Living in New York, twenty and more years ago, I had heard Ray Skjelbred in a variety of contexts: with Berkeley Rhythm, with Hal Smith’s Rhythmakers featuring Bobby Gordon and Rebecca Kilgore, and on his own. One of the great pleasures of being on this coast is the chance to see him and his band at various festivals (at the Sacramento Music Festival, May 23-26; and at various California locations July 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 — see here for details).
I am glad that Ray and his Cubs have steady gigs on the West Coast, but I wish they were better known worldwide.
It would be ironic but somehow fitting if what I see as their essential virtues had kept them slightly out of prominence in the world of “traditional” jazz. The group isn’t loud and it doesn’t have an identifying trademark unless you consider a deeply-rooted blues-based hot lyricism a trademark. No parasol parades; no singing along. Just intense yet relaxed Chicago jazz for this century.
They call it music.
I shy away from “best” or “favorite,” but I am drawn to this band as if magnetically. I know that a set from Ray or from Ray and his pals will make me feel better — and the side effects of deep elation and gratitude won’t wear off soon if at all.
The band in its most recent incarnation was Ray, piano, vocals, intuition; Kim Cusack, clarinet, vocal; Clint Baker, string bass and tuba, vocal; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar, vocal; Mike Daugherty, drums, vocal.
Here is a full set (why skimp on pleasure?) from the Thanksgiving 2013 San Diego Jazz Fest (November 30, 2013, to be exact).
BULL FROG BLUES:
WHO’S SORRY NOW?:
OUR MONDAY DATE:
OH, BABY (DON’T SAY NO, SAY MAYBE):
OUT OF NOWHERE (with a lovely streamlined homage to Bing by Mister Daugherty, man of many talents):
AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL:
GET OUT AND GET UNDER THE MOON (Katie always gives such good advice);
SPECIAL DELIVERY BLUES:
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE:
As I said, we are so lucky to have them!
May your happiness increase!