Your Online Guide to the Arts in the Brazos Valley

Photos and articles by one of the Brazos Valley's leading artists... guiding you to great art and entertainment opportunities. For a blog about Brazos Valley Music History, Click HERE:

Monday, November 4, 2013

DOWNTOWN BRYAN: An Alignment of Stars in the Basement…

of the La Salle Hotel!

Downstairs ... in the Brazos Room.
On the first Sunday evening of every month, Bryan’s top music performers congregate at the bottom of the La Salle Hotel for a jazz jam to die for…  and it is free.  As you take the elevator to the basement you ask yourself, how good can it be, hidden in the bowels of an ancient hotel on a Sunday night? But seven years worth of musical bonding keeps bringing Bryan-College Station’s most devoted music fans back to the basement for their jazz fix.  You quickly realize why!

 Visiting for the first time, veteran performer Misslette Caillouett brought her guitar but read the outstanding sound and set it down... she would just be happy to get to sing with such an All Star band.  “These guys are MONSTERS!” She beamed.
Greg Tivis needs four hands to keep up with all of his jazz.
That may have been true, but these monsters brought nothing but pure joy to their audience, who helped transform the lively La Salle Hotel Brazos Room into a 1940’s nightclub. Led by the multi-talented Greg Tivis at the keyboard, mostly local musicians offer up a diverse show of Jazz styles from dixieland to swing to cha cha, with the precision of professionals who know each other-  and the music through years of such revelry.

local music patriarchs Richard Phelps and Jay Brakefield contributed early on... on cornet and clarinet respectively...

And a welcome sight, Hannah Ridgeway, a well-received young female vocalist brought her fresh approach to some jazz classics… some spicy "cha cha" and had the rare thrill of singing with such an inspiring collection of musicians. There is hope for the next generation!

A member of the audience, John Leonard breaks into spontaneous dance at the beginning of "Walkin' Stick."

There were THREE very good sax players, who kept the audience clapping from solo to solo as if it was a High School graduation ceremony. It seems everyone is a multi-tasker…  Tivis will tickle the keys on his keyboard and then suddenly join the brass with his cornet…
Ralph Moncivais on flute
Ralph Moncivais, leader of the RAZZ Band, started with lovely flute riffs and then pulled out his tenor sax and brought down the house with it. And they were just getting warmed up.  Richard Kent is a wonderful clarinetist, but he too cannot resist his saxophone.  And once you hear him play, you will not be able to resist him.
 Richard Kent tearing it up on sax... with Greg Tivis at keyboard, Steve Carr on bass, Randy Watkins on drums, Ken Appelt playing accoustic guitar, Kevin Duff on electric guitar,  and Ralph Moncivais also on sax...

Known more professionally for her country and western performances, it turns out Misslette cut her teeth on jazz and confesses that it is dear to her heart. Manny Lopez of the Texas Twisters helps out on bass.
I recognized drummer Randy Watkins, who took a little break and was able to give me a heads up, when he learned DON POPE, an acknowledged virtuoso on piccolo and flute, and one great soprano sax player from Conroe, had just arrived…  Randy  promised it would be good... and I have learned to trust his judgment about music... What a show!  Paul Fridrich filled in on drums and brought out his big guns...

Greg Tivis explained that he had fewer musicians this time... but we still celebrated the "best of the the best, in these parts." And that was no brag, as they say, just fact. This alignment of stars was pure serendipity, one that he might not have been able to arrange except under rare circumstances.

Don Pope drops by... Some of the best things in life are free... And in this case, the best of the best!

Pure, unrestricted joy... in the basement... Who knew? This monthly event is a well hidden jewel, but YOU CAN DISCOVER IT FOR YOURSELF...

Next month's theme: New Orleans Christmas!

But you have to get out of the house!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Consider this a sampler...

Thanks for stopping by. This blog is just a proposal for the present. A local television station is enlarging its presence here in Bryan - College Station and has discussed with me the possibility of covering the art and entertainment news in the Brazos Valley. I have even gotten in front of the camera a little and developed this blog as a sampler of what and how I envision the coverage. 

Hopefully I will come on board the crew at ABC40 soon... But for now we wait for them to catch up with me and build their new station and get it all up and running!  

{If you like this news approach, let them know!}


The warm, sexy light on the ten musicians in the orchestra add constant flair to this production at The Theater Company, as they offer up impeccable sound tracks. Nannette Pope seen here at piano, and John McNally to the far right at percussion.
Not exactly behind the scenes at The Theater Company in Bryan are the fascinating bells and whistles which make this venue a top flight experience.

Just completed are a pair of revolving stages, which sometimes spin simultaneously as dancers race into a whirlpool of color and action... I had to ask if them if they ever fall on their keesters...

They do.

But perhaps my favorite thing in the world of entertainment is the orchestra pit... where professional musicians add essential flow and punctuation to every scene. There is no pit.. so the orchestra is placed on the front right... and you can sit right next to them and watch every note as it fires the audience and players.

I was especially pleased to see my friend John McNally on the drums... His finesse is exceeded only by his quiet, gentle manner. And Randy Russell, a sometime visitor to our Friday jam, on bass! Russell also helped build those incredible turntables.

There is something energizing about the excitement of live music when combined with live entertainment... kind of like Texas High School football... but with less bruises.

The Theater Company Orchestra. Another reason to get out of the house!