by Mike Corrigan
The physical and spiritual leader of the Amazing Giant People Ensemble, trumpeter Carlos Washington, was first exposed to music the old-fashioned way, through singing in the choir at his hometown church in Harrisburg, Pa. As a boy, he also experimented with the piano. Yet it wasn't until he got his hands on the real thing -- the cool, sensual lines of a horn -- that Washington felt he had found his true vocation. While his tone and fluidity on his instrument invariably leads to comparisons to Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, and Miles Davis, Washington's experimental nature, bold performance style and desire to open up the frontiers of jazz place him and his ensemble in the vanguard of modern instrumental music. Washington's calling brings him and his band to the B-Side this Monday night for a rare evening of funk-infected jazz on the wild side.
After teen years spent learning the instrument (in school bands and in private lessons) and dutifully absorbing influences, Washington set out for the West Coast and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Band. After serving four years in the Corps, Washington was honorably discharged and began to forge a name for himself on the Southern California jazz scene. He was employed as a sideman, first for Carlos Malcolm (modern Jamaican music maestro and score composer for the James Bond 007 film, Dr. No), then as a touring musician with West Coast soul/ jazz notable, Karl Denson (the original sax man for Lenny Kravitz). In 2001, Washington stepped out on his own, assembling the first version of his Amazing Giant People Ensemble.
Based in San Diego, Washington and the Giant People Ensemble have spent the last three years touring the country, recording and garnering much attention among the faithful while appealing to those on the fringes. Their instrumental sonic explorations draw from jazz, soul, world, pop and funk even as they redefine all boundaries of expectation. Washington's personal charisma and impeccable chops may well be the focal point of any GP show, but each member of the group is a standout performer and musician in his own right. The current ensemble consists of Col. Bruce Hampton's Codetalkers alum, Sean Peterson, on bass, blues veteran Corky Hughes on guitar and Berklee School of Music attendee John Milham on drums.
The Giant People shows for 2004 have been re-tooled and supercharged. Working with Starr Cullars from The P Funk All-Stars and a host of other well-established performers, Washington and his team have developed a live show concept they're calling the "Sonic Circus," which combines exciting elements for the ears with explosive dance floor concepts.
This is bracing, infectious stuff where dancing is not only encouraged -- it's damn near compulsory.
In other music news -- Borders Books and Music way up there at NorthPointe on the Newport Highway has carved out quite a nice little live music performance space amid the endless shelves of books, CDs and DVDs. Nearly every Saturday they do this thing where a local, regional or sometimes even big-time national artist climbs up there and lets it rip live -- acoustically and/or electrically -- for free. This Saturday, the music menu features Bluegrass Conspiracy (at 2 pm) and Jazz Attack (at 7 pm). Bluegrass Conspiracy starts with a core of bluegrass and fleshes it out with material from Western swing, '50s pop, Irish tunes, and anything else that might strike their fancy -- or that of their audiences. Jazz Attack, on the other hand, is a quintet (two saxophones, piano, bass and drums) performing a mixture of improvisation-infused jazz standards and contemporary music. Borders is at 9980 N. Newport Hwy. Call 466-2231.
The third installment of the RAWK Final Four battle of the bands competition goes off like an amped-up incendiary device at 6 pm this Sunday at Fat Tuesday's Concert Hall. The lineup for this week's match is Derby (a three-piece "medium-spiced" pop punk band from Spokane with brothers Andy and Brad Rumsey, Aaron Schaber and Luke Casey), Peace Without Silence (with Mitch Williams, Shayne Garcia, Jordan Huotari, Gabe Walter and Eric Molesworth), United Effect (a Freeman-CV-Cheney-Ferris squad featuring Kory Bjornstad, Brandon Koerner, Mitchell Smith and Benjamin Chamberlain), Soulkore (a four-piece Christian band with Dan Mendez, Mike Phelps, Jack Bingle and Ricardo Perez) and For Years Blue (Erik Walters, Mac Smith, Kyle Musselwhite, Marcus Ourada and Will Giardino). They'll all be playing their guts out this night -- with their eyes on the prize. And it will only cost you $8 in advance or $10 at the door (visit www.rawk online.com for more info).
Elsewhere in the night, look for the Straw Dogs, a harmony-drenched pop rock duo (and sometimes group) comprised of David von Beck (lead vocals, acoustic and electric guitars), Darren Smith (acoustic and electric guitar, vocals, bass, piano and keyboards), and sometimes Casey Miller (drums and percussion), Dan Tyack (pedal steel, dobro) and John Fricke (trumpet). They play at the Blue Spark on Saturday at 9 pm. The cover there is just $5.
Over at the B-Side, local pocket rockets Burns Like Hellfire and Six-State Bender will be launching their punk-country-freak-rock soiled arsenals all for your pleasure and edification starting at around 9:30. Cover there is also just a wee $5.
Publication date: 1/22/04