SLAM, BAM, Thank You Man
Six-piece smooth jazz ensemble hits all the right romantic notes
All of a sudden somewhere in the middle of the chorus he gets IT–everybody looks up and knows; they listen; he picks it up and carries. Time stops. He’s filling empty space with the substance of our lives, confessions of his bellybottom strain, remembrance of ideas, rehashes of old blowing. He has to blow across bridges and come back and do it with such infinite feeling soul-exploratory for the tune of the moment that everybody knows its not the tune that counts but IT.” – Jack Kerouak, On The Road
Jazz. You could say it’s as American as apple pie–it’s been called the only true art form to our country’s credit, after all–but it’s more than just American, and more than just jazz itself. Its scores of subgenres could fill a whole bakery with everything from ragtime roots to corkscrew-in-a-beehive acid jazz, and jazzes with ethnic twists. But whatever’s your pleasure, jazz has got something for you.
At its core, good jazz is loose like liquid–but has a bite like the bottom of an empty coffee cup that a fiend’s supped-up so quick the last sip’s still hot. “Hit me again,” is this music’s mantra–both a command and a plead. And when you fill that cup up again, stirring in a dollop of cream and just a spoon full of sugar, you’ve got smooth jazz.
The Maui band called SLAM–featuring David Choy and Clay Mortensen, with George Tavoularis (keyboards), Alan Villaren (guitar and vocals), Michael Kennedy (drums) and Jay Molina on (bass & vocals)–knows their smooth jazz. While their well-honed chops are self evident, they make sure audiences know what’s coming by dressing to kill (i.e. only jazz musicians and hit men have this uniform).
Their music sets the mood for playful romance, and you can check them out at their regular South side haunts–every Monday night at Mulligan’s on the Blue in Wailea (6:30-9:30pm; no cover) and every Wednesday at Stella Blues Cafe in Kihei (7-10pm; no cover)–plus this Saturday, for a special show at Casanova in Makawao (9pm; $10). Replete with R&B and a pinch of funk, it’s music you can wine, dine and dance to with your date in a way that will have you wondering if you wandered into a sexy scene in a movie made in the early ‘90s.
With a set list including tunes from greats like Lee Ritenour (you know, the guitarist known as “Captain Fingers”), David Sanborn (a saxophonist who, in part, is famed for his sessions on David Bowie’s Young Americans), Marcus Miller (a bassist who’s reputation precedes him, but is known for his colabortions with Miles Davis), The Crusaders, Earth Wind & Fire and more, it’s a repertoire even critics can revel in.
Plus, SLAM plays Choy’s original tunes, off his CD titled Colors of the Heart. An accomplished musician, Choy’s noteworthiness also includes playing and recording with the likes of James Ingram, Patti Austin, Michael McDonald and the Doobie Brothers.
SLAM’s sets are sultry and smooth, crescendo to show their upbeat, funky side, and finish with the tongue-smacking thick of a nightcap liquor. Do yourself a favor and get gussied up, practice looking longingly into your lovers eyes, and head out to see SLAM do their smooth jazz stuff. The band will thank you then–and you’ll thank me in the morning. ■