When I walked into the Fanatic Salon on the southwest corner of Venice Boulevard and Sawtelle Boulevard in Culver City, I had no idea what to expect. Though I am not superstitious, it was Friday the 13th, and when enough people believe in something, anything can happen.
I had come to see Tracy Newman, and get an up-close experience of her country orchestra. Seeing as I had a few minutes before the show I dipped into the Argentinean restaurant next door and was very pleasantly surprised by the delicious Empanadas they serve up. Already I was having a great night.
When I returned to the Fanatic Salon I was introduced to Tracy, and her publicist Roxi, and sat down to enjoy the show. The night started with an introduction by the Tuba Czar, Mark Beltzman. Dressed in a black suit and tie and white converse low tops I liked him immediately. His wit and sincerity combined to create a welcoming and disarming atmosphere. Mark invited his friends to join him on stage to play some of their songs. The only catch is that he has to be provided with charts so that he can play along on the tuba.
The night got off to a great start with Miguelli Sgueglia, who opened with a Marvin Gaye tune, “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”. The tuba accompaniment was fantastically funky. Miguellie then moved through two more original compositions that were soulful and sweet.
Next up was Cynthia Carle, she and Mark will soon be working together on the upcoming musical, the Re-Animator. She presented 3 hilarious pieces, ranging from a song about her new Nigerian friends who have promised her riches via email to a Mariachi piece about a woman who ran out of toilet paper in a Mexican restaurant stall. I was rolling with laughter. The last act before Tracy took the stage was Laura Hall. She played two haunting waltzes and one song dedicated to her daughters that was folksy and sweet.
When Tracy Newman took the stage with her band, I was instantly tickled. I had seen the band next store at the Empanada restaurant, and noted to myself that they must be musicians. The set was a colorful collection of songs that explored the funny side of relationships and making them work. Some of my favorite lines included, “Before I die I just want to get one straight answer out of you” and “I can’t be with you because I’m kicking drugs”.
While the songs explored topics, which could be heavy, such as love and addiction, they brought humor and humanity to the topics. The band was tight in all the right ways, and loose where it mattered. The harmonies were well executed and expressive and the stand-up bass player was right in the pocket with the drummer. Throw in a tasteful slide guitar player and the bright personality of Tracy Newman, and you have a winning combo.
The night concluded with a set from Fred Kaz. His appearance, that of a vintage sailor, including the cap and white beard, gave me no hint as to what was about to happen. Fred started the set with Autumn Leaves. To be honest, I thought that it was going to be a letdown after all of the great talent I had witnessed throughout the night. Then came the lyrics. With a voice that alternated between clean and proper and raspy and dirty, he proceeded to add his own colorful lyrics to old standards that were so irreverent and to the point that I was out of my seat for the entire set. Truly a gifted pianist with a knack for working the crowd and a sincere appreciation of music, I highly recommend catching Fred Kaz whenever and wherever you can.
Be sure to check out Tracy Newman on Saturday, May 5 at Hallenbeck's General Store, aka Cahuenga General Store, as well as online at www.tracynewman.com. Mark Belzam can be seen in the upcoming musical, Re-animator: The Musical, which officially opens on May 3rd at the Hayworth Theater, with previews beginning on April 26th.