How many times has one heard the saying, "This isn't rocket science"? Well, in this case, it is. One might be tempted to think Jim Lewis
' biography is fictional, but no.
Lewis is the trombone player and founding member of San Gabriel 7 (SGS). He was a student (and friend) of Bill Watrous
, and began life as a sessions player in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, after graduating from the University of Alabama. He moved to LA in the inauspicious year of 2001 and promptly got deployed to Afghanistan for 18 months as a Special Forces Team Leader with his National Guard Unit. When Lewis got back, he got down to starting SGS. He now works full-time at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena as an engineer and plays trombone with the band he founded. Seriously.
The SGS styles itself a "funk band" and has slowly evolved into its present configuration and sound. Quite a few guest artists of note (including Watrous) have appeared. At one point or another, singers such as Andrea Miller
, Ingrid James
and Femi Knight
have made a variety of recordings with SGS. It may well be that being based in Southern California is both a blessing and, well, not a blessing. The music is compelling, and anyone unfamiliar with SGS may not be getting out enough (or to SoCal). These are originals, arranged and composed by Dave Cushman and Chris Gordon
. The featured singer this time around is Scandinavian vocalist Sinne Eeg
. Like everyone else who has recorded with SGS, she is excellent, if not exactly a household name in the USA. Eeg scats her way through "Rocket Blues" with some hot solos behind her. "I'm in the Mood for Love" is done in waltz-time, supported by woodwinds and brass and polished ensemble work, not to say a Richie Cole
-ish alto solo. "The Barista" is "Black Coffee," but upbeat, not feeling mighty sad. SGS unwinds a few jazz choruses that may take listeners' minds off the sly, double-entendre "Barista" lyrics. "Under the Stars" is a romantic ballad, for those in the mood; or "Getting Along with Love" has a kind Chicago
-ish feel for those who are not.
That is one of the distinct virtues of this polished, swinging performance. There is really something for every taste. A favorite, "The Festival," a sort of free for all with a Latin feel which does nothing, if not emphasize the music is cosmopolitan, even when the licks are familiar. SGS is a band worth listening to, especially for those not familiar with its large body of previous work. "I'm Feeling Good," Eeg tells us. Small wonder. Good music will do that to you.
Rocket Blues; I'm in the Mood for Love; The Barista; Under the Stars; Getting Along with Love; The Festival; What About Love; I'm Feeling Good; Never Let You Go; Hymn.