Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Julian Coryell and Gary Jules at The Hotel Cafe

One of the rarest things that can happen in a concert setting is to hear all new music and really enjoy it. To date only one performer has ever pulled it off completely in my presence; John Hiatt. I saw him on the day that “Perfectly Good Guitar” was released and I didn’t have a chance to listen to the CD before the show. John played almost the entire CD and song after song I was blown away. No one has ever come close to doing that to me before or since. Last night may be the closest I’ll get for awhile though as Julian Coryell and Gary Jules previewed new music at the Hotel Café in Hollywood.

This was my first visit to the Hotel Café. It is a small room with very friendly staff. It is a long rectangle with only a few good tables up front, so if you are planning on seeing a concert there, get there early. The stage is all of 10 by 10 feet, if that.

Julian, accompanied by a stand up bass player performed for about a half hour playing all new material. If you’ve been following his career, you will be excited to know that he continues to grow as an artist. Playing an old Gibson guitar plugged into an even older amp (he said it was from the 40’s) Julian’s new style is more jazz confessional now. He has merged his jazz days with a new personal approach to writing, creating a sophisticated sound that is emotionally powerful while being “cool” at the same time. I had wanted to chat with him before the show about seeing him 9 years ago, but he was about to start and said afterward he would love to hear my story. After the show he was busy with someone he was with and I didn’t want to interrupt, so I went to the bathroom and when I got out they were gone. I figured it wasn’t meant to be. But as I walked down the street to my car, he was walking back toward me, and called out my name (I’m always impressed when an artist actually listens when you tell them your name). We had a great chat, talking about October Project and his dad (Larry Coryell a famous jazz guitar player). It was a wonderful way to end the evening. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself…

After Julian’s amazing set, Gary Jules came out and packed the stage. Joining Gary on stage were a piano player (he had both an electric piano and an upright piano on stage), a stand up bass player, drums, and a backup female vocalist. Now if you know Gary, you may ask, what about the slide guitar? Well, he was offstage, sitting closer to me than to Gary, and moving back and forth between his lap guitars, an electric guitar and a standing slide guitar. It was great being that close to a slide guitar player and getting to watch him at work. Gary played almost all new music also. The combination of slide guitar and the quiet waves of electronic sounds coming from the keyboardist make for a beautiful and hard to describe backdrop for Gary’s songs. The new music seemed very complete, even though he said that they were just trying them out. The next album is going to be even better than the first two I believe. Gary is a very intelligent and quick witted guy, so if we weren’t enjoying the music we were being entertained by his funny remarks, not to mention his new baby picture, which was adorable. The Godfather of the Hotel Café finished his set with a couple of classics, “Barstool” a long time fan favorite and “Mad World” his cover that made him famous. He actually hasn’t played MW in about 6 months and played electric piano (a new instrument for him) while his drummer moved over to the upright piano. It was just the two of them and it was as haunting as the version he recorded. Gary is appearing every Tuesday this month and is worth checking out.

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