kenny’s parents who made a long trek to see Kenny play in back-to-back shows (we had plans and couldn’t head over to see Hurrah a Bolt of Light at Mercury Lounge). I don’t think Kenny elevates his game just because his folks are there, because he’s always playing above the rim.  (Can I get a rim shot for that one?) Winking smile

I will happily continue to track Abby and look forward to catching another set soon!

Here’s the set list:

SetList