I have been in San Francisco and Napa Valley for the past 10 days, mainly for work. I chose to be in San Francisco both weekends for fun. It takes me a bit to be able to stay awake and enjoy the night life, but the day life is pretty fun regardless. Finally on Sunday night, I found an early listing for some great music. The listing said Scott Amendola at Cafe Royale at 7pm. Perfect!
I was happy to see Scott's gig was a drum/organ duo. I had to miss my favorite drum/organ duo in NYC later in the week. I knew I could console myself with this and the Zorn extravaganza I was to attend at Yoshi's later in the week. The show I missed was the Benevento/Russo Duo at Highline Ballroom in NYC on 8/27. The show I got was Scott Amendola/Will Blades duo at Cafe Royale in San Francisco. A little different, but great in it's own way.
I could only stay for the first set. It was a dynamite set. I was in the closest seat to Scott. The drums and organ were facing each other, "Duo style", so I got to watch Scott's every move. However, I found my attention falling over to Will quite a bit.
It was great. They did some originals, some Monk, some Dizzy "Latin style", among other things. I loved the Dizzy tune. Scott played that one with his hands and sometimes the brushes.
This little cafe with wine and beer has jazz every Sunday. I think this is the place where Adam Levy and Jonathon Kreisman started playing together. It's probably worth going on any given Sunday.
This was my first time knowing I was seeing Will Blades. When I look at his bio I realize there is a good chance I've seen him before and didn't realize it. I'm impressed. I looked up his bio on All About Jazz:
From cookin’ with Blues legend John Lee Hooker, organ summits with B-3 master Dr. Lonnie Smith, television and radio appearances, young Wil Blades is gaining critical acclaim and international recognition. Blades, a native Chicagoan, has become the San Francisco Bay Area’s first call organist and is rapidly gaining momentum throughout the country. In 2007 and 2008, he was named in the Downbeat critics poll under “Rising Star” for organ. For the past several years, Wil has been wowing Bay Area audiences with groups such as “O.G.D.,” “Motherbug”, “Amendola Vs. Blades”, “Steppin’.” In addition to performing with legendary artists such as John Lee Hooker and Dr. Lonnie Smith, Wil has performed and recorded with Melvin Sparks, Idris Muhammad, Joe Louis Walker, Don Braden, Donald Harrison, Karl Denson, Will Bernard, Scott Amendola, Charlie Hunter, Stanton Moore, Betty Joplin, Eddie Marshall, Herbie Lewis, and many others.
Born in 1979, Wil began playing drums at the age of 8, guitar at 13, and then found his true calling on Hammond B-3 at 19. While studying Jazz at New College of California with Herbie Lewis, Wil landed weekly gigs at John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room in San Francisco. Barely of legal age, veteran musicians, such as Oscar Myers, took him under their wings. Being self- taught on organ, the weekly gigs proved to be the best lessons of all. In the years since, Wil has received tutelage from Jazz Organ master, Dr. Lonnie Smith. “Yeah, he does it...he’s on it. He is the future to carry on the legend, the legacy of the organ, [of] the B-3.”
Wil has kept the traditional sounds of Jimmy Smith, Larry Young, and “Groove” Holmes alive, while creating a more personal, modern sound. In Wil’s words, “I feel indebted to the tradition and masters of the Hammond Organ, but while trying to keep it going, I’m also focused on bringing my contemporary influences to the table.” His playing is rhythmic, funky and bluesy, yet his original compositions are harmonically intriguing and unique.
Wil currently leads his own groups around the Bay Area and is dedicating his time to teaching the Hammond B-3 Organ privately and at the Jazzschool in Berkeley. Current musical collaborations include groups with guitarist Will Bernard, Jazz legend Idris Muhammad and a duo project with drummer Scott Amendola. Wil’s debut record, “Sketchy”, is now available on Doodlin’ Records.