You knew this was coming...So, what is all the commotion about Comotion? This new collective is a collaboration of seven recognizable progressive musicians from the San Francisco Bay Area and Colorado ready to expand acoustic roots music with a fluid melding of jazz, bluegrass and Celtic influences. The virtuosos making all the Comotion are: Darol Anger (violinist - Turtle Island String Quartet, Anger Marshall Band, Montreaux), Aaron Johnston (drummer/ percussionist – Pete Escovedo Orchestra, The Aaron Johnston Trio), Michael Kang (mandolin/ violin - The String Cheese Incident), Mike Marshall (steel and nylon string guitars/ cello guitar/ ouditar - David Grisman Quintet, Anger Marshall Band, Modern Mandolin Quartet), Paul McCandless (saxophones/ oboe/ bass clarinet - Paul Winter Consort, Oregon), Tye North (electric bass - Leftover Salmon) and Jeff Sipe (drums - Leftover Salmon, Aquarium Rescue Unit).
Although these credentialed musicians have collectively played thousands of shows, this current nine date west coast swing marks the band’s first official tour and the show at the House of Blues being their second. So, with little advance word of mouth and their new CD Head West just hitting the stores on September 12th, a good crowd was on hand as each musician had a faction of fans out showing their support. Comotion hit the stage and hovered in safe mode like a bunch of seasoned pros warming up, rolling through selections off of their debut recording including “Pleebus” and “Crawl We Must” before announcing to the audience that they were gonna take us down to bluegrass country and with that, the first explosion of rowdy cheering erupted. The girls, with "suns" tattooed on the small of their backs, in their handmade free flowing dresses began spinning as Kang, Anger and Marshall led a rousing three fiddle down-home romp which, in turn, was met with a rhythmic hand-clap track from the effervescent patrons. Comotion then expounded on selections from various members’ lifelong repertoire before bringing the house to a frenzy with a barn-burning version of “I Coulda Told You” off of the new album. Then, it was off to the backstage galley for a refreshing breather before round two, which didn’t even blink when it left Midnight in its dust. It was quite apparent that the individual musicians were having as much fun as the audience as noticed by an obvious good vibe swirling about the stage. There was plenty of group camaraderie but also plenty of spotlights to go around for each individual as McCandless played two flutes at once and then a saxophone and a clarinet at the same time. Meanwhile, Johnston stepped over to man the congas for an exploratory journey with Sipe joining in the improvisational spirit by switching from his drum set to Johnston’s to play the cowbell. The band continued the good-natured loose interaction and energized the room with a mix of old and new materi
The vibe seen and heard on stage is also evident on the band’s debut recording entitled Head West (Sci Fidelity Records). The album was recorded in a true collaborative effort over a five day period back in January with everyone getting a songwriting credit. I could imagine each of the guys hitting the studio with a few songs to present to everyone and then a full on jam ensuing taking the original ideas to new places. Head West represents a modern day jazz exposition but also contains so many influences and sounds as McCandless adds a Celtic flair, Kang, a rock edge, Marshall and Anger, a bed of bluegrass, Johnston, a Latin splash and Sipe, an army of exotic percussive instrumentation, that it doesn’t fit neatly into a category but does make for a tasty sonic treat. Songs like “Marshaul McKanger” and “Celtus Mobius 2000” are indeed portraits of a band taking chances, expanding their own horizons and taking the listener with them. Last I checked, I believe they were heading west. For more info visit www.comotion.cc.
Tracks: Pleebus / Into Da Night / Crawl We Must / Marshaul McKanger / Oh, Lei / The News / Slither Me Yonder / Thank You / I Coulda Told You / Dominical / Celtus Mobius 2000.
Personnel: Darol Anger (violinist) / Aaron Johnston (drummer, percussionist) / Michael Kang (mandolin, violin) / Mike Marshall (steel and nylon string guitars, cello guitar, ouditar) / Paul McCandless (saxophones, oboe, bass clarinet) / Tye North (electric bass) / Jeff Sipe (drums).
Rating: House of Blues show – 4 out of 5 stars. Rating: Head West CD – 3.5 out of 5 stars
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