The Chris Saunders Band: Dancing With The Widow St. James

Richard J Salvucci By

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The Chris Saunders Band: Dancing With The Widow St. James
Was there a time in your life when you took off for nowhere in particular, maybe a mild summer's night, rolled down the windows, and just grooved? Chances are you had some primitive form of sound technology that filled a well-worn vehicle with music that just suggested that life was a good thing? Ok, so perhaps that time never really existed other than than in some pseudo-memory. Then again, maybe you were lucky enough to feel just that mellow as you drove to the mountains or to the coast. If you could have been listening to anything, this band would have worked. Chris Saunders, Ken Cook, Rob Fordyce, Michael Aragon and Luis Carbo may not be names you grew up with (unless you're from the Bay Area), but they can do it. If listening to this wildly eclectic collection of blues, sort of jazz rock, and even reggae can not nudge you into a good mood, you are unable to be nudged. Oh, yeah, they swing too, often without breaking a sweat.

Chris Saunders must be some kind of character. His singing sometimes puts you in mind of Jack Sheldon, particularly when he seems to be getting sort of exercised about one of life's many dramas. And then you think, no, Dr John, especially in the funky irony department. No, stop: Jimmy Witherspoon is hiding somewhere there. Well, whatever. His singing may not be polished, but it is hip. Then there is his trumpet (cornet) playing. If there is anything to carp about, it is that Saunders should play more and sing less. That is not because his singing is not good, but because his playing is even better. It is not technique crazy, nail-that-double C, trumpet athleticism that impresses so many younger players. Saunders can say an awful lot in one well-constructed chorus and he rarely takes more than one. Which is too bad, because he has a lot to say. Saunders plays pretty, relaxed , melodically and securely. Not easy to do, even for a virtuoso—sometimes, especially for a virtuoso. His work on "I Wonder" has a beautiful singing tone.

So much good stuff seems to come effortlessly from the rhythm section, too. Drummer Michael Aragon is something of a legend in Marin Country, CA, and he moves fluidly around the kit, rhythm and time changes executed so smoothly as to be seamless. Ken Cook on keyboards complements Aragon very well, and solos intelligently. Rob Fordyce shifts from rhythm to soloing on the electric bass with no strain. Luis Carbo joins the recording band. These are all very good players.

A lot of the tunes are originals: bluesy, weird, amusing, but memorable, like "Dancing with the Widow Saint James." If you like standards, listen to "Lullaby of the Leaves," which goes back to Bernice Petkere and the 1930s. Very well done. If you like social commentary, apparently about a recent President, try "Big Man": "Don't be a fool, look out for the truth." Good advice these days. If you are around Marin, CA, you might try looking out for this band too. Worth the trip.

Track Listing

River's Invitation; Big Man; Butterflies and Chicken Wings; Am I Blue?; Lightning and a Feather; Dancing with the Widow St. James; Low Tide Rising on a Devil Wind; Life is a Struggle; I Don't Need No Doctor; Lullaby of the Leaves.


Chris Saunders: cornet; Michael Aragon: drums; Rob Fordyce: bass, electric; Ken Cook: keyboards; Luis Carbo: percussion.

Album information

Title: Dancing With The Widow St. James | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Self-Produced

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