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It was Big Band Boomer Night at the Attic.


Popular music sure has changed over the last 80 years. For instance, did you know there was a time when a pop song could be longer than 3 1/2 minutes? Some pop songs even included instrumental solos. And voice-overs? No such luck—if you couldn't sing, you couldn't pop. Somehow, pop stardom thrived without MTV, wardrobe malfunctions or scandalous paparazzi. I mean, 80 years ago (that would put us in the '20s), Duke Ellington was cooler than P. Diddy is today, and Fred Astaire broke more teenage hearts than Justin Timberlake. So it's really no surprise that music from the speakeasy era still finds its way into restaurants and nightclubs, even here in Santa Cruz.

It was big-band night for the baby boomer crowd last Tuesday at the Attic. The Robin Anderson Big Band featuring Ruby Rudman put on a heck of a show, opening the set with a splendid rendition of Frank Sinatra's "All the Way." Impressive musicianship from top to bottom, bass to brass, kept Ol' Blue Eyes grinning from above, while the rest of us smiled at ground level.

Another standout was a Dizzy Gillespie tune called "A Night in Tunisia." Though it's more of a bebop song than a big band number, Anderson and company adapted it with ease, captivating the audience with dazzling horn solos and spot-on tempo changes.

The following night, inspired to find more music outside the realm of contemporary pop, I headed to the Crow's Nest to see "guitar master" Yuji Tojo. The weekly performer was playing to a packed house, and sure enough, the man was a master. Literally, the guy could play so fast you couldn't see his fingers if you were standing two feet away, and his notes were deadly accurate.

Tojo played a remarkably diverse set ranging from Gypsy to jazz, occasionally sprinkling a little rock & roll into the mix. The place was packed (taco specials always bring 'em in), and Tojo and drummer Mike Shannon succeeded in winning the crowd's attention, even inspiring the formation of a makeshift dance floor at the front of the room.

As the night wore on, the drinking continued and the dance floor expanded. By the time Tojo dove into a Santana medley that would've dropped Carlos' jaw to the floor, the place looked like spring break in Cancun. But instead of drunken teenagers and rowdy frat-boys, the party consisted only of legally drinking adults, happily grooving to Yoji Tojo's guitar mastery, which by the way, was far from pop.

Didn't make it to last week's show? Lucky for you, Tojo performs every week at the Crow's Nest, as do the taco specials. Looking further down the road, there'll be plenty of other fun local acts to check out, like HipCity Cruz. The all-acoustic band uses an array of instruments including piano, dulcimer, guitar, and harmonica to play a wide range of folk-inspired music. Catch them at Don Quixote's on Wednesday, Oct. 10. If rock & roll is what you want, look no further than Santa Cruz's own Villains of Vinyl. The Red Hot Chili Peppers-inspired quartet will get down and funky at Coasters at the Boardwalk Bowl this Friday. Bowl or dance—either way you're gonna be rolling strikes.

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