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The Blue Monk - Thursday, March 23, 2006
Stephen Walker and The Few Chosen

There's not a lot of dancing going on in jazz clubs in Portland, but it's happening at the Blue Monk Thursday nights, where Stephen Walker & the Few Chosen have taken up residency. Stephen is an incredible trombonist who can play with the sweetest tone or make his trombone growl. And he's charming and engages the audience. Only two people were at his first gig there in January, but he's building a following with his infectious enthusiasm and musicianship. He can obviously handle a challenge, relocating here from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. With him he brought the tradition of red beans & rice and it's provided by the Blue Monk during the break. His band includes the powerful saxophonist Devin Phillips and guitarist Tom Sandahl http://www.myspace.com/tomsandahlmusic, both from New Orleans, and outstanding local musicians, Farnell Newton on trumpet http://www.fnmusicweb.com/, pianist Dan Gaynor http://www.dangaynor.com/, Damian Erskine on bass, and drummer Drew Shoals http://www.drewshoals.com/. They play funky jazz, with songs like Cissy Strut, High Heel Sneakers, Chameleon, and Feel Like Makin' Love. A personal favorite is a beautiful, joyful song, Spanish Joint, co-written by D'Angelo and Roy Hargrove.

I knew Stephen wouldn't be there last Thursday because he's on tour with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, but Devin, who leads his own straight ahead and funk groups, is a capable leader. While Stephen's trombone was missed, a young woman, Mieke Bruggeman, on bari sax sat in and added to the funk. If Stephen had been there he would have led the audience in a call and response of "Red Beans & Rice . . . every Thursday night!" And even if you don't want to dance, you'll be happily bopping around in your seat with a big smile.

The Blue Monk, at 3341 SE Belmont, has the feel of an intimate, below street level NYC club, and co-owners Tim and Chris always make you feel welcome. $6 cover, no smoking. http://www.thebluemonk.com/



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